Our Club's History

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In the bustling city beside the tranquil Fox River, a service club movement called Rotary was attracting attention. Begun before the Great War, it was rapidly spreading across the continent, and certain forward thinkers in Elgin wanted the city to be part of it. Organizational meetings had been held in April and early May at the Elgin YMCA. On May 22, 1922, at a lavish banquet held at the Wild Rose Inn north of St. Charles, the Rotary Club of Elgin was formally presented its charter. Members and officers were already in place to form a club destined to enhance the reputation of the Rotary organization. Chesley R. Perry who was known as "the builder of Rotary" had completed a personal survey the year before to evaluate Elgin's suitability to be granted a Rotary charter.
What was the suitability? Perry found a town of 27,431 people with the major business the manufacturing of watches, but also shirts, pianos, windmills, and speedometers. Milk condensing and meat packing plants and foundries were prominent among the "25 or more" plants he reported. He noted "close to 500" retail stores, three banks, five hotels, two railroads, and eleven newspapers though he listed no churches or schools. He estimated seventy-five different businesses and professions from which to draw the diverse membership Rotary required. The District Governor Charles Taylor appointed William Uhlemann of Chicago to oversee the organization of the Elgin club which met on April 19, 1922, to prepare an application. Despite active Kiwanis and Lions Clubs, an outstanding cross-section of Elginites expressed interested in becoming members.

Although the club had actually already held a noon meeting with a guest speaker, the gala banquet at Wild Rose Inn was an inspiring start for the new club. Dignitaries from the district and other clubs attended along with "Daddy" Uhlemann who sang a song he had composed especially for the Elgin club. A handsome ebony gavel with silver trim was presented to President Herbster, and every guest received a favor made from a watch dial with ribbons in the blue and gold colors of Rotary.

The purpose of the club was for business and professional men to meet to become better acquainted and together serve their communities. The concept of Rotary Clubs began when Paul Harris organized the first club in Chicago in 1905. Harris, a lawyer, had dreamed of such an organization as early as 1900. Coming from a small town to the isolation of a big, impersonal city, he longed for a way to bring a camaraderie among business and professional men who might otherwise never cross paths to meet each other. After refining his thoughts with three clients-a coal merchant, a mining engineer, and a merchant tailor-the first meeting was held.

For the membership, men of outstanding character were sought. The idea of members representing diverse walks of life was fundamental from the start, and the name Rotary came from the early practice of rotating the meeting sites to the business locations of the various members. When Harris became president of the club in its third year, he sought to extend his concept by encouraging other cities to form clubs, and in 1908 the second club was formed in San Francisco. Times were right for such clubs, and by 1910 Rotary became a national organization with Harris as its first president. The National Association of Rotary C1ub held its first convention in Chicago that same year boasting a membership of 1,5Q0 men in 16 clubs.

Also in 1910 the first club outside the United States was established in Winnipeg, Canada, soon to be followed by clubs in England and Ireland. The sphere broadened even more when the first non-English speaking club was chartered in Cuba. When a new association was formed to reflect the international scope, Harris served as the first president of this association as well. In 1922 after its Duluth convention, the association's formal name became what it is today-Rotary International. Thus, the Elgin club was chartered as Club 1181 of Rotary International.

Although Harris saw the need for men in large cities to fellowship with one another, his founding principles emphasized fostering responsible citizenship. Recognizing the worthiness of all useful occupations, members were expected to practice high ethical standards in their personal careers and dignify their occupations as they used their assets to serve others. "SERVICE ABOVE SELF" as the motto of Rotary highlights that commitment. The Elgin club has more than exemplified that motto. Through its seventy-five year history, many club projects went unrecorded and are now long forgotten. Never-the-less, a good representative sampling follows:

1920's - Assisted in establishment of Camp Big Timber; Provided equipment for YWCA camp Tu-Endie-Wei

1921-1922 - President- Edward Herbster- Marched in Boy Scouts' parade and pledged to support them; Erected directional road signs to aid motorists for main routes in and out of Elgin

1922-1923 - President- David McKenzie- Sponsored "Styles and Smiles Exposition," a mammoth exhibition in tents along Wellington Avenue which for a 30 cent admission offered a hundred exhibits by manufacturers and first-class entertainment; Backed EHS football team by buying blocks of game tickets

1923-1924 -President-Glenn Beverly​- Began recognition of academic excellence of scholars at Elgin High School and Elgin Academy which ultimately included all area high schools and continues today

1924-1925- President- Raymond Fairchild- Created actual Student Awards Day recognizing these area scholars which has become an annual luncheon today.

