Royce Abbey joined the Rotary Club of Essendon, District 9800, Victoria, Australia in 1954. After roles as Club President 1963/64, District Governor 1969/70, Board Member of Rotary International 1976/77, Vice-President 1977/78, he was nominated and served as President of Rotary International in the year 1988/89. He was the third Australian to attain that position following Sir Angus Mitchell and Sir Clem Renouf. The motto for the 1988/89 Rotary Year was, “Put Life Into Rotary - Your Life’. Royce subsequently served for six years as a Trustee of The Rotary Foundation including one year as Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Royce remembered his Presidential Year for his push to introduce the Polio Plus campaign in China and to re-establish Rotary in former soviet bloc countries. During his year he chaired Peace Forums and visited 31 countries, meeting and promoting Rotary to world leaders.
Royce was born in Footscray in the western suburbs of Melbourne, the fifth of seven children. He was educated at local State primary and secondary schools until he joined the workforce at an early age. In 1941 he enlisted in the Australian Army and served in New Britain, an eastern province of Papua New Guinea. At age 22 he was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for outstanding leadership and conspicuous gallantry in action and was later commissioned Lieutenant.
After war service Royce and his brothers established a backyard business which grew to become the largest manufacturer of venetian blinds and awnings in the Southern Hemisphere before merging with a multi-national corporation. He retired in 1974 at the age of 52 and established a successful business consultancy.
Royce served as a councillor of the City of Essendon, Board Member and Trustee of the Centre for Molecular Research, chair of the Epworth Hospital Foundation, board member of the Crawford Fund, member and chair of Rotary Down Under Executive Committee, Foundation Chair of The Australian Rotary Health Research Fund, now Australian Rotary Health, President of the National Council of YMCA’s, and was honoured as a YMCA Life Governor.
Royce was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1988 and an Officer of the Order (AO) in 2001. He was named 1989 Victorian of the Year.
Throughout his years of service to Rotary and to the local and International community he was accompanied and supported by his wife Jean, without whose support, to use Royce’s words, ‘I wouldn’t have survived’.
Royce Abbey died on the 22nd of February 2014 at the age of 92 having been an Essendon Rotarian for sixty years.
He is survived by Jean, four children, eight grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
Amongst the lasting memorials to his life of service are the Royce Abbey Room at the University of Melbourne’s International House, the Royce Abbey Award and the Royce and Jean Abbey Endowed Fund within the Rotary Foundation which finances the Royce and Jean Abbey Vocational Scholarship.
The Royce and Jean Abbey Vocational Scholarship and the Royce Abbey Award were established in recognition of Royce Abbey's contribution to Rotary as an inspirational Rotarian and leader from 1954 to 2014, and as president of Rotary International in 1988-89.