By: Jennifer Walker Naples Past President, Greater Naples Leadership GNL admits 40 to 46 proven leaders each year to a class of 10 full-day sessions.
Greater Naples Leadership is now in its 17th year of educating proven leaders about Collier County and motivating them to volunteer their time and talents to better our community.
About 580 of them have graduated from the program and more than 400 are currently active in GNL’s alumni association.
Every year since 2002, GNL has honored an alumnus with the Distinguished Leadership Award, named for GNL pioneer Parke Wright III, at its annual meeting. The award is given to those who best exemplify the GNL mission in serving the community.
This week, Dick Munro, a decorated war veteran and a 2005 graduate of GNL, will be honored by the organization for his outstanding service to literacy and other causes.
Munro has served as a board member of organizations including the David Lawrence Foundation; Community Foundation of Collier County; Champions for Learning (formerly the Education Foundation), where he is vice chairman; and Fun Time Early Childhood Academy. He is on the advisory council for First Book-Collier County and the advisory board of WGCU. In addition, he is an active volunteer with the Early Literacy and Learning Model program of Head Start at Avalon Elementary School.
In 2011, the Education Foundation honored him as one of its Men of Distinction.
When asked about his interest in and commitment to education, Munro said, “I believe that education can make a huge difference in a person’s life. I wasn’t a particularly great student myself, but I do think you can make a real difference working with kids. It’s why my volunteering with children at the Avalon school for 10 years continues to be an important part of my life.”
As a sergeant in the U.S. Marines, Munro served on the front lines of the Korean War from 1951-53. He was injured in combat and awarded three Purple Hearts. He recalls watching comrades die.
When injured, he was strapped to helicopter skids and evacuated to a M.A.S.H. unit in Korea, then moved to a hospital ship and finally transferred to the United States, where he recuperated in a hospital ward surrounded by amputees.
That kind of experience, he says, puts life in perspective.
Munro moved on to a 40-year career with Time Inc., which later became Time Warner Inc. He retired as its chairman and CEO after starting as a trainee. He moved the firm deeply into cable television and established HBO.
“Literacy was in the DNA of the company, so to speak,” Munro says, linking his past profession with his present volunteerism. “Probably most of us were frustrated journalists or former English majors.”
“Henry Luce founded the company with a missionary zeal to inform America every week about what was important. I guess you could say that was education in the broadest sense.”
Munro has done much more, serving on the boards of Genentech, the biotechnology company at the forefront of cancer treatments, plus IBM, Mobil and Exxon Mobil, Kmart, Kellogg, Sensormatic and the Rand Corp.
A graduate of Colgate University and Teachers College, Columbia University, Munro has served on the boards of Colgate, Hamilton College, St. Lawrence University, City College of New York and Columbia University.
He credits GNL with introducing him to the needs of the community and helping him to focus on where to volunteer his experience, training and talents.
Munro cites his time as a 25-year director of UNCF (formerly known as the United Negro College Fund) as his most rewarding volunteer work before coming to Naples. “I’ve always had feelings for the underprivileged and was impressed with the very good job they were doing in helping a large segment of America get a college education,” he said. “At the time, these kids wouldn’t have ever gone to a white college. But the fund enabled them to attend the 27 black colleges that existed, mostly in the South. Plus, the UNCF was also very good at remedial training to help these kids succeed in college.”
He has also chaired the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Points of Light Foundation and United Way and served on boards of organizations including the Council on Foreign Affairs and the New York City Partnership.
He is married to Carol Munro, also a graduate of GNL. They met when both were working at Time, and have three sons and four grandchildren.