District 61 is an officially bilingual (English/French) and international District, having more than 211 Clubs spread across eastern Ontario, Québec and northern New York State, with nearly 4,000 members.
District 61 was created on July 1, 1958. It had its beginnings in 1956 when a group of Canadian Toastmasters from then District 34 in upper New York State decided to form two all-Canadian Districts. Districts 60-P and 61-P were granted provisional status in 1957 and became fully fledged Districts in their own right one year later on July 1, 1958. Of the 14 chartered clubs that came to District 61 from District 34, three still exist today: 606 St. Lawrence (chartered in 1948), 1838 Québec (1955) and 1935 Ottawa (1956). The original District 34 was disbanded in 1973.
The life of District 61 has had its ups and downs. By 1969, it had expanded from the original 14 to 43 clubs, and by 1973, with the addition of four more clubs from disbanding District 34, it had a total of 47 clubs. However, by 1978, the number had fallen to 23 clubs. At the 1980 International Convention, with only 24 clubs, District 61 was told that it would have to be integrated into another District unless there was some marked improvement by June 1981. The bilingual status of the District was perceived by some as a problem, although others thought of it as a unique opportunity. Still with only 23 clubs a year later, a show of support by 160 members at the District Spring Conference gained the District an additional year's reprieve.
The 1982-83 District Governor, Lilli Janzen, ATM, led District 61 to its first Distinguished District status in recognition of its service to members and clubs in terms of educational completions and membership growth. That year, World Headquarters of Toastmasters International agreed to let District 61 handle the French translation of educational materials. Members coordinated the translation of three advanced manuals into French. Since then, the District 61 Translation Committee has updated the basic Communication and Leadership Program manual, translated several more advanced manuals, and is in the process of completing the translation of The Better Speaker Series and The Successful Club Series modules into French over the next few years.
The following year, 25 years after it was founded, District 61 reached new heights. Under the leadership of District Governor Muriel How, DTM, seven new clubs were chartered and no club was lost, resulting in a final count of 33 clubs, a growth of more than 30 percent. For its achievement, District 61 was recognized at the 1984 International Convention as a President's Distinguished District, having led all Districts in the world in exceeding its goals for educational completions as well as membership growth and club extension.
This growth pattern has continued to the present day. In 18 of the past 22 years, District 61 has achieved Distinguished District recognition or better, including Select Distinguished status six times (1987, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2007) and President's Distinguished status four times (1984, 1993, 1998 and 2004).
Under the leadership of District Governor J. P. Champagne in 1989-90, District 61 reached the milestone mark of 50-plus clubs, and in 1997-1998, District Governor Jack Gammon DTM successfully led District 61 to 1st place in North America and 3rd place in the world. The number of clubs in the District then quickly doubled in 1998-99 with more than 100 under the leadership of District Governor Chris Ford, DTM. Under the leadership of District Governor 2011-2012, Beverley Miranda DTM, our numbers topped over the 200 club mark.
District 61 is home to Five Past International Directors.
- Muriel How, DTM, was elected for a two-year term beginning in 1987 at the International Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
- Chris Ford, DTM, was elected ID for the 2000-02 term at the International Convention in Miami Beach, Florida.
- John Gupta, DTM, was elected ID for the 2003-05 term at the 2003 International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.
- Sue Dalati, DTM, was elected ID for the 2009-11 term at the 2008 International Convention in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
- Gina Cook DTM, was elected ID for the 2010-12 term at the 2010 International Convention in Palm Desert, California. This was the only time in the history of Toastmasters that we had two sitting directors elected from the same district serving at the same time.
We were also home of Toastmasters International President; In 2004 at the International Convention in Reno, Nevada, Chris Ford, DTM, was elected Third Vice President of Toastmasters International and was elected Toastmasters International President in 2007-2008.
Of the many highlights in our District's history, it should be noted that beginning in 1985-86 and in many years since, District 61 has received the prestigious President's 20-Plus Award for being one of the top three Districts with the highest percentage of clubs with 20 or more members. The District has also received Excellence in Leadership awards for having achieved its mission as a Distinguished District for three or more consecutive years in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2009.
Another noteworthy event for District 61 came in 1991 at the International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, when the District's newsletter, LEADER, edited by Jane Stuart, DTM, was chosen as one of the Top Ten District Bulletins. This honour was repeated in 1994-95 with Henry Heald, CTM, and Jane Stuart, DTM, joint editors; in 1998-99 with Jean-Luc Leterme, DTM, editor; and again in 2000-01 with Cynthia Fortin, ATM-B, editor.
In 1994, for the first time, a District 61 contestant, Italo Magni, ATM, competed in the World Championship of Public Speaking at the International Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2001, District 61's J.A. Gamache, ATM-B, competed in the World Championship of Public Speaking at the International Convention in Anaheim, California, placing third in the world. In 2003, District 61 was once again represented on the world stage as Jeannine Scott, ATM-B, competed in the World Championship of Public Speaking at the International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The District has had several second and third place winners at Region VI International Speech contests. In 1996, Connie Maartense, DTM, won the Region VI Evaluation Contest.
District 61 has been honoured by many Presidential Visits, including Donald Pappe in 1972-73, Eric Stuhlmtiller in 1979-80, Pat Panfile in 1980-81, Bill Hamilton in 1981-82, Theodore Wood in 1986-87, Jack Gillespie in 1991-92, and Tim Keck in 1999-2000.
Presidential Citations to date have been awarded to Moe Rudner (District Governor 1965-66); to Arthur Cormier (District Governor 1974-75); in 1982 to Armand LaPointe, DTM; in 1988 to Steven Kleiner, CTM; in 2002 to Muriel How, DTM, (District Governor 1983-84; International Director 1987-89); in 2004 to Velma Latmore, DTM (District Governor 1994-95); in 2005 to Pierre Desrochers, DTM, (Chairman of the French Translation Committee); in 2008 to John Gupta, DTM (District Governor 1999-2000 ; International Director 2003-05), in 2009 to Chris Ford, DTM (International President 2007-08; District Governor 1998-99), and most recently in 2013 to Frederick Lawson, DTM (District 45 Governor - twice).
(Updated January 2017)