1998 HUMANITARIAN AWARD
Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee
United States, Global
William T. Sergeant was dedicated to saving children through the eradication of poliomyelitis, a disease that causes paralysis, disabling children for life. A Rotarian since 1947, Sergeant worked more than full-time as an unpaid volunteer toward Rotary International’s highest goal—the eradication of polio in the world by the year 2005. Since making history as World of Children’s first award recipient, Sergeant continued to serve as the head of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee and to speak about the global eradication effort worldwide.
In addition to his efforts to educate about the effects of polio, Sergeant worked tirelessly administering the polio vaccination to children. He traveled more than 100 times a year to Europe, Asia, Africa, and throughout the United States to help vaccinate children. In the year 2001, 575 million children—almost one-tenth of the world’s population—received the polio vaccine. Reported polio cases for that year were down by more than 99 percent since 1988, and now national immunization days can accommodate as many as 150 million children under the age of 5 in a single day. More than 500,000 cases of polio are now prevented each year by the effort of the Global Eradication Initiative.
When Sergeant received the World of Children, it was not his intention to continue his work past the year 2002. Because of the encouragement he received as an Honoree, he accepted reappointment. Sadly, Mr. Sargeant passed away on February 13, 2011 in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. He was 91.