1925-1926- President- Dr. Paul Schickler

1926-1927- President- W.B. Kirkpatrick

1927-1928- President-Albert Rhoads

1928-1929- President- Fred Jancks

1929-1930- President- Eugene Edelstein

1930-1931- President-Howard McBride

1931-1932- President- Theodore Soam

1932-1933-President- Charles Abbott

1933-1934- President- Henry Krumm

1934-1935 - President- John Gunderson​- Hosted two-day District Conference of Rotary International held at the Masonic Temple with special events for wives

1935-1936- President-Ernest Waggoner

1936-1937-President- Roscoe Cartwright

1937-1938- President- Rev. Crawtord Brown

1938-1939- President- Edwin Gardner

1939-1940 - President-Dr. Henry Rovelstad- Supported Aurora's sponsorship of new Rotary Club in St. Charles

1940-1941- President-Leroy Mote

1941-1942- President-Oral Patterson

1942-1943-President-Thomas Loveday

1943-1944-President-William Pierce

1944-1945-President-Ralph Haddick

​1945-1946-President-G.R. Stevens

1946-1947- President- Al Burger

1947-1948 - President- Dan Withers​- Sponsored Rotary Club in Batavia chartered in May

1948-1949- President- Julius Johnson

1949-1950- President-Ray Vorels

1950-1951- President-Corwith Hamill

1951-1952 - President-Edward Dorste- Helped pay for needy area youths to attend summer camps: Scout, "Y," and U of I music camps.

1952-1953- President-Dr. Gordon Rovelstad

1953-1954- President-Elmer Hersch

1954-1955 - President-William Brady​-Hosted Ladies' Night dinner/dance at Hotel Baker as part of Rotary's 50th anniversary celebrations; Hosted District Assembly at Villa Olivia

1955-1956 - President-Woodrow Boyer​- Purchased a local heifer which was transported to Indiana and on to Germany as part of Brethren Church international relief project.

1956-1957- President-John Johnson

1957-1958- President-Gil Renner

1959-1960 - President- Al Stevens- Incorporated Rotary Charitable Projects Foundation of Elgin to collect and administer the various funds designated for charitable, religious, scientific, literary, or educational purposes; Funded office for Community Concern for Alcoholism as first gift of new foundation; Sponsored new Rotary Club in Barrington chartered in September; Installed fire alarm system for Larkin Children's Home

1960-1961 - President-Robert Hoffer- Obtained sailboat for Camp Edwards

1961-1962 - President- Richard West-Bought station wagon for YWCA Established Student Aid Foundation

1962-1963 - President- William Bergan-Paid for half of station wagon for Larkin Children's Home; Gave grant to Judson College for language laboratory equipment

1963-1964 - PresidentWilliam Barber​- Assisted YWCA Building Fund

1964-1965 - President-Wally Rakow-Retired YMCA mortgage Bought equipment for Easter Seal Center

1965-1966 - President-Harold Seigle-Adopted Fan Chun Chung in Honk Kong, China, as foster son and continued many years in Foster Parent program; Supported St. Joseph Hospital Building Fund and again in 1973

1966-1967 - President-Robert Layer​- Established ECC Nursing Scholarship which continues today; Supported city program "Jobs for Youth"

1967-1968- President- Russ Hughes

1968-1969 -President-Delwin Neil-Bought extensive projection equipment for Hemmens Building; Began 15-year co-sponsorship at Hemmens of Audubon wildlife/nature films promoted by Robert Lea with free showings for school children to encourage conservation and wildlife protection; Bought equipment and began playground for Salvation Army

1970-1971 - President-Dr. Robert Lea​- Completed black topping and fencing at Salvation Army playground

1971-1972 - President-Dallas Leader​- Hosted first foreign student in ongoing program which has included youths from many countries including Australia, Sweden, Rhodesia, Philippines, Belgium, and New Zealand; Gave Larkin Home over $1,000 as John Gunderson memorial.

