Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Shontae Jackson Named First Black Female President of the Oberlin Rotary Club


On June 30, Shontae Jackson formally became president of the Oberlin Rotary Club, making her the first Black woman to hold the position. In a standing-room only ceremony at Mill on Main, Jackson received a gavel in front of the club’s 48 active members. Jackson has served as president-elect since last September and attended a statewide training in Columbus in March.

Shontae grew up influenced by her parents’ service work. She was a cadette in the Girl Scouts. At Oberlin High School, she was a member of Kiwanis, an international service group.

“My mother and father are people who I’ve seen give when someone’s sick,” Jackson said. “They go out and visit and take food to the neighbors. My father is a farmer, so he would create baskets or donate food to people whenever he would do his harvest. So I always saw this growing up.”

The Oberlin Rotary Club was chartered on May 25, 1938 at the Oberlin Inn. Afterward, a group of 27 men met at the former Hi-O-Hi tea rooms regularly. It wasn’t until 1989 that women were first allowed to join the Rotary Club. In 1994, Mary Durling became the first female president, followed by Jeanne McKibben in 1999. 

In most Rotary constitutions and bylaws, race is not mentioned. In Oberlin, Black women and men have been in the Rotary Club. In the past twenty years, two Black people have served in leadership positions — Charles Horton as President, and a Black female superintendent.

“It is an honor, not only as a woman, but to the African-American community and Black and brown people to have the opportunity to share what it is to be a Rotarian and to put service above self,” Jackson said. “That’s what I’m most passionate about. Even in my work, I am very connected to the service aspect.” 

Rex Engle, sergeant at arms, spoke to the Review about the Rotary Club’s mission. 

“The Oberlin Rotary Club seeks to improve the human condition of the community through participation in numerous local, state, national, and international projects,” Engle said.

The Rotary Club has ties to Oberlin High School, with $7,500 donated every year through the Rotary Scholarship Program. The Rotary Club leads the Interact Club, which provides backpacks and food packages to Oberlin High School. The club also provides a stipend for community members to pay certain types of bills. 

The Oberlin Rotary Club has dedicated time to international programs. They have provided clean drinking water to people in Haiti and Mexico through building wells or providing funding. Another program, titled MESA, delivers medical equipment and supplies abroad. Local communities donate hospital beds, walkers, and more that are then sent out of the country. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the club gave money to local restaurants and encouraged community members to buy from a certain restaurant for dinner or takeout. On an annual basis, around $100,000 dollars is given to the Oberlin community. 

Membership Chair Curt Paul notes the significance of their next fundraiser. Rotary Night at the Races will be held Saturday, Nov. 11 and requires a reservation and ticket. 

“Every service organization struggles for membership, but we still have a core group of people that are very committed to doing good things in the community,” Paul noted. “We have our big fundraiser coming up in November, which we haven’t done in a while because of COVID. That’s always a fun event and kind of a social thing, but it’s also pretty good for the community.” 

Jackson has future plans concerning new service projects. She is currently working on a project to provide agricultural education in Belize, where students will learn farming techniques at a local school.

“I feel comfortable in my skin and my duties to reach out, to call and ask,” Jackson said. “I may have a title, but it’s everyone that’s making this well-oiled machine of giving and being a help to the community, the environment, and to one another that makes it work. Not one person can do it alone.”

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