Tribute: In Memory of Past International President John Diaz, 1930-2008
In March, at the age of 77, former International President John Francis Diaz passed away after a long illness in his home in Houston, Texas. A man of many interests, he will be missed by his large circle of friends and family. He is survived by his wife Sharon, and their adult children John and Lora, as well as their families.
John Diaz was elected president of Toastmasters in August, 1974, during the International Convention in Anaheim, California, the first convention after women were allowed to join in 1973. A dedicated Toastmaster for 17 years at the time, he was a member of many clubs and had served as an officer at all levels of the organization. He served as President during the organization’s 50th anniversary and chose as his theme “Forward from Fifty.” This is what he wrote in an editorial for the Toastmaster magazine at the time:
I know [Dr. Smedley] would be proud of the work we are doing world wide. We have over 60,000 members and a history of helping over one million people through our programs. But the past is the past. And this is now. We must consider 1974 as the first year of our future. In Toastmasters fashion, we must discard the outdated ideas, evaluate and learn from our mistakes, and exploit our successes. But most important, we must adopt an attitude of making ourselves relevant to today’s world and not accept excuse of “that’s the way it’s always done.”
Thirty-four year later, those words are still true and as relevant as ever, as Toastmasters International continues to grow and expand its programs throughout the world.
John Diaz’s friend and fellow Toastmaster Robert “Bob” Blakeley, who served as International President 1976-’78, remembers Diaz for his “humor, love of music and baseball.” As International President, Blakely said Diaz “led a team that changed the course of the organization and set the pace for the worldwide scope enjoyed today… His pragmatic and sometimes hard-headed approach to some of the problems we faced always turned out right.”
The private burial was held at Houston National Cemetery. The obituary in the Houston Chronicle said about Diaz, “Both a gentleman and a gentle man, he will be missed by many.”