Former Rochester Mayor Tom Richards is slated to become the 77th recipient of the Rochester Rotary Award. It is an honor previously received by local luminaries such as Tom Golisano, Joe Wilson, Al Sigl and Marion Folsom.
Tom’s honor comes 40 years after his dad received the award. Tom’s achievements—as mayor, attorney and corporate executive—are well-chronicled.
His father, the Rev. Thomas B. Richards, was the recipient in 1974 after a much different career.
A contemporary Rochester Rotary account explained: “Rev. Tom has dedicated his life to finding homes for Rochester’s homeless. A social worker since 1948, Rev. Richards was responsible for establishing halfway houses for the homeless in Rochester as an alternative to institutions. One of his success stories still visits him, a man Rev. Richards brought from prison to a halfway house, who is now completing his 26th year with Eastman Kodak.”
The elder Richards pioneered treatment programs in area hospitals that changed the way homeless alcoholics were dealt with in the community, the Rotary explained. He taught his insight and compassion for the homeless to nursing students in Rochester and at Rutgers University.
He was a graduate of Bucknell University, Colgate Rochester Divinity School and UR. He spent 40 years working with the Men’s Service Center in Rochester. He worked as a chaplain in the Army Air Forces during World II and also at a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
The Rochester Rotary Award is the oldest civic award in Rochester. It recognizes community members who personify Rotary International’s “Service Above Self” motto. Award recipients must demonstrate exceptional community spirit, touch the lives of many people, serve as positive role models, and share wisdom and knowledge to empower others.
Prior to serving as mayor, the younger Tom was the city’s corporation counsel from 2006 to 2010. He also is former chairman, president and CEO of RGS Energy Group, the parent company of RG&E, and he was a partner at Nixon Peabody. In addition, he has been involved in an array of charitable and community organizations.
In his letter supporting the nomination, UR president Joel Seligman states: “Tom is the embodiment of ‘Service Above Self,’ and this philosophy is at the core of his personal and professional life. His generosity of time, talent, intelligence and treasure in the Rochester community is exemplary and is reflected in his many senior-level positions over a 40-year career of work and service in Rochester.”
This year’s award will be presented at the Rochester Rotary Club’s luncheon on June 19 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Additional information is available at rochesterrotary.org.
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