District 31 History

District 31 Historical Data is at: D31 historical Data

District 31 was the first Toastmasters International District organized in New England. It has a history of steady membership growth and contest performance. Throughout the years, District 31 has garnered many Distinguished District Awards and Presidential Citations, supported contestants in the World Championship of Public Speaking Contest, experienced occasional explosive growth, and enjoyed the worldwide distinction of having the youngest District Governor, Ben Lappen, DTM (24) along with the oldest District Governor, Charles V.  Keane, DTM (97), a member from 1953 to 2008.

District 31 1951 to 2013 –Sixty-two Years of Survival and Success

In the 1950’s, Toastmasters International organized many clubs into districts. District 31 became a recognized District in 1950-51, led by its first District Governor, Leonard Fish. Remarkably, seven clubs have survived from the original group of clubs that existed in New England in 1950-51. Only two of seven, the Quincy Club 675, and the Quannapowitt Club 849, still remain in District 31.

Eight clubs from Massachusetts and Rhode Island have survived from the 1940–1960’s.

Quincy, 675, — January, 1949
Quannapowitt, 849, — May 1950
Researchers, 2201, — September 1956
Central, 2277, — December 1956
Providence, 1330, –June 1962
OceanState, 854, — October 1963
Mitre/ESC 2779, — March 1965
Northshore, 3908 — March 1966
Re-Organizing New England Districts

By 1955, District 31 faced reorganization and reduction in size with the recognition of District 45, which included New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine and the establishment of a Provisional District in Connecticut and western MA which became recognized as District 53 in 1956. In 1967, District 31 attained its current geographical area, which includes eastern Massachusetts and the State of Rhode Island. At that time, District 53 was also expanded to include the entire state of Connecticut and Massachusetts west of Worcester County.

Changes to our Educational Program

As the Toastmasters International Educational programs expanded, District 31 members progressed within those changes. Through the 1950’s and early 1960’s, only two types of manuals were available: The Basic Training Manual, and Beyond the Basic Training Manual. During this period, a member would receive a Certificate of Merit for completing the Basic Training Manual, and a Certificate of Achievement upon completion of Beyond the Basic Training Manual.

The 1960’s introduced several new awards from Toastmasters International. The first ATM (Able Toastmaster) award was issued in 1964 and the first CTM (Competent Toastmaster) was issued in 1968. The Basic Manual became C&L Manual (Communication and Leadership) in 1969.

In 1970, Toastmasters International issued the first Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award, the highest award for members displaying outstanding enthusiasm, participation, and leadership. Many District 31 members have received the DTM Award. In 1984, the Communication and Leadership program Manual to receive a CTM Award was changed from 15 projects to the current 10. The same year introduced the Able Toastmaster Bronze and Able Toastmaster Silver Awards. In 1996 the Competent Leadership program was introduced. The educational system was soon updated to a two-track program introduced in 1997. After completing the basic manual and earning a Competent Toastmasters Award, members could now pursue a track focused on communication skills or emphasizing leadership skills. By 2006 there was a formalized Competent Leader manual and the DTM was expanded to require both the educational and leadership tracks.

World Championship of Public Speaking

Since the 1950’s, Toastmasters have competed in the prestigious International Speech Contest: The World Championship of Public Speaking. In the late 50’s, George Bissel, from the old Newton Club represented the District. More than 20 years later in 1980, Dan Blake from the Attleboro Club, now named Achievers Club 1625, represented District 31 at Minneapolis, MN.  District 31 had no International finalists for the next 18 years. In 1998, Dacia Jones Nickerson, DTM, competed on the world stage in Palm Desert, CA.

Darren La Croix became the World Champion of Public Speaking in 2001 at the International Convention in Anaheim, CA. We wowed the audience with a dynamic speech entitled “Ouch.” Darren’s win motivated and energized District 31 at the time. He has continued to support our members with visits, workshops and training sessions

The select group of District 31 members who reached the finals expanded in the following years. In 2002, Terry Schutt, DTM was a finalist in San Antonio, TX. David Sanfacon placed second in the world at the 2003 Contest in Atlanta, GA. Mack Mercer was a finalist in 2005 at Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Katherine E. Morrison, Ph.D. placed third in 2009 at Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Mary Cheyne placed second in 2010 at Mashantucket, CT. Stuart Pink placed third in 2011 at Orlando, FL.

