Bethany Krom of Lanesboro earned the Distinguished Toastmaster Award recently.
Bethany Krom of Lanesboro earned the Distinguished Toastmaster Award recently. CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER

To say that Bethany Krom was shy and introverted would be an understatement. The first day of kindergarten, she became ill and her mother had to bring her home. It took a number of tries before the painfully shy youngster was a regular in the kindergarten classroom. Following the summer break, Krom became ill once again during the first day of first grade.

“The school called my mother and she told them I would be fine. I didn’t get to go home. After that, it was alright,” Krom recalled.

While Krom was able to “tough it out” in school, she was the proverbial wallflower and worked hard to remain out of the limelight. She enrolled in a speech class in college and lasted one day. She majored in science, aiming for a career in a research lab, “so I could hide in the lab,” she noted with a chuckle.

Working in a research lab at Mayo Clinic in Rochester was rewarding, but she wanted to do more. So Krom worked on earning an MBA degree in general business. One of the requirements of earning an MBA was to participate in group presentations.

Krom knew she was going to need some help to get over her shyness, so she turned to Toastmasters International.

That was 25 years ago and Krom has been a very active member of the Chamber Toastmasters of Rochester ever since. She worked diligently, completing all the requirements to earn the Distinguished Toastmasters Award. Only about one percent of all Toastmasters International members achieve this award. When one considers the international organization’s membership exceeds 352,000 people in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries worldwide, Krom’s achievement is even that much more noteworthy.

“It took a lot of time and a lot of work to earn the award,” Krom said. “If a person works really hard at this, they might be able to complete all the requirements in four or five years.”

While Krom has been a member for 25 years, she wasn’t really consciously working on meeting all of the requirements during this time.

“Toastmaster’s International taught me to have confidence in myself and helped me to overcome my shyness and fear of getting up in front of a group of people to speak.”

But Toastmaster’s is so much more than just helping persons to get up and speak in front of crowds. Through the many nuances of the weekly meetings, they learn how to be more organized, how to structure their thoughts, become better writers, more proficient at spelling and grammar and improve their leadership skills.

“What one learns through Toastmasters International can be utilized throughout our daily lives,” Krom pointed out. “What I’ve gained through this organization is invaluable for my professional career.”

Besides working in research at Mayo, Krom also served as director of purchasing and as the assistant dean for the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences. She retired three years ago.

Krom said she could have completed the DTM Award a little sooner, but knew that newly installed Toastmaster’s International President Balraj Arunasalam would be traveling throughout the U.S. and would be in Rochester. He attended the District 6 Fall Conference earlier this November where he presented Krom with her award. Arunasalam is an engineering executive from Sri Lanka. During the next year, he is traveling the world promoting the non-profit educational organization, which is dedicated to helping all people become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders.

The DTM designation is the highest award an active toastmaster can earn under the organization’s educational program.