Service Above Self Award to Peggy Prowe

May 19, 2007

Rotarian Anne Bretts posted this to the blog earlier this week.

peggy_prowe.jpgEach year the Northfield Rotary Club honors one person with the “Marston Headley Service Above Self Award.” This year Peggy Prowe took the honor. Pete Stolley and Charlie Cogan are shown here as they made the presentation at Thursday’s weekly meeting.

I met Peggy through her work on the Mill Towns Trail . In fact, we met as she arrived on her bike for a meeting at City Hall. But Peggy has a long, rich history of service to the community. Charlie did a great job of telling her story, so I asked him to send along his speech:

The Service Above Self Award was started by Rotary International about thirty years ago and here in Northfield in 1988. About ten years ago, the local award was renamed “The Marston Headley Service Above Self Award”. Many members of the Northfield Rotary Club have had the pleasure of knowing Marston personally as a long-time member of our club, a past club president and the secretary for many years. He is still remembered for his many contributions to the Northfield community. The award is given each year to a member of the club who has given of her/his time and energy to make this club a success and also for strong involvement in the community. This year, there were several very strong candidates for the award, but after extensive deliberations, the committee has chosen Ms. Peggy Prowe.

Peggy is originally from Topeka, Kansas and graduated with honors from the University of Kansas before completing a masters degree in physical education from Emporia State Teachers College, still in Kansas.

Work brought her to Northfield, Minnesota in 1966, when she accepted a job as a faculty member in the Physical Education Department at Carleton College, after teaching for several years at various junior high schools and high schools in Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. She has served as an instructor and counselor at numerous outdoors and wilderness programs throughout the region and was a swimming instructor and synchronized swim coach at Carleton from 1976-2000, while simultaneously founding and leading the aquacize program for senior citizens (1980-2000) and also teaching similar classes for the Northfield Community Education and Recreation program (1986-2000).

At a welcome dinner on her first night at Carleton, she was seated at a table with then-Carleton-president John W. Nason. Across from her was a handsome new history professor named Diethelm Prowe. The rest is history and she and Diet have raised two children in Northfield: Derek (married to Julie Coffin), who now lives in Washington, D.C. and Freya (married to Doug Washington) who lives in Berkeley, California. They have two grandchildren, Anja and Mara, and visit them regularly in California.

At some point during these busy years, Peggy has also developed an abiding love and passion for the languages, cultures and cuisine of Germany and the Czech Republic. While it might be argued that this was initially a pragmatic move to please demanding in-laws, no one who has ever had the pleasure of being hosted at one of the Prowes’ legendary German dinner parties can doubt that this is a sincere commitment to a distinctive (and delicious) cultural and culinary tradition.

Peggy Prowe was invited to join the Rotary Club in 1994 by Pete Stolley, who was the Northfield City Administrator at the time. Peggy served on the Northfield City Council from 1990-2000 and it is during this period that she became active in the Mill Towns Bike Trail as a co-founder. The list of commissions and boards on which she has served is a long one and can be supplied upon request, but the bottom line is that Peggy Prowe has been an extremely active citizen of this community for a good spell now.

From the founding of the Mill Towns Trail in 1992 to the present, she has served as an advocate at the city, county, regional and state level. Since 2004, she has been on the Board of Directors of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota and has also served (also at the state level) on the SMART Board, which works with MN DOT, the Department of Natural Resources and various counties to coordinate projects that span several entities, to ensure that resources are used and leveraged to the maximum extent.

The past several years have seen some great progress on the Mill Towns Trail and Peggy has been a part of a very active and persistent team that has done a great job of raising local and state support to take the trail from the blackboard to reality. In the process, she has been a relentless coordinator of volunteers for the Jesse James Bike Tour and has worked the phones and in the hot sun to help make the event a continual success and substantial fundraiser for the Mill Towns Trail, including the most recent Rotary Centennial Project, where the trail received a total of $85,000 over several years from successive bike tours.

At present, Peggy has also taken on the challenging job of program committee chair, filling the oversized shoes of John Gaddo, after a year’s transition. This is a hugely important and time-consuming job, since it impacts every single meeting of the Rotary year and involves extensive time commitments on a weekly basis: calling, confirming, juggling, rescheduling and doing all of the things that only a highly-organized person (like John or Peggy) can hope to do well.

In typical fashion, Peggy’s first reaction to the phone call announcing this award was one of consternation, since she had strongly nominated another candidate who she felt deserved the award even more. That being said, she was a good sport about things and graciously agreed to accept this award, though she asked that special mention be given to several mentors who have had a great impact on her own vision for the community and ability to work effectively for change. She mentioned Pete Stolley and John Stull, who were city administrator and mayor during part of her time on the city council. She also made special mention of the mentoring and support she received from Elaine Thurston, La Nelle Olsen and Marge Cox (mother of our Rotary friend Ray Cox) who took the time to discuss issues with her and share their perspectives as she honed her own civic leadership skills.

Each year, the Rotary Club of Northfield takes time to recognize one of its members for service above self. This year, we are proud to recognize Peggy Prowe for all that she has done and continues to do to make Northfield and our whole region a better place.