A Toastmaster’s Centennial Milestone
Edwin “Ted” Cecil, DTM, a Toastmaster of 58 years, will celebrate his 100th birthday in March, amid accolades from the Fort Harrison Toastmasters Club and Daybreakers Club, both in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he is an active member.
“Ted is a treasure,” says Dana Scruggs, Vice President Education for the Fort Harrison club. To mark the milestone, the club recently met Cecil via Zoom to ask him questions about his colorful life.
Cecil joined Toastmasters in 1964 as a charter member of a club, now expired, in Rochester, New York. He went on to serve as an Area 14 and Area 25 Governor and District Governor. In 2001, he was among 20 members chosen by the Toastmasters International President for the prestigious Presidential Citation. He received the DTM award in 2005, at age 84.
Cecil still cites specific goals and motivations for remaining a Toastmaster, even after all these years. “I don’t need the speaking prowess that I required many years ago. But I do need the exercise of speech preparation—the research and the thinking,” he explains. “I also want to give back, as best I can. I feel overall that my life, at this age, is not going to be a vacuum. I have things I have learned, and I want to say them! With Toastmasters I’m keeping my ability to speak in public.”
When asked about the greatest speech he ever heard, Cecil, who was born and raised in Northern England, quickly affirms it’s Winston Churchill’s 1940 speech to rally England’s support during World War II.
“We shall fight on the beaches … we shall never surrender,” Cecil begins to recite in an instantly recognizable Churchillian voice. “He was saying we’ll never give up. And that’s my motto, even today.”
A 50–Year Anniversary Tour
In October 2021, Tony Nelson, DTM, of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada, celebrated 50 continuous years in Toastmasters. To commemorate the occasion, he decided to visit five of his previous clubs in a week and take on a speaker role at each of them—something he describes as his anniversary tour.
Nelson explains how both he and Toastmasters have changed (he joined before women were officially admitted), and the many ways that the organization has impacted his life.
“I was never told explicitly how to do things at Toastmasters, but I absorbed so much,” he notes. He took advantage of countless opportunities through the years and then “watched what people did and I learned from all of that.”
He credits Toastmasters with giving him the confidence and skills needed to take business risks and eventually make a career switch into teaching. He has supported the formation of countless clubs in District 60, was a Pathways Ambassador when the education program was rolling out, served as chair of the District Reformation Committee, and in 2019, received the Presidential Citation at the Toastmasters International Convention.
Passionate about giving and receiving feedback and evaluations, Nelson has been a mentor to countless members, “whether they wanted me to or not,” he laughs. He has been known to write long, thoughtful evaluations to speakers after a meeting.
Retirement hasn’t slowed him down. He continues to visit clubs around the world, offering his feedback and insight, and enjoying the camaraderie and growth he finds. “When I’m at a club meeting, and I see a visitor or new person and they’re clearly uncomfortable or ill at ease, I know within a few weeks or months, they’re going to change. That’s a real joy for me.
“I found my voice in Toastmasters, and I’ve used it for all kinds of positives.”