Our 1.2 million-member organization started with the vision of one man—Paul P. Harris. The Chicago attorney formed one of the world’s first service organizations, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on 23 February 1905 as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member.


Rotarians have not only been present for major events in history—we’ve been a part of them. From the beginning, three key traits have remained strong throughout Rotary:
We’re truly international. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Today we’re working together from around the globe both digitally and in-person to solve some of our world’s most challenging problems.
We persevere in tough times. During WWII, Rotary clubs in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Japan were forced to disband. Despite the risks, many continued to meet informally and following the war’s end, Rotary members joined together to rebuild their clubs and their countries.
Our commitment to service is ongoing. We began our fight against polio in 1979 with a project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. By 2012, only three countries remain polio-endemic—down from 125 in 1988


Rotarians are your neighbors, your community leaders and some of the world’s greatest history-makers: 
  • Warren G. Harding, U.S. president
  • Jean Sibelius, Finnish composer
  • Dr. Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of Mayo Clinic
  • Guglielmo Marconi, Italian inventor of the wireless radio and Nobel laureate
  • Thomas Mann, German novelist and Nobel laureate
  • Friedrich Bergius, German chemist and Nobel laureate
  • Admiral Richard E. Byrd, American explorer
  • Jan Masaryk, foreign minister of Czechoslovakia
  • H.E. Soleiman Frangieh, president of Lebanon
  • Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator
  • Manny Pacquaio, Filipino world-champion boxer and congressman
  • Richard Lugar, U.S. senator
  • Frank Borman, American astronaut
  • Edgar A. Guest, American poet and journalist
  • Sir Harry Lauder, Scottish entertainer
  • Franz Lehar, Austrian composer
  • Lennart Nilsson, Swedish photographer
  • James Cash Penney, founder of JC Penney Co.
  • Carlos Romulo, UN General Assembly president
  • Sigmund Sternberg, English businessman and philanthropist

The Rotary Club of Rochester

The first meeting of the Rochester Rotary Club was held on May 14, 1925, with sixteen "prospective members" present.  Rochester Rotary Club received its charter on June 11, 1925, at a dinner program held in the Kahler Café.  On the night of the charter presentation there was a great downpour of rain which caused flood damage within Rochester. Several visiting Rotarians had narrowly escaped from flooding waters as they attempted to make their way home that evening.
Throughout the years, the Rotary Club of Rochester has been fortunate to receive many members of some notoriety. Dr. Charles Mayo, Justice Harry Blackmun and Dr. Edward Kendall were all past presidents of this club.
In 1954, the Club sponsored its first Rotary Club in the area.  The Chatfield Rotary Club received its charter on May 7.  A second Rotary Club, appropriately named Rotary II, was chartered within the Rochester city limits on October 31, 1978. The Rochester Rotary Risers was the name selected for the third Rochester club.  The club was co-sponsored by the Rochester Rotary Club and Rotary II and received its charter on March 19, 1988.
Each year since 1999, the three Rochester Rotary clubs have joined together during the holiday season to host the Rotary US Bank Holiday Classic basketball event. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for scholarships and other youth-related awards.
The Rotary Club of Rochester, now about 200 members strong, meets in the Plaza Room of the Holiday Inn Downtown. The club has had the honor of hosting Rotary International founder Paul Harris at a meeting, as well as other public figures in past years. Several Rotarians from the club have served as governors for our district.  The Rotary Club of Rochester has also had the privilege of hosting several district conferences throughout the years, the first being in 1931, which was the ninth conference for the district.
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