Diane and Richard Fleming receive Mt. Pleasant Chamber “Outstanding Citizens of the Year” award

An act of service is meant to be, metaphorically, more of a window than a mirror. 

Service is a transient act of kindness meant to affect another individual in a positive manner, rather than to reflect back on the benevolence of the server. 

Occasionally, however, it is appropriate to highlight and honor the actions of certain outstanding members of the community, as is the case with longtime residents of Mt. Pleasant, Richard and Diane Fleming. 

On Saturday, March 2, the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce hosted their 67th Annual Awards Banquet at the Comfort Inn Conference Center. Courtesy Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce
Richard and Diane received the “Outstanding Citizen of the Year” award on March 2 at the 67th Annual Awards Banquet hosted by the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce. They are only the fifth couple to jointly receive the award since its inception.

As residents who have lived in and served the Mt. Pleasant community for over 40 years, Richard and Diane prove they are more than worthy of recognition for their service.

Richard, a professor emeritus of Central Michigan University, was part of the university’s mathematics department faculty for 25 years and has been an active member of the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club for over 30 years. 

Diane was also employed by the university as the associate director of financial aid, as well as being a member of the Mt. Pleasant Lions Club for over 30 years—having been the first woman to join. 

They have both spent extensive time volunteering with Community Cancer Services, the Commission on Aging, the Mt. Pleasant Soup Kitchen, and their churches. 

It would be difficult to imagine a world in which Richard and Diane were not eventually recognized for the service they have given to their community. 

Richard Fleming makes on-stage remarks after receiving the prestigious Citizens of the Year award with his wife, Diane. Courtesy Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce
On receiving this recognition, Richard says, “It’s a great honor—as much as one could ever hope to get—to have your fellow community members see you that way.” 

“When I look at the people who have received this award in the past, I’m in awe that they considered us to be in that league,” Diane adds. 

For Richard and Diane, recognition was never the end goal, but rather an added bonus to what they felt was their calling. 

“[Serving others] is what our faith tells us to do,” Diane shares.

“It’s part of what you need to do; you need to help others as much as you can,” says Richard. “We see a lot of that in this community.” 

As Richard and Diane became increasingly involved in the Mt. Pleasant community over the years, they never sought to reap the benefits themselves, as Diane highlights, saying, “We never got involved in anything with the idea of ‘what are we going to get out of it, and how is it going to benefit us?’” 

With such selflessness comes a great deal of sacrifice and no one would fault Richard and Diane for needing an occasional break, but both downplay the notion, once again deferring to their calling, which truly highlights their character. 

“Well, [our cups aren’t empty]—you have to do something,” says Richard, before Diane jokingly adds: “We balance it all between every CMU sporting event known to mankind.” 

Diane and Richard Fleming are joined by their family at the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet on Saturday, March 2. Courtesy Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of CommerceTo keep such positive dispositions requires a strong support system and both Richard and Diane speak highly of theirs, as well as the mutual aid they provide each other. 

“The organizations we belong to, the Rotary and the Lions, support us both,” explains Richard.

“I help Richard sell his Rotary tickets and he helps me sell my Lions tickets,” Diane shares.

It is clear that Richard and Diane have built, and are continuing to build, a legacy of service to their community. For people who are inclined to do the same, the question of where to start can be daunting.

Richard’s advice is to simply take the plunge somewhere.

“For me, it started with getting involved with Rotary Club, and then there’s all kinds of things that they are asked to help with,” he says. “Opportunities come along from knowing people who are doing things.” 

Taking the initial opportunities that came their way has led Richard and Diane on a path of servitude that they can look back upon with a sense of satisfaction, before once again fixing their eyes on what is ahead.

“For me,” says Diane, “Mt. Pleasant is the most wonderful place to live. I know many more people now than I did prior to living here, and I’ve made some really dear friends. When people say, ‘Well, there’s nothing to do in Mt. Pleasant,’ I’m thinking, ‘Just give me 18 more hours in a day.’” 

“There’s lots to do in Mt. Pleasant, if people are open to doing them,” Diane exclaims. “It helps you to think outside of yourself—to think, ‘What I’m doing is helping someone.’”
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Read more articles by Owen Howard.

Owen Howard is an Isabella County native with a deep appreciation for all it has to offer, in both people and places. He currently works as a biologist in the environmental department of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. He is an alumni of Central Michigan University, having received both a bachelor's and a master's degree. In his free time, Owen could be described as 'chronically outdoors.' Owen has a passion for telling stories and for listening to other people tell theirs. He loves getting the chance to allow people to share their passions and stories with a larger audience.