What is Rotary?
Rotary is an organisation of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. In more than 160 countries worldwide, approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 30,000 Rotary clubs.
Rotary club membership represents a cross-section of the community's business and professional men and women. The world's Rotary clubs meet weekly and are non-political, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds.
The main objective of Rotary is service - in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world. Rotarians develop community service projects that address many of today's most critical issues, such as children at risk, poverty and hunger, the environment, illiteracy, and violence. They also support programs for youth, educational opportunities and international exchanges for students, teachers, and other professionals, and vocational and career development. The Rotary motto is Service Above Self.
Look at www.rotary.org for information on Rotary programmes, press releases about Rotary activities, the meeting dates and places of all Clubs, and much more.
The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International is a not-for-profit corporation that promotes world understanding through international humanitarian service programs and educational and cultural exchanges. It is supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and others who share its vision of a better world. Since 1947, the Foundation has awarded more than US$1.1 billion in humanitarian and educational grants, which are initiated and administered by local Rotary clubs and districts.
The world's first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA, was formed on 23 February 1905 by Paul P. Harris, an attorney who wished to recapture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth. The name 'Rotary' derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.
Rotary's popularity spread throughout the United States in the decade that followed; clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York. By 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents, and the organization adopted the name Rotary International a year later.
As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving the professional and social interests of club members. Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization's dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its principal motto: Service Above Self. Rotary also later embraced a code of ethics, called The 4-Way Test, that has been translated into hundreds of languages.
During and after World War II, Rotarians became increasingly involved in promoting international understanding. A Rotary conference held in London in 1942 planted the seeds for the development of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and numerous Rotarians have served as consultants to the United Nations.
An endowment fund, set up by Rotarians in 1917 'for doing good in the world', became a not-for-profit corporation known as The Rotary Foundation in 1928. Upon the death of Paul Harris in 1947, an outpouring of Rotarian donations made in his honour, totalling US$2 million, launched the Foundation's first program - graduate fellowships, now calledAmbassadorial Scholarships. Today, contributions to The Rotary Foundation total more than US$80 million annually and support a wide range of humanitarian grants andeducational programs that enable Rotarians to bring hope and promote international understanding throughout the world.
In 1985, Rotary made a historic commitment to immunize all of the world's children against polio. Working in partnership with nongovernmental organisations and national governments thorough its PolioPlus program , Rotary is the largest private-sector contributor to the global polio eradication campaign. Rotarians have mobilized hundreds of thousands of PolioPlus volunteers and have immunized more than one billion children worldwide. By the 2005 target date for certification of a polio-free world, Rotary will have contributed half a billion dollars to the cause.
As it approached the dawn of the 21st century, Rotary worked to meet the changing needs of society, expanding its service effort to address such pressing issues as environmental degradation, illiteracy, world hunger, and children at risk. The organisation admitted women for the first time in 1989 and claims more than 90,000 women in its ranks today. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Rotary clubs were formed or re-established throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Today, 1.2 million Rotarians belong to some 30,000 Rotary clubs in more than 160 countries.
Although Rotary clubs develop autonomous service programmes, all Rotarians worldwide are united in a campaign for the global eradication of polio. In the 1980s, Rotarians raised US$240 million to immunise the children of the world; by 2005, Rotary's centenary year and the target date for the certification of a polio-free world, the PolioPlus programme will have contributed US$500 million to this cause. In addition, Rotary has provided an army of volunteers to promote and assist at national immunization days in polio-endemic countries around the world.
Rotary International is an organisation that brings together leaders of business and other fields to service the community, made up of about 34,000 clubs around the world. American brand consultancy Siegel+Gale have worked with Rotary for about two years to review their brand and their communication. This resulted in a "global public image initiative" that launched in September 2013. It includes a refreshed visual identity.
Rotary's early emblem was a simple wagon wheel. It was designed in 1905 by Montague M. Bear, a member of the Rotary Club of Chicago, who was an engraver. He designed the emblem to represent both civilization and movement.
In 1923, the present emblem, a gearwheel with 24 cogs and six spokes, was adopted. A keyway was added to signify the usefulness of the gearwheel. Royal blue and gold were chosen as the official Rotary colours. The emblem, worn as a lapel pin, now identifies Rotarians around the world.
The Rotary emblem is a trademark owned by Rotary International and is protected throughout the world by the international association. The emblem is a registered trademark in more than 35 countries to date.
2017 ROTARY INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ATLANTA, USA | 10-14 JUNE
In the fall of 1900, Paul P. Harris met fellow attorney Bob Frank for dinner on the north side of Chicago. They walked around the area, stopping at shops along the way. Harris was impressed that Frank was friendly with many of the shopkeepers.