1972-1973 - President-Thomas Starrett- Donated to Judson College

1973-1974 -President-Clint Munch​- Aided west-side YMCA; Salvation Army Nutritional Aid Program; Fox Valley Mental Health Association Supported a foster child in the Philippines

1974-1975 - President- Theodore Heise- Provided base for clock in Elgin Mall

1975-1976 - President-   Ralph Helm​- Provided Life Pak Unit for ambulance as city assumed emergency services.  Member of the Club is District Governor- Wendell Rovelstad

1976-1977 - President-Richard Jakle- Bought audio-visual equipment for Easter Seal Center; Sent first local representative to foreign country in Youth Exchange Program which has offered numerous others a similar opportunity

1977, 1978, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 won awards from Salvation Army for highest totals of any service group in ongoing practice of Christmas bell ringing that continues today

1977-1978 -President- John Juergensmeyer- Funded in part Parlaska Memorial Indian Library of rare books and authentic artifacts now housed at Elgin Historical Museum

1978-1979 -President-Donald Freund- Aided YMCA, Summit School, Fox Valley Mental Health

1979-1980 - President- Dr. Donald Bone- Participated in Rotary International 3H (Health, Hunger, Humanity) Project; Helped Community Crisis Center and continued in succeeding years; Sponsored the Rotary Club of Dundee

1980-1981 -President-Roger Moehling- Contributed monetarily to Family Service Provided gym mats for YMCA as well as additional funding to earlier projects

1981-1982 - President-James Knowles​-Sent first 9 high school seniors to Washington D.C. as participants in Presidential Classroom in continuing program

1982-1983 - President- Dave Mengler- Distributed $82,000 in surplus federal cheese/ butter in weekly allotments to over 5,400 area needy

1983 -1984 President-Carl Lundstrom-Hosted the first "Rotary 5000" dinner/raffle which has become an annual fund-raiser

1984-1985 -President-Alvin Pofahl- Began annual sponsorship of $5,000 for Miss Elgin Pageant (with up to $3,500 for scholarships) that continued until pageant left Elgin; Started ECC nursing emergency loan fund

1985-1986 - President- Glenn Miller-Donated funds to Mexican earthquake relief. Supported Parlaska Memorial Foundation

1986-1987 - President-Terry Dunning​- Participated in Governor's Walk and in succeeding walks to support Rotary International Foundation
Raised over $130,000 for Polio Plus Project
Gave $7,000 for Elgin Softball Complex Park Project; Established first U46/ECC Vocational Scholarship; Sponsored Miss Fox Valley Pageant; Gave $750 for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards; Provided monetary Congressional Youth Leadership Award; Sponsored Rotaract Club of 34 charter members for younger men; First Women admitted to Elgin Rotary- Carol Gieske and Audrey Schick; Benefit performance by Elgin Symphony to support Polio Plus.

1987-1988 - President-Jerry Hoover​- Donated funds to San Francisco earthquake relief; Gave $12,000 to District U-46 "Just Say No" anti-drug program; Contributed toward Rose Bowl float

1989-1990 - President-  Robert Leitner- Donated $5,000 to M-S program for independent living; Began Mexican medical relief project with first $3,000 check and 36 used hospital beds.  Member of the Club District Governor- Ralph Helm.  Sponsored the Rotary Club of Elgin-Breakfast.

1990-1991 - President- Delvin Johnston-Gave $6,000 to District U-46 Drug Free Schools program

1991-1992 - President-Terry Jones- Honored senior citizen volunteers in ongoing recognition program; Participated again in Junior Service Board Follies with candidate Tim Schneider winning (as would Kathy Neuhalfen in 1994 and John Peacock in 1996) raising thousands of dollars.

1992-1993 -President-Ed Kelly- Totally sponsored Pavla Kristonoza, first-ever Rotary exchange student from behind the Iron Curtain and made her a Paul Harris Fellow with the same distinction

1993-1994 - President- Pat Hudgens- Provided toys and resources for Elgin Area Childcare Initiative; Began beautification around sign at Rt. #31 entry to Elgin; Gave boxing equipment to God's Gym for at-risk youth; After gift of a lot byJim McGrath to Habitat for Humanity, donated labor, materials, and partial funding to build a house on Bent Street

1994-1995 - President-Timothy Schneider- Collected stuffed toys for hospitalized children in sister city of Belgorod, Russia, and sent electrical modification unit for hospital; Donated $1,500 to U-46 WEPS radio station for broadcast quality sound and recording equipment participated in PADS for local homeless.

