As the third largest Rotary International Club in the world, the downtown Rotary Club of Oklahoma City (Club 29) might have had several female presidents in its 102-year history, yet Dr. Marion Paden is only the club’s second, the first having been the equally dynamic Meg Salyer.
Those who know her would readily attest that the hallmark of Dr. Paden’s Rotary leadership is the contagious energy that she exudes. Few, however, would know that her role as the president of this organization, consisting of some 600 influential business leaders, represents a personal feeling of “coming full circle.” Although she confesses to being somewhat nervous in the spotlight, she positively beamed in ours this month.
Are you a native Oklahoman? Yes. I grew up in Norman, but I didn’t graduate from Norman High School. I went to University School – it was a lab school through the University of Oklahoma.
Say what? Yes. It no longer exists. The day of my graduation was the last day the school was open, so I’ve never been to a class reunion. There were several Rhodes scholars who went to the lab school.
Were you one of them? Uh, no. I’m what you’d call a “Road scholar.”
Because of your love of travel? It’s my passion.
Favorite destination? I’m not the kind to go to a place twice because I’m too focused on new experiences, so I always say that my favorite destination is the next place I haven’t been yet!
What happened post-lab school? I got my bachelor’s degree in psychology from OSU, a master’s degree in counseling, a master’s degree in student personnel and guidance and a doctorate in higher education administration.
This explains your day job. What’s your official title? I am the vice-president for enrollment and student services at OCCC.
How long have you been a Rotarian? 20 years.
Have you always aspired to run the joint? No. I never dreamed I’d run it. I joined because I thought I’d get a lot out of it. My grandfather was a Rotarian and I learned a lot about Rotary’s commitment to service from his involvement.
I know Rotary International has been at the forefront of efforts to eradicate polio globally. Yes and I have a very personal connection to that cause. My mother contracted polio shortly after I was born, so I’m very familiar with the devastating effects of the disease – which has no cure, but is totally preventable.
Your life’s experience seems to have prepared you for this role in Rotary. I would never have predicted that. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my life isn’t the one I would have chosen for myself, but it’s the life I was supposed to have.
How would your script have gone? I always expected I’d have a traditional life; a husband and a family.
Have you ever been married? No. I’ve been engaged before, but never married.
This means you’re Oklahoma City’s Most Eligible Bachelorette! I predict an influx of first-timers to Rotary this month! Ha! OK…
What do you bring to a crowded room? A genuine desire to meet new people.
What do you value most in your true friends? My true friends love me in spite of myself.
What should people do at least once in their lifetime? Forgive someone who has done something unforgivable.
What words inspire you? I love Katharine Hepburn’s quote: “I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done, as long as I enjoyed it at the time.”
What’s your guilty pleasure? Champagne. Manicures.
What character trait would you gladly give up? I always look for the best in people, even when I shouldn’t.
That’s an admirable trait! Ehhhh. I’m very impatient.
Still, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I also have a highly sensitive “BS-ometer” and if I have to call someone out for their BS, I’m not tactful about it.
What’s the best decision you’ve ever made? I was living in Texas in the ’80s and it occurred to me that my parents didn’t know me as an adult, so I decided to move back to Oklahoma to become adult friends with my parents. They’ve both since passed away, but those years with them were the greatest joy of my life.
What are you most grateful for? Having a curious spirit and an open mind. Also, for my parents, who paid for my braces and my college education.