Harris had not seen this kind of camaraderie among businessmen since moving to Chicago in 1896. He wondered if there was a way to channel it because it reminded him of growing up in Wallingford, Vermont. Harris eventually persuaded local businessmen to join him in a club for community and fellowship. His vision laid the foundation for Rotary.
"The thought persisted that I was experiencing only what had happened to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others in the great city I was sure that there must be many other young men who had come from farms and small villages to establish themselves in Chicago ... Why not bring them together? If others were longing for fellowship as I was, something would come of it."
Paul Harris, Rotary's founder, at age three.
Harris at age three, around the time he moved to his grandparents' home.
Harris was born on 19 April 1868 to George H. and Cornelia Bryan Harris in Racine, Wisconsin, USA. George attempted to support his family as a small-business owner but he often relied on his father for financial assistance. In July 1871 that reliance became permanent when Harris and his older brother, Cecil, were sent to live with their paternal grandparents in Wallingford, Vermont. Harris later wrote, "Of all charges which might have been made against George and Cornelia, parsimony would have stood the least chance. They were both royal spenders."
Paul Harris, Rotary's founder, as a student at the University of Vermont in Burlington, 1886
Harris as a student at the University of Vermont in Burlington, 1886.
Harris was raised by his grandparents, Howard and Pamela Rustin Harris, and saw his parents only occasionally. He grew to revere the family values that characterized the New England of his youth. In October 1928, when he returned to his boyhood home for the charter night celebration of the Rotary Club of Wallingford, he proclaimed, "Much that there is in Rotary today can be traced back to the good old New England family table."
He was a mischievous child. He attended primary school in Wallingford and secondary school in Rutland, where he played pranks and skipped class. He also attended Black River Academy in Ludlow but was expelled after only a few weeks. Harris enrolled at the University of Vermont in Burlington but was expelled with three others in December 1886 because of his involvement in an underground society. He later wrote that although he was innocent of the crime he was accused of, the expulsion was nonetheless justified.
Harris spent the spring with a private tutor and in the fall of 1887, he enrolled at Princeton University. His time at Princeton was cut short by the death of his grandfather in March 1888. He completed the semester but did not return to school the next year.
LIFE IN CHICAGO
Paul Harris, Rotary's founder, soon after he started practicing law in Chicago in 1896.
Harris soon after he started practicing law in Chicago in 1896.
After Princeton, Harris made his way to Iowa, where he found his professional calling working at the law firm of St. John, Stevenson, and Whisenand in Des Moines. After his apprenticeship, he attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in June 1891.
In 1896 Harris settled in Chicago, where he opened a law practice in the central business district. He remained active in his professional practice for more than four decades.
Harris sought meaningful personal and spiritual relationships in addition to his professional achievements. He attended religious services on Sundays but visited many different churches rather than aligning himself with one congregation. Later in his life, he said that his religious affiliations were, like himself, difficult to label. "I really have no church affiliations I am not easily classified; that is to say my convictions are not that of that definite nature essential to whole-hearted affiliation with the general run of churches. Of course, these days one can hear the best of preaching over the radio and I generally hear three or four sermons every Sunday."
Harris loved nature, and in 1908 he joined a group that organized monthly Saturday afternoon walking trips through the forests, fields, hills, and valleys around the city. In 1911 the group became the Prairie Club, and Harris served as one of its directors.
THE BIRTH OF ROTARY
The first four Rotarians (from left): Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram Shorey, and Paul P. Harris, circa 1905-12.
The first four Rotarians (from left): Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram Shorey, and Paul P. Harris, circa 1905-12.
After setting up his law practice in Chicago, Harris gathered several business associates to discuss the idea of forming an organization for local professionals. On 23 February 1905 Harris, Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, and Hiram Shorey gathered at Loehr's office in Room 711 of the Unity Building in downtown Chicago. This was the first Rotary club meeting.
In February 1907, Harris was elected the third president of the Rotary Club of Chicago, a position he held until the fall of 1908. During his presidency, he formed the Executive Committee, later called the Ways and Means Committee, which met during lunch and was open to any member. The noon meeting was the foundation for Rotary's tradition of club luncheon meetings.
Toward the end of his club presidency, Harris worked to expand Rotary beyond Chicago. Some club members resisted, not wanting to take on the additional financial burden. But Harris persisted and by 1910 Rotary had expanded to several other major U.S. cities.
Harris recognized the need to form an executive board of directors and a national association. In August 1910 Rotarians held their first national convention in Chicago, where the 16 existing clubs unified as the National Association of Rotary Clubs. The new association unanimously elected Harris as its president.
At the end of his second term, Harris resigned, citing ill health and the demands of his professional practice and personal life. He was elected president emeritus by convention action, a title he held until his death.
