Service Above Self

For Marion Paden, 1992 was a good year. It was the year she became vice president of enrollment and student services at Oklahoma City Community College, the year she joined the Oklahoma City Rotary Club, and the year she was tapped for Leadership Oklahoma City.

“It was a year of great personal and professional growth and incredible opportunity,” Paden says. “I think those factors of civic and professional engagement and leadership really came together in 1992, and that helped me to create this balance between my community involvement and my college leadership.” 

Now 20 years later, Paden is taking on an even bigger challenge: leading the Oklahoma City Rotary Club, which is the third largest in the world.

Paden, who first became involved with the Rotary Club in high school as a Junior Rotarian in Norman, says she believes her experiences growing up within Rotary make her a strong leader for the group.

“When you grow up in an organization you just understand it, and you get more engaged in it because it just rings true to you,” Paden says. “I think you find the older you get, the more important it is to reinforce your values, and Rotary allows you to really learn to walk the talk and actualize the things you believe.”

Only the second female president in the history of the 103-year-old club, Paden believes her past service and commitment to the group led her to her new leadership role.

“It’s interesting because I’ve been able to be involved in a wide variety of initiatives and through that I think I’ve been able to demonstrate my commitment to both (OCCC and Rotary) and the mission they both have,” Paden says. “They know I’m certainly molded by the history of both the club and OCCC, and I’m deeply wedded to tradition, but at the same time I’m committed to the future.”

During her time as president, Paden hopes she can develop a culture of openness and friendship through the almost 600-member Club 29.

“The club is very big, and my hope is that I can build opportunities for people to build relationships,” Paden says. “I think we get things done through and with each other, so we need to build those networking opportunities and really try to promote engagement at meetings.”

Paden also hopes to continue to expand the service side of Club 29. Though the club participates in a number of service initiatives locally and internationally, the group does not currently have a long-term signature project, which they will be investigating this year.

“I now have a pretty broad understanding of Club 29 and our role in this district, but also the potential we have to make a difference around the world,” Paden says. “Especially for the Rotarians, who have a strong history and tradition, it’s nice to know that I respect that and that my intention is not to change Rotary, but to ensure that more people have the opportunity to benefit from the fellowship of Rotary international.”