District Growth — Women Added to Membership

The 1970’s saw many welcomed changes. The most significant event was when Toastmasters International opened its membership to women in 1973. Although women were not allowed to join Toastmasters clubs, some women circumvented the rule by using their initials on the application form instead of their first name. Women even served as officers in some clubs.

Nine years after Toastmasters International admitted women as members, District 31 elected the first woman District Governor. Bettye Lewis-Underhill, DTM, served in 1982-1983 and set the precedent for other women to follow in future years.

Distinguished District Program Initiated

In 1973-1974, Toastmasters International instituted the Distinguished District Program to recognize a district for being distinguished by accomplishing required growth and educational goals.  In 1974, there were 39 clubs with a total of 650 members in District 31.  By 1979, the District membership swelled to 926 members in 51 clubs.

District 31 Grows and Grows

The growth continued through the 1980’s. Membership grew from 1,018 members in 53 clubs in 1980 to 2,076 members in 97 clubs in 1989. As membership increased, the District was faced with increasing the number of divisions. In 1980, District 31 was organized into four divisions – North, South, Central, and West and subdivided into 12 areas. This growth eventually led to the expansion to six divisions (A-F) by July 1983. In July 2013, the District was aligned into eight divisions with the number of clubs approaching 200.

You’ve Got Mail

District 31 quickly joined the electronic expansion with the introduction of its e-mail list in 1995-1996. This was followed one year later with the introduction of the District 31 web page in 1995. These improvements have led to increased and timely access to District and International information.

The Rebranding

On August 17, 2011 Toastmasters unveiled the refreshed brand. A new logo, tagline and an update to most Toastmasters materials. The rebrand is a step toward achieving the mission of Toastmasters by creating a consistent identity across the globe. District 31 offered two programs that allowed many clubs to obtain an updated banner.


With Thanks to District 31 Members

You can see from the District History that the attention goes to the few individuals each year who lead the District or achieve major recognition. It is important to recognize that Toastmasters is designed to help as many as practical to practice and improve their public speaking and leadership skills. The program is designed for members who stay for a lifetime and also for those members who join to achieve specific goals and quit when those goals are met. About half of our members leave before finishing their first Competent Communicator Award. We thank all members for your contributions. We exist to serve your needs one and all. A special thanks to Bruce Pyne, who provided a core of historical information from his archives to make up this summary.

Past District Governors and Directors

2016 – 2017 Stefano McGhee, DTM, PDG
2015 – 2016 Rick Winer, DTM
2014 – 2015 Doug Sheadel, DTM
2013 – 2014 Y.S. Kim, DTM
2012 – 2013 Stefano McGhee, DTM
2011 – 2012 Ben Lappen, DTM
2010 – 2011 Bil Lewis, DTM
2009 – 2010 Sherri Raftery, DTM
2008 – 2009 Bash Turay, DTM, PID
2007 – 2008 Cherylle Garnes, DTM
2006 – 2007 Deb Cartier, DTM
2005 – 2006 Tom Weber, DTM
2004 – 2005 Chris Lowe, DTM
2003 – 2004 Charlie Keane, DTM
2002 – 2003 Paul Fisher, DTM
2001 – 2002 Ruth Levitsky, ATMG, ALB
2000 – 2001 Victor Carbone, DTM
1999 – 2000 Allan Schmidt, ATMB
1998 – 1999 Information Missing
1997 – 1998 Ulysse Maillet, DTM
1996 – 1997 Stephen Licari, CTM
1995 – 1996 Daniel Jones, DTM
1994 – 1995 Carmen Lowe, DTM
1993 – 1994 David McIlhenny, DTM
1992 – 1993 Chuck Taylor, DTM
1991 – 1992 Carole Downey, DTM
1990 – 1991 Bash Turay, DTM, PID
1989 – 1990 Ted Verdone, DTM

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