Jay Copp 0000-00-00 00:00:00
New President From Small Town Brings Service Values and Neighborly Outlook to World Stage Open since 1850, Auburn City Hardware in northwestern Indiana has witnessed a parade of customers but never has a patron made such a mark on the wider world. So owner Robert Kokenge proudly displays the postcards Auburn native and close friend Wayne Madden sends as he traveled the world first as an international director for Lions and now as an executive officer. Madden’s insurance business is next to the store, and he drops in often when he is back home. In his postcards to Kokenge, Madden briefly writes about where he is, what he has been doing and, ever the jokester, ends with a simple plea. “On the back of the postcards he always says, ‘send me money,’ ” says Kokenge with a knowing chuckle. Longtime friends of Madden, the new Lions Clubs International president, say he may first come off as quiet and reserved but he is warm and engaging once you get to know him. And Madden rarely misses an opportunity to pull a prank or set up a stunt, whether it’s ribbing old friends at the “Liars Club,” a breakfast circle in Auburn, or, in the past, dishing out fines as Tailtwister to Auburn Lions for daring to be mentioned in the local newspaper or, despite his six-foot, six-inch frame, delighting his two then-young daughters by attempting to disappear in a clothes rack as Mom shopped. On the other side of that penchant for humor is a deep respect and admiration for what Lions do and a serious approach to his responsibility as president to lead and motivate. On the second floor of International Headquarters in Oak Brook are photos of all past international presidents including Dr. William Woods, the very first president in 1917- 18, and Ed Pane, president in 1942-43 and a fellow Hoosier like Woods. Madden shakes his head in wonder that he has joined their ranks. “Who would have thought that a guy from small-town Indiana would have a chance to lead a worldwide organization?” says Madden. “I look at Dr. Woods and I look at Ed Pane and I wonder how they will feel about the way I perform on the job.” Madden’s voice catches and he cries, humbled at the opportunity at hand. Auburn counts 13,000 people. It’s sleepy and downhome and typically American. It’s also startlingly atypical in that once a year a classic car show swells the population to perhaps 20 times its norm. Cars produced here long ago were far ahead of their time with power steering and front wheel drive, and the centerpiece of the annual festival is the Auburn Cord Duisenberg Museum. Still, folks in Auburn are under no illusions as to the glitz and glamour of their surroundings. What do you do for a night of fun in Auburn? “We drive up to Fort Wayne,” responds Madden, not really joking. Madden’s father, scarred by the Depression, was a tireless laborer who stressed education for his only son and two daughters. Mom stayed at home, cleaning the house and fixing up meals for any relatives who happened to wander over. “We might be about ready to have dinner for the five of us and then maybe one of her brother’s families would show up with an additional four. And, boom, all of a sudden there was food for everybody,” says Madden. “Back then, at least in our family, we didn’t invite people to each other’s home. You just showed up and you were welcomed.” Madden played Little League baseball on a beautiful field built by the Auburn Lions. Like a good Hoosier, almost a foregone conclusion given his stature, he also played high school basketball. He knew everyone. They knew him. He stayed out of trouble, partly because he wanted to make something of himself and partly because he was savvy. “We’d be in the study hall and he and another guy would talk back and forth and the teacher would be in the back and would constantly look for Wayne. And could never catch him,” recalls high school chum Marty Van Leuven. “And probably I got blamed for it.” Even if Madden had a way of dodging trouble, Van Leuven and others looked up to him. “He was smart and he set a good example even for students like me,” says Van Leuven. Adds Hugh Taylor, who played basketball with Madden, “Wayne had a wonderful reputation. Everyone seemed to like him. I can’t imagine anyone not liking him.” Well, if you’re a teenage boy, it’s entirely possible to imagine someone not liking you, especially if she looks stunning in a red dress and you are not sure of her name or whether she was dating someone else. Madden first spied Linda while playing pool at a formal get-together for teenagers. His buddy said, sorry, she’s taken. Six months later Madden sat in the stands at a basketball game and saw Linda sitting in the bleachers on the other side of the gym. This time the friend next to him