The following biographical sketch is adapted from
the "News of the Church: Elder Ronald E. Poelman Of the First Quorum of
the Seventy" published in the Ensign for May 1978 on the occasion
of Elder Poelman's call to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
“My husband is a great Gospel Doctrine teacher. I think
there are going to be some disappointed people in our ward when he’s not
there every Sunday morning to teach their class.” And Sister Claire Poelman
was only half joking.
Although Elder Ronald E. Poelman, newly sustained
as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, has had administrative
experience in the Church—including seven years as counselor in a stake
presidency, two years as bishop, one year as high councilor, and one year
as bishop’s counselor—his principal calling for the past eight years has
been as a Sunday School teacher.
“I love to teach, and I particularly love to teach
from the scriptures. The Gospel Doctrine class has been ideal for my Church
service,” he affirmed enthusiastically.
When he received a telephone call at his office in
California where he worked as vice-president and secretary of Consolidated
Freightways, Inc., this contented Sunday School teacher was “taken aback.”
“President N. Eldon
Tanner, with whom I have been associated in business, informed me that
President [Spencer W.] Kimball wished
to speak with me personally. When he asked what my schedule was for the
next couple of days, I said, ‘For President Kimball, my schedule is very
After an interview—which seemed more like a visit—with
President Kimball, and after President Tanner had also entered the President’s
office, Elder Poelman asked if he could telephone his wife in California
for her response to his calling. President Kimball said he thought that
would be most appropriate. Then he said, “Please use my telephone. President
Tanner and I will step outside.”
“I called home and we talked for several minutes.
I was still on the telephone when the door opened very quietly and President
Kimball put his head in. ‘Ron,’ he said, ‘you take all the time you want.
Don’t be embarrassed. We’ll just be waiting out here.’ Then he very quietly
closed the door again. That was very touching to me. He was so gentle,
so gracious, and so sensitive.”
How did Sister Poelman feel? “Overwhelmed!” But after
struggling for ten years with cancer, Sister Poelman knows what it means
to trust in the Lord. Today they have four children and three grandchildren.
Elder Poelman received his law degree from the University
of Utah in 1955 and later, in 1965, graduated from Harvard University Graduate
School of Business Administration.
Both he and his wife are also active in community
affairs. Elder Poelman is a member of the San Francisco Symphony Foundation,
Commonwealth Club of California, and World Trade Club, and is on the Board
of Arbitration of the National Association of Securities Dealers.
Sister Poelman, a graduate of BYU, has served as
a consultant to Stanford Research Institute and, for five years, as chairperson
of the “Reach to Recovery” Program in Santa Clara County. During the past
ten years, she has counselled cancer patients daily.
Born 10 May 1929, of active members of the Church,
Elder Poelman always assumed that he would serve a mission and gladly accepted
a call to the Netherlands Mission. But his testimony at that time was more
a testimony of the Church than of the gospel—that is, until one Sunday when illness kept him in while his companion was at a conference.
“Fairly early in the day, the awareness began to
come over me that the key to all that I was involved in was whether Jesus
Christ was the Son of God. As I read in the New Testament, I periodically
slid out of bed onto my knees and asked my Heavenly Father to confirm to
me whether or not the things I was reading were really true. By the time
I had finished reading the four Gospels and praying the entire day, I knew
without a doubt—and I have never doubted for a moment since—that Jesus
is the Christ. The rock foundation that Jesus is my Savior is the basis
for everything else.”
Sister Claire Stoddard Poelman passed away in 1979 sfter a long battle with cancer. Following Claire's death, Elder Poelman married Anne Osborn, MD, a physician who had served as a member of the General Board of the Sunday School. Grampa has not found the date of that second marriage.
Elder Poelman served with honor and distinction in the
First Quorum of the Seventy for over twenty years until on October 3, 1998
at the age of seventy, he was given a vote of thanks and named an Emeritus