In the mid-1920s Harris became actively involved in Rotary again, attending conventions and visiting clubs throughout the world. Download his speech book.
Jean Harris, wife of Paul Harris, Rotary's founder.
Jean Harris ca. 1926-28.
LIFE WITH JEAN
Harris met Jean Thomson, Scottish-born daughter of John and Ann Younson Thomson, during an outdoor excursion of what would later become the Prairie Club.
"One beautiful March Saturday in 1910 I joined my fellow Prairians on an Elgin and Aurora electric train bound west. I was a bachelor and quite open-minded on the matrimonial subject. That is to say, I had never closed my mind and heart to the possibilities of conjugal bliss Here is where she came in, blythe, bonny Jean."
They married on 2 July 1910 in Chicago. In 1912 they purchased a house on Longwood Drive in Morgan Park, a suburb of Chicago. The Harrises named their house Comely Bank after the street in Edinburgh where Jean had lived as a child. They entertained friends from Chicago and around the world, and hosted gatherings and reunions of the Rotary Club of Chicago. Many gatherings took place outside, in what they referred to as their "Garden of Friendship" or "Friendship Garden."
Paul Harris, Rotary's founder, with his wife, Jean Harris, in Christchurch, New Zealand, in April 1935.
Paul and Jean Harris in Christchurch, New Zealand, in April 1935.
The couple had no children and Jean joined Harris on his visits to Rotary clubs around the world. After Harris died, Jean briefly continued to live at Comely Bank. She later sold the house and returned to her native Edinburgh, where she died in 1963.
The Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation purchased the house in 2005 and plans to restore it. Find out how you can help.
A WRITTEN RECORD
Harris wanted to write a special message for all Rotarians to read, but at the time Rotary had no way to spread the word. Chesley R. Perry, Rotary's first general secretary, suggested creating a publication to disseminate news and club business, with the cost offset by advertisers. Thus, the "National Rotarian," later "The Rotarian," was born. Harris's article "Rational Rotarianism" appeared on the front page of the first issue in January 1911. He wrote "Passing Our Tenth Milestone" to commemorate Rotary's 10th anniversary in the February 1915 issue.
In his book "This Rotarian Age" (1935), Harris explored what causes people to do good things and described how Chicago in 1905 was ripe for the kind of change Rotary could offer. He also addressed Rotary's future challenges and its potential as a force for world peace.
In 1935 Harris and Jean traveled for three months through Southeast Asia and Australia. Harris wanted to publish his account of this trip in a book that would become part of a series called "Peregrinations," to describe his travels as an ambassador of Rotary. He wrote "Peregrinations II" about his trip to Southeast Asia and Australia (1935), thinking he would combine the pamphlet-style reports he'd written about earlier trips to Europe and South Africa into a book called "Peregrinations I." Although he would write "Peregrinations III" (1937) about his trip to Central and South America, he never compiled "Peregrinations I."
THE END OF AN ERA
Headstone of Paul Harris, Rotary's founder, at Mount Hope Cemetery on the South Side of Chicago.
Paul Harris's headstone at Mount Hope Cemetery on the South Side of Chicago. Silvester Schiele, the first president of the Rotary Club of Chicago, is buried a few feet away. Jean Harris is buried in Scotland.
In December 1945, the Harrises traveled to Tuskegee, Alabama, for the winter months, a trip they had made many times. In early 1946 Harris contracted influenza. Chesley R. Perry, a member of the Rotary Club of Chicago and Rotary's general secretary from 1910 to 1942, traveled to Tuskegee and reported that Harris was receiving good medical advice but remained weak: "He has had some lung trouble over many years. He was not getting the proper amount of sleep, nor proper nourishment." The Harrises returned to Chicago on 28 March 1946.
Harris died on 27 January 1947 in Chicago at age 78 after his prolonged illness. Funeral services were held at Morgan Park Congregational Church on Chicago's South Side. Three Rotary leaders spoke: Perry, Past RI President T.A. Warren, and then RI President Richard Hedke. Past presidents of the Rotary Club of Chicago served as pallbearers. Read a transcript of their speeches.
Harris made it known that he preferred contributions to The Rotary Foundation when he died in lieu of flowers. By coincidence, days before he died, Rotary leaders had committed to a major fund raising effort for the Foundation. After Harris's death, the Paul Harris Memorial Fund was created as a way to solicit these funds. The Paul Harris Memorial Fund was earmarked to help establish Rotary Foundation Fellowships for advanced study. At its May/June 1947 meeting, the Board of Directors allocated $60,000 of the $228,000 raised to support the program. The program was known as the Paul Harris Foundation Fellowships for advanced study during the first year.