was a girl. “Do you know her?” Madden asked. She did. “Well, can you ask her to meet me tonight at the sock hop at the Y?” That was halfway through Madden’s senior year. Linda was a year behind. They both attended Manchester College and married shortly after Wayne graduated. “She was just a very bubbly-type personality—easy to talk to, easy to get along with,” says Madden. Linda was struck by how they shared the same values. “I knew almost instantly that family was an important thing to him. And it didn’t make any difference if it was my family or his,” she says. At Manchester Madden began to see the world outside Auburn, to realize that the needs and wants of the wider world dwarfed the everyday problems that arose in a small Indiana town. In the spring of 1968, when Madden was a senior, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. came to campus to give a speech. Auburn had no African Americans. Madden had no direct experience of the civil rights movement or of the deprivations in the inner city. King gave parts of his “I Have a Dream” speech. He talked of the mountain top and being free at last. A month later he was dead. King helped stir Madden’s conscience. “Some of the great things that came out of that era were not only for the benefit of African Americans. As Lions we should know that everybody is entitled to an education. No one should suffer from preventable blindness. Every child should be able to sit in a classroom and see the blackboard. If they have a vision problem, if their parents can’t fix it, we as Lions have to step in,” he says. Madden taught at a high school for five years after graduation, and then the day after receiving his master’s in education he lay in bed, torn over his future. The lack of effort by some students frustrated him. He quit teaching. The next day he went to work for Prudential as an insurance agent. That changed his life. “It was a good move, not just for me but for Linda and our two girls. It opened up opportunities that we never would have had. It was entirely different type of work dealing with people face to face, having to live off what you personally produced and not having a guaranteed paycheck,” Madden says. Madden sold insurance for Prudential for 11 years before buying an insurance agency in Auburn from a man who was retiring. “Selling insurance you have to have people skills,” says Pete Smith, his former manager at Prudential. “You have to really care about people and it has to show. And that’s what Wayne has. People know he’s interested in them and not in a commission.” Life coalesced nicely for the Maddens in Auburn. Linda taught 2nd grade. Older daughter Jennifer and younger daughter Julie earned good grades in school, marched in the band and won awards in speech contests. The family rode the roller coasters at Cedar Point on vacation, swam together in Auburn and eagerly celebrated Christmas, other holidays and birthdays. Tradition and ritual meant a lot to Madden, especially regarding sports. He traveled to Bloomington to cheer on the Hoosiers on the hardwood, to South Bend to watch the Fighting Irish on the gridiron and, since 1967 to the state’s biggest city for the Indianapolis 500. “I like the people I go with. We got this thing down to a science. We get our cold drinks and maybe smoke an occasional cigar. And, of course, just watching the people—to see how different people control themselves or fail to control themselves,” he says. The Maddens reveled in their children’s lives.” Any time there was any sort of event we were participating in, whether it was a sporting event or a band concert or a recital, they were there, always there,” says Jennifer. “And not just usually them. They would bring along the rest of the family. So as I got older it got to be a little embarrassing that I would have like a whole fan section.” The Maddens stressed education. “My dad had this little saying: success only comes before work in the dictionary,” says Julie, not able to suppress a smile. When Jennifer, then in college, secured an internship in Washington, Madden, who was in Pennsylvania on business, surprised her. “When I got off the plane in D.C. there was my dad. I was never so happy to see him in my life. I really needed that little transition of getting safely to where I was going to be,” she says. After college, Jennifer drove to Washington by herself. This was before cell phones. “My dad took out the atlas and he literally marked everything, every turn, where to stop for gas, a good place to stop for lunch. He wrote a full narrative for me so that I would not miss a turn,” she says. Madden had caring for his family down pat. He also wanted to care for his community, to give back. Smith from Prudential had made it a point to talk up the Lions