A History of the Ithaca Rotary Club


A Summary of the History of the Rotary Club of Ithaca
By Margaret Hobbie

Updated by Janet Steiner
January 2010

Rotary International was founded on February 23, 1905, in Chicago, by Paul Harris, an attorney, and three of his friends - a coal dealer, mining engineer, and merchant tailor. Their intent was to promote fellowship among business and professional people. They rotated their meetings among their places of business, and hence the name "Rotary." There are now over 1,200,000 Rotarians in 32,030 Rotary Clubs throughout the world in some 201 countries and territories. Rotary's motto is "Service above Self".

On June 1, 1915, the Ithaca Club became the 166th club granted a charter and the first Rotary Club approved for a city with a population of less than 25,000. There were 123 charter members.

Throughout its history, the Club has supported many community needs through hands-on projects. Route 13 Highway Clean-up, Share the Warmth, (in which thousands of items of warm clothing are redistributed to those in need), Salvation Army red kettle ringing, rehabbing homes here in Ithaca as well in areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina and graffiti removal are examples. In addition, the club raises funds for community grants, scholarships, youth programs, and the Rotary Student Exchange Program.

The Ithaca Club continues to be a leader in total club contributions to the educational programs of the Rotary International Foundation. Club members have also given generously to the Rotary International Foundation's PolioPlus campaign to help eradicate polio worldwide.

More about the start of Rotary International
Presented as the Thought for the Day by Jeff True, at Pass the Gavel 2016

Today we formally change our Club leadership with our ‘Pass the Gavel’ ceremony. I thought it would be good to take a brief look back at how we got here.

Paul P. Harris, a lawyer by training, was the founder of Rotary, and it is considered the world’s first and most international service club. Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, promote high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build good will and peace in the world.

On 23 February, 1905, Paul Harris formed the first club in Chicago with three other businessmen: Silvester Schiele, a coal merchant; Gustavus Loehr, a mining engineer; and Hiram Shorey, a merchant tailor. Paul Harris named the new club “Rotary” because members met in rotation at their various places of business. Club membership grew rapidly. Many members were from small towns and in the Rotary club they found an opportunity for camaraderie.

The second Rotary club was founded in San Francisco in 1908. In August, 1910, when there were 16 clubs, the National Association of Rotary Clubs was organized. When clubs were formed in Canada and Great Britain, the name was changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs in 1912, and was later shortened to Rotary International in 1922. When our own Ithaca was chartered in 1915 there were still less than 200 clubs worldwide. In 1932 the Four Way Test was created.

When President emeritus Paul Harris passed away in January 1947 at age 78, his dream had grown from an informal meeting of four to some 6,000 clubs brought together through the service and fellowship of Rotary. Since then, Rotary has grown to 1.2 million members in over 30,000 clubs worldwide.

Paul Harris wrote a lot about Rotary and in 1937 he said the following which is still relevant nearly 80 years later: “It is well that there is nothing in Rotary so sacred that it cannot be set aside in favor of things better. This is an experimental age in a changing world and all things which are worthwhile and progressive are the cumulative effects of preceding successes and failures.”