From left are Rotary International V.P. Jennifer Jones, District Governor Michael Angelo Caruso, Past District Governor Ruzhdi Bakalli, and Past Rotary International President Wilf Wilkenson.
Rotary’s highest honor, the “Service Above Self” award, has been presented to Past District Governor Ruzhdi Bakalli of Warren by Rotary International. This award is presented yearly to not more than 150 recipients worldwide who have demonstrated their commitment to helping others by volunteering their time and talents.
Bakalli has been honored with this citation: “For his commitment to Rotary to help others by donating volunteer time and experience to really embody the Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self.” The award was presented to Bakalli in the name of Rotary International President John Germ by Rotary International Vice President Jennifer Jones and Past Rotary International President Wilfrid Wilkinson on Saturday, April 1, at the District 6380 Million Dollar Dinner in Pittsburgh. Present at the event were Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko and 250 Rotarians; $1,225.118 was raised at that event for the Rotary Foundation.
As the first Albanian officer at a Zone level, first Albanian Rotary District Governor and the Founder of Rotary in Kosova, Bakalli, was selected by the Board of Directors of Rotary International to receive the award “Service Above Self” for year 2016-17. Bakalli is the fifth Rotarian in the history of the US District 7280 (northwestern Pennsylvania) and the first Albanian Rotarian to receive this highest honor from Rotary International.
The Rotary International Board of Directors has established this award to recognize and appreciate those Rotarians who are actually embedded with the Rotary’s motto “Service Above Self.”
RI Board considers this award as the highest honor that Rotary International can bestow on a Rotarian for his contributions.
Every year from all nominations from around the world a maximum of 150 Rotarians are chosen to receive this highest Rotary bonor, but this year only 75 Rotarians were chosen to receive the award. The RI Board was faced with the challenge of choosing only 75 of the most prominent Rotarians from an exemplary group of over 500 nominees.
Current and immediate past district governors and current and past RI directors can nominate candidates for this Award.
This trust and appreciation of the work done by Bakalli is not only an honor to him personally, but to all Albanian Rotary in general.
Known as the Paul Harris of Kosova, Bakalli, who has for years lived and worked in the U.S., was the founder of Rotary in the newest country in the world, the Republic of Kosova. For his activities and commitment to Rotary, he has been honored by Rotary clubs in Kosovo, Albania and now Rotary International:
— Bakalli, founder of Rotary in Kosova, is a founding and charter member as well as Honorary President of the Club in his hometown-Gjakova/June 30th 2000/.
— On Jan. 7, 2009, the Rotary Club of Warren in Pennsylvania, USA, named Mr. Ruzhdi Bakalli a Lifetime Honorary Member of the club.
— A year later, members of the Rotary Club of Warren elected Bakalli president of the club for the Rotary year 2010-2011.
— Bakalli from Rotary District 7280 was elected as the district’s governor for the Rotary year 2014 -2015. The area covered by Rotary District 7280 is northwestern Pennsylvania, and has 43 clubs with over 1,400 Rotarians. This was the first time in Rotary history, that an native Albanian Rotarian was elected as a District Governor of an American district. This was certainly a very important event and a success in Albanian Rotary history. During his year as governor, Bakalli broke all records in the history of the district in membership growth and donations to the Rotary Foundation.
— May 22, 2015: Rotary Club Gjakova-Qabrati elected Bakalli a Lifetime Honorary President.
— May 25, 2015: Rotary Club Prishtina Dardania elected Bakalli a Lifetime Honorary Member.
During his many years of service to Rotary, Bakalli has contributed with devotion to the internationall aspect of Rotary. For the establishment and chartering of Rotary Clubs in Kosova, he has contacted and talked with many prominent personalities in Rotary International. He has consistently been a promoter in directing efforts to bring international humanitarian aid for organizations, families and children in need in different countries.
Bakalli has sponsored more than 200 new members into Rotary. Currently, thanks to his commitment and service along with other Kosova Rotarians, the Kosova Rotary has 12 Chartered Rotary clubs.
Bakalli considered it very important to add to the Rotary Club of Gjakova’s membership growth with honorary members. Besides induction of many well-known personalities in Kosova, he was also able to add the following international personages:
In 2008, he met with President Bill Clinton and with his consent and desire he declared Clinton a Lifetime Honorary Member of Rotary Club Gjakova.
On July 5, 2010, he inducted former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a Lifetime Honorary Member of Rotary Club Gjakova.
He has honored three Rotary International Presidents, Frank Devlyn, Wilfrid Wilkinson and Gary C.K. Huang, by declaring them Lifetime Honorary Members of the Rotary Clubs of Warren and Gjakova.
Bakalli is a major donor and a member of the Paul Harris Society. His commitment to Rotary and for those who need help is unlimited.