Rotary International is an international service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. It is a secular organization open to all people regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, or political preference. There are 34,282 clubs and over 1.2 million members worldwide. The members of Rotary Clubs are known as Rotarians. Members usually meet weekly for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, which is a social event as well as an opportunity to organize work on their service goals.
Rotary’s primary motto is “Service Above Self“; its secondary motto is “One profits most who serves best.“
RI President John F. Germ
John F. Germ is board chair and chief executive officer of Campbell and Associates Inc., consulting engineers. He joined the firm as an engineer in 1965 after four years in the U.S. Air Force. He serves on the boards of several organizations, including the board and executive committee of the Public Education Foundation, Orange Grove Center Inc., and as board chair of Blood Assurance Inc. He also is founder and treasurer of the Chattanooga State Technical Community College Foundation and president of the Tennessee Jaycee Foundation.
RI President John F. Germ chose Rotary Serving Humanity as his theme for 2016-17. Noting Rotary’s unique ability to bring together committed professionals to achieve remarkable goals, Germ believes that “now is the time to capitalize on our success: as we complete the eradication of polio, and catapult Rotary forward to be an even greater force for good in the world.”
The first Rotary Club was formed when attorney Paul P. Harris called together a meeting of three business acquaintances in downtown Chicago, at Harris’s friend Gustave E. Loehr’s office in the Unity Building on Dearborn Street on February 23, 1905. In addition to Harris and Loehr (a mining engineer and freemason), Silvester Schiele (a coal merchant), and Hiram E. Shorey (a tailor) were the other two who attended this first meeting. The members chose the name Rotary because initially they rotated subsequent weekly club meetings to each other’s offices, although within a year, the Chicago club became so large it became necessary to adopt the now-common practice of a regular meeting place.
The next four Rotary Clubs were organized in cities in the western United States, beginning with San Francisco, then Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The National Association of Rotary Clubs in America was formed in 1910. On November 3, 1910, a Rotary club began meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. On 22 February 1911, the first meeting of the Rotary Club Dublin was held in Dublin, Ireland. This was the first club established outside of North America. In April 1912, Rotary chartered the Winnipeg club marking the first establishment of an American-style service club outside the United States. To reflect the addition of a club outside of the United States, the name was changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs in 1912.
In August 1912, the Rotary Club of London received its charter from the Association, marking the first acknowledged Rotary club outside North America. It later became known that the Dublin club in Ireland was organized before the London club, but the Dublin club did not receive its charter until after the London club was chartered.
During World War I, Rotary in Britain increased from 9 to 22 clubs, and other early clubs in other nations included those in Cuba in 1916, Philippines in 1919 and India in 1920.
In 1922, the name was changed to Rotary International. By 1925, Rotary had grown to 200 clubs with more than 20,000 members.