Graeme's Message, 19 February 2015

Dear Rotarians and Friends,

We had hoped to celebrate the 110th Anniversary of Rotary International this Saturday night along with the District Alumni Association. Unfortunately we had insufficient registration and had to cancel the evening which is very disappointing. Nevertheless it is important to acknowledge this significant milestone in the history of Rotary International. Whilst some of the following information is well known to many Rotarians, it is well worth reflecting on and revisiting some remarkable achievements.

Paul Harris, a Chicago lawyer had the vision to form a group where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful lifelong friendships. On February 23rd 1905, four men, Paul Harris, Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, and Hiram Shorey gathered at Loehr’s office in Room 711 of the Unity Building in downtown Chicago. The practice of “rotating” the meeting place between members’ offices led to the name Rotary.

Clubs formed across the USA and in August 1910, Rotarians held their first convention in Chicago. The 16 clubs that existed at that time united to form the National Association of Rotary Clubs and by 1912, to reflect the formation of clubs in other countries, the name changed to International Association of Rotary Clubs. The name Rotary International was adopted in 1922.

At the time of the 20th Anniversary there were 2,000 clubs and an estimated 108,000 members on six continents. Today there are 1.2 million members worldwide. In Australia alone there are now 30000 members in 1100 clubs.]

As Rotary grew, members pooled their resources and used their talents to serve their communities. and hence the motto: Service Above Self. In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test, now familiar to Rotarians in over 100 languages. There is a long list of significant Rotarians over the past 110 years including Warren G Harding US President, composer Jean Sibelius, Charles Mayo co-founder of the Mayo Clinic and Guglielmo Marconi inventor of the wireless radio and Nobel Laureate and Frank Borman US astronaut.

The sixth president was Arch Klumph who promoted the vision that Rotary should "Do Good in the World” and established The Rotary Foundation. It has grown from an initial contribution of US$26.50 to a fund of more than US$1billion. It is one of the largest and most prestigious international fellowship programs in the world. We are all familiar with the “End Polio Program” funded by Foundation but projects big and small local and international are funded by this arm of Rotary.

Rotary has had a presence at the United Nations since it was established and currently holds the highest consultative status offered to a non-governmental organization by the UN’s Economic and Social Council, which oversees many specialized UN agencies.

There is a wealth of information available regarding the history of Rotary and these are but a few highlights. Celebration of this 110th Anniversary is indeed warranted.