Bob Rutherford is the president of the Coronado Rotary Club through June 2024. Staff photo by Sofie Fransen.

Bob Rutherford, retired Naval Aviator, is president of the Coronado Rotary as the club enters its 98th year on the island. 

“We’ve been a part of Coronado for about a century now,” Rutherford said. 

Rutherford has been a member of the Rotary Club for 17 years and was sworn in as the president in July for a term that runs until June 2024.

Fourth generation career military officer

He is a fourth generation career military officer, although he jokingly calls himself the “black sheep” of the family because he served in the Navy while the rest served in the Army.

“Going back to the Civil War, every male member of my direct lineage has been a career Army officer,” Rutherford said. 

Before becoming a Naval Aviator, Rutherford got a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Arizona.

He stopped by a Navy recruiting table set up at his college campus to learn about getting into flight school, a process which, according to the commander behind the table, had a 60% attrition rate. 

Rutherford said that right before shaking his hand and saying, “put me in coach,” he asked one last question, painting a clear picture of the program: “So you’re going to hand me the football, and all I have to do is hang onto it?”

“The Navy was much more along the lines of, ‘you think you can do it? Here’s the ball, there’s the goal line. Let us know when you get there,” Rutherford said, continuing with the football analogy.  

30 years as Naval Aviator

Rutherford said his experience in test pilot school was split 50/50 between training in the classroom and the field. 

He said he would take classes in differential equations, statics and dynamics in the morning and then fly airplanes in the afternoon. 

Rutherford served 30 years as a Naval Aviator (commissioned in 1979 and retired in 2008) flying A-7s and F-18s.

He was deployed worldwide and spent the last two years of his career in Coronado.

He said he closed out his career as commander of Lemoore Naval Air Station from 2002 to 2005. 

For his second career, Rutherford developed unmanned aerial systems for Northrop Grumman for 10 years, officially retiring in 2018.

Member of Rotary for 17 years

While his career took him numerous places, he joined the Coronado Rotary shortly after he moved to the island with his family in 2005. 

“I wanted to be involved in the community. I knew people that were in the club, and I saw things that the club was doing around town and how visible its impact was.”

-Bob Rutherford, Coronado Rotary Club president.

“I wanted to be involved in the community,” Rutherford said. “I knew people that were in the club, and I saw things that the club was doing around town and how visible its impact was.”

Rutherford said his grandfather was a charter member of a Rotary club in rural Minnesota, and he still has his Rotary lapel pin.

Rutherford said that the Coronado Rotary is a well-oiled machine, and has had an uninterrupted chain of “competent presidents,” so his first rule in being in charge was, “don’t change too much and don’t change too much too quickly.”

With 250 members, Rutherford said there are many ways the members serve the club and community, and there are always opportunities for more engagement. 

Encouraging involvement

The Coronado Rotary meets at the beach once a month to pick up trash. Staff photo by Sofie Fransen.

Kitt Williams, an active Coronado Rotary member, said Rutherford does a great job of encouraging others to be involved. 

Williams joined the club in April 2019 and has been the co-chair of the Rotary’s annual End Polio Now wine tasting event for the past three years.

As a member who attends just about every meeting, she said Rutherford does something that she has never seen before. 

After she missed one meeting for being out of town, Williams said she got a personalized email from Rutherford, outlining the meeting events and encouraging her to come to the next one. 

He does this for everyone who can’t make it to let them know they were missed. 

“Bob has a marvelous, relaxed style that makes everyone feel really comfortable.”

-Kitt Williams, Coronado Rotary Club member

“Bob has a marvelous, relaxed style that makes everyone feel really comfortable,” Williams said. “He’s deceptively well-organized, he makes it look easy to be well-organized, and that’s a wonderful thing because our meetings are pre-structured and everyone knows how much time is involved with all of these activities.”

Rutherford currently splits his time between Coronado and Phoenix, where his daughter lives.

He also sits on several other non-profit boards including Fisher House Southern California, the Tailhook Educational Foundation and the Davis Boyd Memorial Foundation, which raises funds for adaptive ski programs.

More News

Sofie Fransen is a staff writer for The Coronado News. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University, majoring in English-Education and minoring in Journalism. She was the Opinion Editor of The Point student newspaper. In the summers, she has been commercial fishing for the sockeye salmon run in Alaska. She can be reached by email or at 360-527-5848.