Robert L. Kowalski
Biography of Grand Master
Robert L. Kowalski
Robert Louis Kowalski was born the second son to Robert and Patricia Kowalski of East Detroit. He lived and was educated in a “blue-collar” neighborhood, was a Boy Scout, and enjoyed the out-of-doors. As a youngster, performing music was important too and “Bobby” played the French horn for many years, having attended Interlochen Music Camp and received private instruction from a hornist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. After graduating High School in East Detroit (now Eastpointe), Bob received Bachelor and Masters Degrees in Psychology, with Honors, from Western Michigan University. He had teaching assistantships and instructed undergraduate psychology students while at Western.
Bob worked for many years with the Michigan Department of Mental Health as a Psychologist, and later for agencies under the Wayne County Community Mental Health Authority. He was also on the Board of Directors of the Detroit Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC), where both he, wife Judy, and many Junior Odd Fellows have volunteered their time in improving the fabric of life for the physically and mentally challenged in the inner city. Bob begin his career at the start of the 1980’s and helped to “pioneer” the humane concept of establishing residential group homes for the treatment of the developmentally disabled, and in providing needed services in the communities from where they came. At the time, this was a radical living alternative in comparison to the isolated, segregated, and massive institutions which often warehoused individuals. Now it is the standard. He also worked with delinquent youth and mentally ill adult felons, and as a therapist at Hawthorn Center, Michigan’s only long-term and accredited State psychiatric hospital for children.
He married his life partner Judy in 1986, though they were friends since Band in Junior High. Odd fellowship came later in life, when he saw Eastwood Lodge in action, and they worked together mutually to organize a very successful fundraiser for a friend who had suffered a traumatic brain aneurysm. Seeing and experiencing the heart and dedication of the many members who didn’t even know his friend, but who rallied to support her in her time of need, Bob knew from that moment on; being an active part of the Order pursuing fellowship by relieving distress of the afflicted would be in his future. He saw this as being consistent with his values, training, and experiences in a human helping profession he was retiring from then.
Bob’s home Odd fellow lodge is Eastwood #496 of Eastpointe. Here he has served as Chaplain, Conductor, and Warden and remains a steadfast and active participant. This is the City he has born and raised in. He has been the Youth Advisor to the Junior Lodge at Eastwood (Shamrock #4) for the last seven years. He routinely volunteers to raise funds for the Lodge at Charity Poker events and has previously organized large giving projects like the “Christmas for Kids” for the Lodge. Associate Odd fellow lodges include Golden Link #379 of Warren, and Monroe #19, where he has served as Vice Grand and Noble Grand at both. Bob also regularly attends Galaxy Lodge #384 in VanBuren Township. His home Rebekah Lodge is Eastwood #499, having served as long time Chaplin, and supports to the Vice and Noble Grands. Bob has also been Past Noble Grand at Golden Link Companion Rebekah Lodge #518 and was also the 88th President of East Wayne District #7, having raised funds for the Urban Garden of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and for Youth scholarships to our Odd fellow-Rebekah Camp.
Bob has also advanced to other units within the order, having attained the level of a Past Chief Patriarch for the Michigan Encampment #1, and has been a Session representative. He was recently appointed as the Grand Outside Sentinel of the Grand Encampment of Michigan. Within the Department Council of the Patriarchs Militant unit, Bob had previously served as the Equipment Officer for several years, having attained rank as Captain.
Within months of joining the Order, Bob accepted a vacancy on the Board of Directors of the Odd Fellow and Rebekah Camp of Michigan where he served for 6 1/2 consecutive years. He worked in a camp promotional capacity, and for two years was President of the Board. This was at a time when the camp was undergoing a variety of physical renovations and improvements. He coordinated the “Blessing of the Bikes” fundraiser regarding the camp use for many years.
Within a year or so of being a member of the Eastwood Lodge, Brother Bob and his wife Judy became the Advisor and Assistant Advisor for the Shamrock #4 Junior Odd Fellows. Around this time, they were also recognized as Odd Fellows of the Year at the Annual Michigan IOOF Grand Lodge Session in 2009. In the successive years since, they have worked with their Juniors on providing a dense schedule of quality recreational experiences, meaningful and creative community and fraternal service, and having opportunities for personal growth/development for their boys. Every meeting ends with a hot meal, and we routinely celebrate the birthday of each youth.
Bob too has worked on the Jurisdictional Youth Committee (JYC) for Michigan in the capacity of Junior Lodge Chairman and a term as Vice President. Bob was later appointed by Sovereign Grand Masters for two, one year terms as Chairman of the SGL-IARA Youth Committee. Here he led and oversaw the planning and implementation of Youth Days in Cincinnati Ohio, Schaumburg Illinois, and Victoria British Columbia. He also maintained the International youth website. He recently returned from taking his Juniors to Youth Days at Fort Worth Texas in August.
Additionally, for the preceding seven years, Bob has served the program of the United Nations Educational Pilgrimage for Youth. He has been a Tour leader for Michigan, and aided the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania with youth from other States. For the past five years, he has been a member of the New York City staff, helping directly with events at the United Nations and touring and chaperoning the student delegates during their activities while on Manhattan. He has also judged youth speeches for which college scholarships were awarded.
Activities within the Grand Lodge of Michigan have included active roles on our Investments committee, where Bob introduced realistic and progressive legislation which has helped our organization financially. Our investments have grown considerably for several successive years now. He has previously served as the Grand Guardian, Grand Warden, and Deputy Grand Master. He has organized Grand Master All Degree Days and an All Units Camp-Out with the help of Judy and others. At the most recent 2014-2015 Annual Session, Bob was also the recipient of the Medallion Award of the Sovereign Grand Lodge and other Grand Bodies of the Order, “Believing and Working Together We Accomplish Dreams”.
Bob’s motto as he becomes Grand Master is “Share the Bounty!” His emblem the Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty, with some of his service projects designated towards feeding the hungry and in supporting scholarships for talented and active youth about Michigan for the United Nations Pilgrimage program. His Bible verse is, “It is through giving that we receive”, and practical words he tries to live by include “Generosity is giving more than you can, and Pride is taking less than you need”. Our youth camp at the Odd Fellow Rebekah Camp of Michigan will also receive a good deal of his attention, as well as finding a fitting location and means of access for the membership to our beautiful Victorian, Stained Glass windows, recently preserved from the Chapel from our closed Convalescent-Nursing home.
Grand Master Message
Reversing the eroding membership base is essential, if not simply for our on-going longevity. By increasing the number, variety, and quality of fraternal relations in helping our members and communities though, more individuals will be attracted to and interested in becoming members. Through the membership, and getting our work and mission out there to the public is our “life blood”. Equally as important as getting more and new members, is keeping all the good members that we do have. We must both expand and retain. Always follow the Golden Rule. Consideration, acceptance, tolerance, and diversity are important as this is our strength. It would be very boring if we were all the same. Each member comes with different life experiences and skill sets we need to embrace to work together effectively. Open up our lodges, and increase the contact with the communities, no matter how humble the beginnings may be. Keep the focus positive. Network with similarly minded too, and teamwork will grow our Order, help where we live, and increase our overall satisfaction with life. Have fun making an uplifting difference in your surroundings and the World.
Robert L Kowalski
Grand Master IOOF Michigan