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Bombshell at Rotary Club: 1st Woman Joins

June 25, 1987|BARBARA BAIRD | Times Staff Writer

Beverly Ann Collier didn't blink an eye when her installation as the first woman member of the Pacific Palisades Rotary Club was compared to a list of memorable events, including the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima.

The references to pivotal events in history were made in a jocular manner by Dr. Celon A. Peterson, who conducted the Tuesday ceremonies.

Peterson, a dentist, had argued against admitting women in a televised debate last year with a member of the Duarte Rotary Club, the precedent-setting San Gabriel Valley club that was the first Rotary chapter to admit women.

The U. S. Supreme Court upheld a California anti-discrimination law in May and ruled that the Rotary may not exclude women from membership.

Collier is the second woman member of Rotary's District 528, which includes 46 chapters in western, central and south Los Angeles, officials said.

Esther M. Johnson, a retired accountant who for 10 years has worked as the Santa Monica Rotary Club's executive secretary, was made a member of that chapter in November. She was invited to join after a state appellate court in March, 1986, upheld a controversial decision by Duarte Rotarians to admit women.

Johnson has just returned from the Rotary International convention in Munich, where she was the only woman among 25,000 voting delegates.

According to Paul St. John, president-elect of the Malibu Rotary Club, that chapter plans to admit Dr. Susan R. Reynolds, director of the Malibu Emergency Room health clinic, on July 1.

At Collier's installation at the Riviera Country Club, Peterson said the date of her induction may become as memorable for local Rotarians as Pearl Harbor Day, Armistice Day, Christmas and the bombing of Hiroshima.

Although Collier didn't react to the comments during the ceremony, she said in an interview afterward that she "wasn't quite sure how to take" Peterson's remarks.

Peterson said in an interview that he meant no offense and will welcome the admission of women to Rotary because it's "the law of the land."

Collier, 35, has been employed at Bank of America for 15 years, where she began as a teller and is now manager of the Pacific Palisades branch.

A resident of Studio City, she has been active as a volunteer with the Special Olympics and United Way and said she will welcome further opportunities for public service as a Rotary member.

"I don't foresee any difficulties at all in being a member," she said.

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