By Ariel Miller, ESRAG Newsletter Editor

We are writing in gratitude for John Mathers, who died Aug. 6, leaving a tremendous legacy as founder of the Rotary Climate Action Team Network, or RCAT Now, which has grown to over 900 clubs worldwide. He was working to launch a Climate Change Youth Program for Rotary International when he died untimely. Mathers is mourned by countless people who delighted in his friendship and zest.

John Mathers served as President of the Rotary Club of San Francisco in 2017-18, the year RI President Ian Riseley challenged all 1.2 million Rotarians to plant a tree.  Mathers worked tirelessly in the ensuing years to equip people of all ages with the knowledge and courage to take on the challenge of slowing climate change. Throughout the pandemic, he organized webinars featuring eminent speakers on an array of fields relevant to climate solutions. The RCAT’s three-step Climate Challenge includes a Global Climate Pledge for individuals and clubs, a commitment to take climate action (plus resources on how to implement it), and reporting results to inspire clubs worldwide.

Gratitude for John Mathers

John Mathers speaking at the Assisi Climate Summit in 2022

In 2022, Mathers worked with Rotarians and civic leaders in Assisi – birthplace of Saint Francis, for which San Francisco is named – to organize an international Climate Symposium. He raised the funds for simultaneous translation and the online platform to ensure it would be open to a global audience.

“His passion for our planet was infectious!” says Casey Blair, 2019-2020 RC San Francisco President. “Working with youth gave [John] such joy that you could see it in his big, bright smile,” adds David Dye, the Club’s 2016-17 President . “His last visit to RYLA was a year ago when he led sessions on climate change. Through his involvement in the Rotary Climate Action Team (RCAT), he sought out opportunities to give presentations to youth involved in other Rotary youth programs like Interact.”

“When a troubling situation or knot arose, John would make a suggestion and then, like a knife through butter, the problem would be resolved. John had vast reservoirs of experience, talent, empathy, leadership, and affection. I miss him now and will always miss him. My sympathy to [wife] Peggy and his family for their loss of such an incredible guy,” says Dan Joraanstad, Past President of the San Francisco Rotary Foundation.

Mitch Williams will chair the RCAT Network going forward, teaming up with Michelle Thatcher of the Green Chamber and Global Climate Pledge and past ESRAG Director Alan Anderson.  “John gave leadership to our efforts and helped grow RCAT network to several hundred clubs in eight countries,” says Anderson. “It has been my privilege to work with such a wonderful, dedicated man. He will be sorely missed.”