and other civic groups. Linda’s father had been president of the Lions club in nearby Waterloo. So in 1984 when an unsigned letter from the Auburn Lions came in the mail asking him to join, Madden joined. “I had no idea what the Lions did other than seeing them working projects at the fair or selling fruit on the street. I knew they had a scholarship program for high school students every year. That was my extent of knowing,” says Madden. “When I became a member I kind of stumbled around for a few years. I didn’t realize you were supposed to have perfect attendance,” he adds. Fellow club members remember it differently. “Wayne caught fire early on,” says Hubert Stackhouse, an Auburn Lion since 1956. “The club had never been wildly enthusiastic about district, state or international activities. Under Wayne’s leadership we participated in SightFirst II much more extensively. Wayne encourages us and our club.” A defining moment for Madden as a Lion was an eyeglass mission trip to Honduras in 1995, a full decade after he became a Lion. A young man with a disability slowly made his way to the eyeglass tent. “He asked if I had a pair of sunglasses. I had these inexpensive, little fluorescent-type sunglasses with a bright yellow ridge and orange temples. As I’m digging around to try to find him a case he’s got on this pair of sunglasses and this big smile on his face. When you see service actually do something for somebody is when you become a Lion,” he says. Another highlight as a Lion for Madden also involves vision. As an international director from 1999-2001, he traveled to Tennessee and learned of the success of Lions there in a children’s vision screening program. So a few years later he brought Operation KidSight to Indiana. “Operation KidSight in my opinion is the perfect Lions club project,” says Past International Director Dave Fiandt of the Fort Wayne Central Lions Club. “It deals with kids. It deals with sight. It’s a needed project and it’s our project, a Lions project. It’s due to Wayne Madden’s vision and the fact he made sure it got off on a sound footing.” As international president, hearkening back to the sense of community he developed in Auburn, the fiery compassion for others espoused by a slain civil rights leader and the giving-back mentality of a small-town Lions club, Madden will keep service in the forefront. “In a world of service no child should go to bed hungry. We have people suffering from preventable blindness. In a world of service that should never happen. We have babies in Africa suffering from being born to HIV mothers. Those babies should be taken care of,” says Madden. Madden’s travels have taken him far from Auburn, and he’s learned that Lions in far-flung places share much in common with one another. “When you travel around the world you learn that our association is not a big association in one sense. It’s just clubs like the one I belong to in Auburn. It’s just that it’s a compilation of us being in 207 countries,” he says. “It is amazing the variety of projects you see. That shows that Lions are meeting the different needs of their communities.” The small-town boy will make good serving humanity. “His achievement still amazes me. It’s beyond any conception that a member of ours could rise that high. It shows you what somebody with ambition and drive can get done,” says Stackhouse, who taught high school English and cannot resist a little ribbing of his own. “And besides that he corrected the slice in his golf game.” The Maddens plan on keeping a home in Auburn, even when they are much older. That’s a ways off. When his service as an executive officer ends, after he’s done all he can to motivate and inspire Lions, he’ll again join the Liar’s Club for coffee and breakfast. “It’s nice just to come home and be plain ole Wayne. When I come home they treat me just like they did 10 or 20 years ago and that’s what I look forward to,” he says “To be able to rib your buddies … But yet appreciate what they’ve accomplished and be proud of one another.” The Wayne Madden Story: The Film Version A fun and engaging nine minute video tells the life story of our new president, from his humble roots to his involvement with Lions. Find the video of the July/August digital issue of the LION (search “lion magazine” at www.lionsclubs.org). In a World of Service This eight-minute video details the presidential theme of Madden including his emphasis on literacy, women’s and family membership, and teamwork. Find the video on this page of the July/August digital issue of the LION (search “lion magazine” at www.lionsclubs.org).
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This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/From+Indiana+to+International++/1116645/118591/article.html.