Longtime Kiwanis family member Marc Litwack pledges to support Key Club leaders of the future.
Story by Julie Saetre • Photos by Gail Kelly Mooney
A lot of people know Marc Litwack. The New Jersey Kiwanian has been involved with the Kiwanis family since he became a member of Key Club International in 1970. He has attended an impressive number of Key Club district and international conventions and has arranged countless trips for Kiwanis and Key Club members to do the same. He served as the Kiwanis New Jersey District Governor in 2010-11 and was gearing up to campaign for a position on the Kiwanis International Board of Trustees until health issues sidelined his run.
Recently, Litwack made his biggest impact yet: the announcement of his major future estate gift to the Kiwanis Children’s Fund.
The Marc H. Litwack Legacy Leadership Fund will support Key Club leadership development programs and activities, including the Global Leadership Certificate, scholarships, specific leadership program elements of Key Club International conventions and leadership conferences and more.
It’s a generous gift. But few people who know Marc Litwack understand how well it reflects the extent of his involvement with the Kiwanis family and the impact he has made through more than five decades of service and dedication.
“If I could use somebody as a model of somebody who, every step of the way through his life, has been supportive of our organization, I’d point to Marc,” says Stan Soderstrom, executive director of Kiwanis International.
Kiwanis International Trustee Michael Mulhaul knows Litwack both as a Kiwanian and a friend.
“He’s always looking to support others and the organization — whatever is best for Kiwanis — every single step of the way,” Mulhaul says. “He’s extremely insightful and well-versed in whatever he looks at.”
Litwack himself is modest.
“Key Club was truly a life-changing experience for me. And I like to think that I’ve done what I can,” he says. “I’m glad that I can give this estate gift and leave a lasting legacy to Key Club. And hopefully a lot of deserving people will get this leadership award.”
The Key Club champion
To say Litwack loves Key Club doesn’t begin to cover his allegiance to the organization, its members and the service and leadership opportunities it provides. As a Key Club member, a member of Circle K International and a Kiwanian, he’s known 43 Key Club International presidents, attended 39 Key Club International conventions and traveled to at least 200 district conventions in at least 19 Key Club districts.
“That’s a lot,” he acknowledges without a hint of pretense. “I enjoyed the traveling and meeting lots of people.”
Litwack joined Key Club when he was a high school junior, intrigued by the combination of service opportunities and leadership development.
“I can still remember the first two service projects that I did,” he says. “The junior high school that I went to had sloping hills in the back, and the Key Club volunteered to pick up rocks and paper. And there is a very historic house in Livingston (New Jersey) — it’s still there — and we were assigned to paint the inside.”
He also quickly became involved in the leadership side of Key Club. He attended the first of those 200-plus district conventions in 1971, when he traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey. An amateur photographer at the time, he toted along a Nikon camera given to him by a friend who had purchased it in Japan. Litwack captured convention moments on photo slides, which were a popular image format at the time. The results impressed a district officer, who suggested Litwack put together a presentation for district Kiwanis clubs. Soon he had been given an official title.
“I was the district photo historian,” he recalls. “So I went around to 35 or 40 Kiwanis meetings, mostly with the Key Club governor, and I showed slides about the Key Club convention in Atlantic City.”
Litwack had found a home in Key Club, and it wasn’t long before his work as a member was recognized. At the first Key Club International convention he attended, events centered around the theme “Personal Action: Prelude to Progress.” To his surprise, Litwack was presented with an engraved trophy to honor him for being the Key Club member who best embodied the theme.
It’s not surprising, then, that Litwack joined Circle K International as a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and soon became district secretary, then governor. Also not surprisingly, he continued to show why he received the “Personal Action” honor.
“In my two years as governor, the district went from 154 members to 400. And I built seven new Circle K International clubs. I think most of them, except where a school has closed, are still in existence today.”
The all-star travel agent
After graduation, Litwack turned his love for travel into a career by launching his eponymous travel agency, which he would run for 34 years. It was a role for which he was especially well-suited at the time. Litwack has an acute memory, with the ability to recall an impressive amount of names, dates, times, places and more with remarkable accuracy. This turned out to be serendipitous for a travel agent in the pre-internet age.
“There used to be a book called the OAG the ‘Official Airline Guide,’“ explains Soderstrom. “It was like a telephone book, with pages and pages in really small print of all of the airlines’ flights between cities and classes and fares. And Marc had the ability to memorize that. That’s why he was such a good travel agent.”
The business also allowed Litwack, by then a Kiwanian, to continue working with the Key Club and CKI organizations he loved. Soon, he was helping members book travel to conventions and arranging tour packages for districts.
Eventually, Litwack was leading familiarization trips for district administrators and governors to locations of upcoming international conventions, utilizing free tickets issued by airlines and paying for the hotel rooms on his own. In turn, the districts often used his business to arrange the resulting convention travel.
Along the way, he did something many people never knew about: made convention travel possible for young people who couldn’t afford to attend.
“I know for a fact,” Soderstrom says, “of times when there was a young person who didn’t have the money to go, and Marc made sure they got there.”
Mulhaul adds, “I understand it was hundreds and hundreds of tickets he gave free.”
In total, Litwack arranged travel that helped thousands of Key Club members attend international conventions.
”I think I moved easily 25,000 people to the international convention,” he says. ”That’s by air, bus and train.”
On October 1, 2000, Litwack became the official travel provider for Kiwanis International, a role he would continue for a decade. Not long into his tenure, he faced a chaotic challenge. Kiwanis and UNICEF had planned a dinner for October 2001 in New York City to celebrate the progress of their joint project to eliminate iodine deficiency disorder. But after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the event was canceled. Some 100 Kiwanis members had purchased nonrefundable tickets for flights to and from NYC, and Litwack faced the task of trying to help.
“Airlines were much more flexible in those days,” he says, “and after three or four months of work, I got every last one of them refunded. If someone would ask, that was one of my greatest accomplishments in my 10 years as official travel provider.”
The lasting legacy
When Litwack approached Kiwanis International about making an estate gift, those who know him well were pleased he would be recognized and remembered for his decades of quiet, steady, behind-the-scenes support of the Kiwanis family.
Many recall the time when a Kiwanis club in the New Jersey District was considering dropping its affiliation and becoming an independent service club. Its members focused solely on community efforts and began questioning why they were paying dues to an international organization.
That’s when Litwack stepped in. He was able to explain to the club how every dollar of dues was utilized.
His extra attention and explanation helped. The club not only remained an active Kiwanis club, but also donated US$5,000 toward the New Jersey District’s children’s hospital project.
It’s just one example in a long list of Litwack stepping in to help out behind the scenes (and in front of the scenes) to help maintain the organization and move it forward.
“It’s a really great story to tell,” Soderstrom says. “He’s had his own niche of involvement and impact by doing what he’s done, and now he has committed to be a significant donor through an estate gift to the Kiwanis Children’s Fund.
“We’ll use the Marc H. Litwack Legacy Leadership Fund to support future leadership initiatives for young people through Key Club,” Soderstrom adds. “It’s a great model — a great lesson in servant leadership.”
This story originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Kiwanis magazine.
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