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Archive for Saturday, June 27, 1992

75 YEARS OF ROTARY

June 27, 1992

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The phrase "Think globally, act locally" hadn't been coined when the Lawrence Rotary Club formed 75 years ago.

Nevertheless, the slogan seems fitting for the civic group, which for decades has emphasized both local community service and cultural exchanges with people around the globe.

The Lawrence Rotary Club will take a special look at those and other aspects of its history when it meets at noon Monday at the Lawrence Holidome.

When the Lawrence Rotary Club held its first meeting on April 6, 1917, the charter members definitely were thinking globally: It was on that same day that President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany.

Although there were only 23 charter members, 82 people attended the installation banquet at the Eldridge Hotel. According to an account of the meeting published by the Lawrence Journal-World:

"The corridors of the hotel before the opening of the dining room might well have reminded one of a rally of college boys preceding a football game, or following a great victory, and yet within an hour these men sat with tense faces, and swelling hearts, while they listened to some of the best patriotic addresses that have ever been heard in Lawrence."

BEFORE ADJOURNING, the 23 new Rotarians sent telegrams to President Wilson declaring their renewed "undivided allegiance to the government of the United States . . . ."

W.C. Simons, who founded the Lawrence Daily Journal, which later became the Journal-World, was the club's first president. Dolph Simons Sr., publisher of the Journal-World from 1944-1962, served as president from 1932-33.

And Dolph Simons Jr., present editor and publisher of the Journal-World, was president in 1961-62.

Simons said that from its birth to the present, the Lawrence Rotary Club has served the same purpose that Paul P. Harris envisioned when he formed the first Rotary club in Chicago in 1905: to promote fellowship among members of the business community and to develop the kind of friendly spirit and helpfulness that he knew among businessmen in villages where he grew up.

"It's a chance for people who don't necessarily run around in the same social circles or business circles to get together and share ideas," Simons said.

The club, which now has about 217 members, meets for lunch every Monday at the Lawrence Holidome. But in addition to interacting with one another, the club's members also are expected to interact with the community.

"THE LAWRENCE Rotary Club has been fortunate over the years to have had a really outstanding membership people who play a significant role in the growth and the development of the community," Simons said.

In the fall of 1989, the club surveyed its members to determine the extent and the nature of their involvement in community affairs during the previous five years. The results: Rotarians had contributed a total of 206 hours on boards of directors of service organizations; 107 hours as officers; and 16,333 hours of personal service for the organizations.

Kansas Rep. Sandra Praeger, R-Lawrence, said, "It's nice to be associated with a group that has a sense of being good civic-minded individuals as well as club members."

Praeger helped make Lawrence Rotary Club history when she and Nancy Longhurst, manager of the Eldridge Hotel, became the club's first women members in 1987. It was that year that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Rotary must accept women as members in compliance with states' anti-exclusionary laws.

The Kansas Rotary clubs were still waiting for an opinion from the state's attorney general on the application of the ruling to Kansas when Lawrence Rotary took the lead and nominated four women.

"As women assumed leadership positions in the community, it was really only natural that they would want women as part of Rotary," Praeger said.

Lawerence Rotary now has about 22 women members.

John "Buck" Newsom, a former Lawrence Rotary president and one-time district governor for 36 Rotary clubs in eastern Kansas, said a few clubs in this part of the state never got adjusted to the idea of admitting women members. Newsom said those clubs could be missing out on a very valuable resource.

"WE'RE VERY fortunate. We've got some very competent and very active women members, and they've contributed a lot since they've been in the club," Newsom said.

Newsom said the club's contributions extend far beyond the Lawrence community.

For example, as part of the Rotary Foundation's PolioPlus project, the Lawrence Rotary contributed about $45,000 between 1989 and 1991 to help eradicate polio throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization, the number of reported cases of paralytic polio dropped by 52 percent between 1985 and 1990.

As do many Rotary clubs, the Lawrence Rotary has provided scholarship monies for a number of Kansas University students to study abroad. And Lawrence has hosted a number of foreign students who have been awarded Rotary scholarships in their countries.

Bob Candlin, a member of Lawrence Rotary's foreign student committee, said, "The whole idea is to extend friendship and knowledge of countries other than your own."

WITH FORMER Soviet republics wanting to learn about the business practices of the West, Rotary clubs are helping to share information of another kind.

John Peck, KU law professor and president of Lawrence Rotary, was in Austria for three months this year as part of a KU Law School exchange with the University of Vienna Law School. While in Europe, he took time to attend a three-day meeting in Budapest, Hungary, where Rotary representatives of Western European countries met with Rotary representatives from Eastern European countries.

Peck said the Eastern Europeans, whose first opportunity in years to form Rotary clubs came with the fall of communism, were hungry for ideas from the West. Through the encouragement of someone he met at the Budapest Rotary gathering, Peck ended up making a trip to Pecs, Hungary, to talk to lawyers there about law in the United States.

Peck said he enjoys the weekly Rotary meetings for much the same reason the Eastern Europeans were eager to meet with others.

"I get out of the law school and into the community, and I learn about some topic I'm not directly involved in," Peck said.

Simons said he also liked that aspect of the Rotary meetings.

"You bring speakers in who expose you to ideas and situations that you don't necessarily deal with every day but make you think," he said.

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