District 61 History

District 61 Now

District 61 is an international and bilingual (English/French) District, with more than 3,000 members and 195 Clubs across eastern Ontario, Québec, and northern New York State.

Our Beginning

District 61 was officially recognized by Toastmasters International on 1958-07-01. 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 full fledged Districts one year later on 1958-07-01. Of the 14 chartered clubs from District 34 that began District 61, three still exist today:

  • 606 St. Lawrence (1948)
  • 1838 Québec (1955)
  • 1935 Ottawa (1956).

The original District 34 was disbanded in 1973.

District Directors / Governors

International Directors

District 61 is home to five Past International Directors:

  • Muriel How, DTM (1987-1989)
  • Chris Ford, DTM (2000-2002)
  • John Gupta, DTM (2003-2005)
  • Sue Dalati, DTM (2009-2011)
  • Gina Cook DTM (2010-2012)*

* This was the only time in the history of Toastmasters where two sitting directors from the same district served at the same time.

International President

We are also the home of a Past Toastmasters International President. In 2004 at the International Convention in Reno, Nevada, Chris Ford, DTM, was elected Third Vice President of Toastmasters International and elected Toastmasters International. He was later elected Toastmasters International President in 2007-2008.

Early Years to the Present

By 1969, District 61 expanded from the original 14 to 43 clubs, and by 1973, adding four clubs from disbanding District 34, it had a total of 47 clubs. However, by 1978, the number faded 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 1982-1983 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 updated the basic Communication and Leadership Program manual, translated several more advanced manuals, and The Better Speaker Series and The Successful Club Series modules.

In 1983-1984, 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, 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 1989-1990, District 61 reached the milestone mark of 50-plus clubs, and in 1997-1998, District Governor Jack Gammon DTM led District 61 to first place in North America and third place in the world. The number of clubs in the District then quickly doubled in 1998-1999 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 the 200 club mark.

Of the many highlights in our District’s history, beginning in 1985-1986 and in many years since, District 61 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 achieving 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 1994-1995 with Henry Heald, CTM, and Jane Stuart, DTM, joint editors; in 1998-1999 with Jean-Luc Leterme, DTM, editor; and again in 2000-2001 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, 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.

(Updated March 2019)