Tribute to PIP John Latin, 1939-2016

An influential Toastmaster and leader is missed by all who knew him.

Past International President

This article is from the May 2016 edition of the Toastmaster magazine.

In January, at the age of 76, Past International President John Latin, DTM, passed away at his home in Cranbury, New Jersey, after a long illness. An influential Toastmaster and leader, he will be missed by all who knew him.

John Latin’s theme as president in 1984-1985 was “Opportunities for Growth.” He said he chose that theme because “Toastmasters offers a golden opportunity to prepare members to meet life’s challenges, both personally and professionally.”

That proved true in his own life as well. An electrical engineer by profession, Latin spent his career at Rockwell International’s space division, working in the Apollo Command Service Module Program and on the space shuttle. Two years before Apollo 11’s historic trip to the moon in July 1969, John was sent by Rockwell to Cape Kennedy (now known as Cape Canaveral) in Florida to perform electrical tests for a week. He returned to California expecting to write a formal report. Not wanting to wait for the written report, his managers asked him to give his findings and recommendations immediately. Latin found the resulting series of impromptu briefings difficult. After wrestling with his fear of public speaking for two years, Latin joined the Downey Space Toastmasters club the same month that Apollo 11 lifted off the launch pad. It was a “giant leap” for John Latin.

In an interview in the Toastmaster magazine’s September 1984 issue, Latin said, “I joined because I knew I needed ‘emergency’ help when it came to expressing myself in business meetings. But it wasn’t until [my supervisor] asked me to visit the club that I gathered enough strength to go to a meeting.”

Latin quickly gained confidence and skill as a speaker, leading to him regularly presenting NASA test results to Rockwell management. As a result, in 1972 he was asked to join the Rockwell Space Division Speakers Bureau. This launched him on the luncheon and dinner speaking circuit throughout the United States and Canada, where he spoke not only to the scientific community but also to civic, management and educational organizations.

With a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s in electrical engineering, he also was an instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and California State University, Long Beach. Latin is fondly remembered as a mentor to other Toastmasters and for his involvement in Founder’s District Youth Leadership and Speechcraft programs. “These programs force you to be prepared not only as a speaker but as a teacher,” Latin said. “The skills I learned as a coordinator of YLP and Speechcraft have had direct application to my professional career as a manager and corporate speaker.”

Colette Gardner, DTM, a past Founder’s district governor, recalls Latin’s personal motto: “Serve the members.” She says, “He was my mentor for several years and my life would have been very different without his support and advice.”

Here are some comments from other Toastmasters leaders who knew John:

"Our Toastmasters family has lost a giant. John gave of himself unselfishly to those who reached out to him. He actively mentored many district governors. What I miss most is John’s quirky sense of humor in his speeches." "
Lauren Kelly, DTM, Past International Director 2006–2008, Trabuco Canyon, California

"John was an example for leaders to follow. He will be in my memories forever." "
Pauline Shirley, DTM, • International President 1994–1995, Richardson, Texas

“We recall many happy times shared, first through our Board association in Toastmasters International, and later as friends in one another’s homes in California and New Zealand. We enjoyed John’s humor, energy and cooking skills on the occasions he stayed with us.” "
John Fauvel, DTM, International President 1987-1988, and Pamela Fauvel, Auckland, New Zealand

“I had the honor of serving with John on the Board of Directors. During that time I came to appreciate his generosity, respect for others, his high integrity, love of animals and his deep faith. He was unique in many ways and will have a lasting impact on the organization and all who knew him.” "
Eddie Dunn, DTM, International President 1983-1984, Fargo, North Dakota

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