On October 1, Kiwanis International will welcome John Button, M.D., to his term as the organization’s president. It’s a new experience for John, but it’s a fitting one: He has been involved with the Kiwanis family since the day he was born. His father was a dedicated community leader and Kiwanian. In fact, he was instrumental in founding the Ridgetown District High School Key Club—where John would later become an active member from 1965–1969.
“My memories of Key Club are amongst the happiest of my high school days,” John says. “Key Club was the ‘elite’ club in the school, and almost 20% of the male student body were members. We were very active.”
In fact, the club ran a dance called “Teen Town” every Friday night during the school year. For John, the morning after was the best part. “The clean-up was my favourite job,” he says. “We would have the school to ourselves. I’d crank up the volume of the sound systems and get to work to the strains of the long versions of Susie Q, Light My Fire and Hey Jude.”
John’s Kiwanis journey continued at the University of Western Ontario, where he was a member of Circle K before receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1973. He then graduated from the University of Toronto with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1977.
After a one-year internship, John returned to his hometown of Ridgetown, Ontario, and began practicing medicine with his father. He also joined the Kiwanis Club of Ridgetown—and he has been a member there ever since. He has served his club in a number of capacities over those 36 years. In addition, John is a distinguished lieutenant governor of his division and past governor of the Eastern Canada and the Caribbean District. He has also chaired the Iodine Deficiency Disorders Worldwide Service Project committee for his club and division.
All that service and experience has given John some insights into the ways Kiwanis can change people’s lives—and the ways the organization itself is changing. He knows that keeping up with today’s world is a key to attracting many SLP alumni who haven’t yet joined a Kiwanis club.
“We are becoming mission-driven as opposed to meeting-driven,” he says. “Membership options need to be flexible, as do club practices. We are evolving—and a new Kiwanis will be there for you when you are ready. We need you, your ideas and your service muscle.”
As president, John has a busy year ahead: He’ll be leading the organization during our celebration of Kiwanis’ 100th anniversary and the Kiwanis family’s completion of The Eliminate Project. He’ll also be an advocate for The Formula while tackling other everyday duties of being president.
Ultimately, John’s work remains inspired by what Key Club and Circle K instilled in him as a student. “It was about fun and fellowship, but it was also about community engagement and service,” he says. “This is where I began to experience how life fulfilling service to others can be. And that belief has remained unshaken for 45 years.”
Want to learn more about 2014–2015 Kiwanis International President John Button? Check out the October issue of Kiwanis magazine.