For nearly 40 years, Mark Daniel Maloney and his family have demonstrated that Rotary connects the world. Now the self-described 'cheerful traveler' embarks on the next phase of his life's journey: serving as Rotary International's new president.

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It's two weeks before Christmas in northern Alabama, and the Rotary Club of Decatur is in full Yuletide mode. Last Saturday, working alongside members of the Church at Stone River, the club members treated more than 70 children to a pancake breakfast and a shopping trip to Target. Now at the club's Monday meeting, the Austin Junior High jazz band is rocking the seasonal songs: "Santa Baby," "Feliz Navidad," "Baby, It's Cold Outside" — though with temperatures nudging up against 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it feels, for early December, borderline balmy.

Once the band wraps up, club President Larry Payne announces, "Now, back by unpopular demand: Where in the world is Mark?" The crowd hoots and hollers with amiable scorn. The man in question strides to the front of the room and proudly declares, "Mark Maloney is in Decatur, Alabama!" Some 120 people cheer wildly. Hail to the chief.

In its coverage of the Rotary-sponsored shopping trip, the Decatur Daily had quoted Maloney and called him a "club member," which, while not inaccurate, was inadequate in that it failed to capture the breadth of the man's accomplishments. Since joining Rotary in 1980, Maloney has served as (deep breath) district governor, RI director, presidential aide, Rotary Foundation trustee, and chair of the Council on Legislation and the 2014 Sydney Convention Committee — and that's only a few of the offices he has held, all of them prologue to his new leadership role: president of Rotary International.

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