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Member Recognition

Showcasing members, mentors, and clubs

Man and woman posing

Maheeka Gunasekara-Ariyapperuma (at left), a member of the Wiri Ramblers club in Auckland, New Zealand, expresses gratitude to her mentor, Mike Diggins, DTM, for all the guidance and advice he has given her. She says, “As an individual, he is the heart and soul of this club. What is so special about Mike is that he is so supportive and encouraging, is never too busy to help, and will never miss responding to an email even if he is overseas.”

Woman in green jacket

In September 2019, Fran Okeson, DTM, a longtime and extremely active and dedicated member, passed away. A resident of Staten Island, New York, United States, she first joined Toastmasters in 1988. Over the years, Okeson received many awards from District 46 and later District 83. She held every officer role in each of her seven Staten Island clubs and served as Area Director several times. She completed the work for her Distinguished Toastmaster award 20 times and was one of the first to earn the Competent Communicator designation when it was first offered in 2006.

Not only did Okeson charter clubs on Staten Island, but she was also instrumental in chartering clubs in other countries. In addition, she sponsored several clubs, as well as more than 500 new members, and was a mentor to many. She facilitated more than 40 Youth Leadership Programs and helped present more than 35 Speechcraft courses.

She will be remembered for her devotion to Toastmasters and its principles, and for the countless members she helped through the years.

Two members holding plaque

George Jacob (at right), DTM, of Trivandrum Toastmasters in Trivandrum, Kerala, India, receives his Distinguished Toastmaster plaque from his mentor, Abraham Thomas, DTM, whom he credits for helping him achieve the distinction.

Two women in dresses holding trophies

Sandra Meza-Iribe, of Ejecutivos Del Humaya Club in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, says she chose her mentor, Nadia Varidina Ortiz Bernal (at right), because of her natural speech style and compassion for others. “She demonstrates a lot of self-confidence and knowledge of the subjects she talks about,” she says of her mentor. “Besides that, Nadia is a very charismatic speaker; you feel connected and uplifted while you are listening to her.”

Talk to us! Do you have a short story (aim for 130 words), fun photo, inspiring anecdote, or Toastmaster “Ah-Ha” moment you’d like to share? Mark your submission “Member Recognition” and email it to

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