1995-1996 - President- Renate Matthews-Raised $6,000 for Easter Seal including cosponsoring a telethon hour plus continuing to meet individual needs of the disabled for adaptive devices and small medical necessities; Continued to underwrite part of Elgin Symphony Orchestra's children's concerts; Continued ongoing support of Literacy Volunteers of America in several projects; Over the years academic awards, scholarships, grants, or community needs at social service agencies, the Y's, Judson, ECC, Salvation Army, Summit School, Fremont Center, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Crisis Center, Easter Seal Center, etc., as well as far-flung needs like a heifer at an East German refugee's new home, in a Saigon women's hospital, for a library in the Philippines, as foster parents, with medical equipment for a Mexican hospital, for polio eradication around the world, etc.- all have been funded and supported through the sustained efforts and the generosity of the Rotary Club of Elgin and its own charitable foundation. It would be hard to find a major, national Rotary project or a worthy, local cause untouched by theseo dedicated club members. There will never be a way to fully assess their contributions, but perhaps this is as it should be and as they would want it.

* First Female President- Renate Matthews

1996-1997- President- Bob Schumacher Celebrated 75th anniversary of Elgin Rotary. Scholarship endowment fund to honor 75th anniversary.  Received check for $25,000 to assist hacienda in Leon, Mexico.

1997-1998-President- Ben Brown 500 Teddy Bears to police department. Baby bibs for infants at Sherman that were receiving vaccination.  Hospital beds to Mexico and x-ray machine to Russia and used teddy bears in packing. 

1998-1999- President- Tom Johannesen.  He worked on community projects.

1999-2000- President- Bob Maronde Funded 4 year scholarships.

2000-2001- President- Sue Moylan. Donated brass plaque with Rotary wheel on Elgin's riverfront and donated to fund pioneer memorial project by Trygve Rovelstad. Scholarships to Riverwood for Summer Camp. 

2001-2002- President- Craig Lamp- Installed Rotary emblem and bricks of past Elgin Rotary presidents on Elgin's river walk. Funded 3 $2,500 anniversary scholarshipss as well as ECC scholarships and tech/prep scholarships.  International service donations to avoid blindness, Nigeria for medical clinic, tennis shoes to Jamaica, American Girl doll to India, frequent flier miles to child for open heart surgery.  Community service donations of bibs to local hospitals, 6 students to RYLA. Elgin Junior service board dental program, blood drive\20 members participating.  16 new or additional Paul Harris Awards. Sponsored Early Act Club at St. Lawrence Catholic School. 

2002-2003-President- Jozsef Getta-  Dinner dance with full orchestra. RI President dedication of Rotary Wheel at riverfront. 

2003-2004-President- Carol Gieske- 100% Elgin Rotary Paul Harris. Renew and revision of by laws of Elgin Rotary Charitable Foundation. Changed prayer to moments or reflections.

2004-2005- President- John Cooper- Centennial year of Rotary International and Convetional (RI) in Chicago.  First shelter box. 

2006-2006-President- Donna Gremmett

​2006-2007- President Jack Davis- Wine tasting fundraiser.

2007-2008- President- Michael McKay- Hosted RI President Wilfred Wilkinson and presented check for $50,000 for polio plus. $40,000 from club members and $5,000 each from Sherman and St. Joseph hospitals. Achieved states as a 100% Paul Harris fellow club.  Hosted Depak Jain, Northwestern U Kellogg School of Management at student awards day. 

2008-2009- President- Paris Donohoo

2009-2010- President-Mike Warren- Sponsored community dinner with Jeff Turner and Neighborhood deli. 17 shelter boxes for Tsunami victims in Indonesia.

2010-2011- President- Laurie Bitter-  Sponsored South Elgin HS Interact Club. Mobile food pantry for Food for Greater Elgin and other food pantries at Centro de Informacion, Crisis Center, Salvation Army and Peoples Interfaith Food Pantry. Also did Birthday Kits program. 

2011-2012- President- Randy Brittain- Awarded $24,000 vocational scholarships. Raised $20,000 for Elgin Rotary Foundation. Raised $6,000 for End Polio Now Campaign.

2012-2013-President- Brian Borkowicz- Established Foundation Board of Directors for Elgin Rotary. Established annual sustainable funding for Food for Greater Elgin. 

2013-2014- President- Dave Considine- Recognized by Shelter Box USA for display of survival kit at Gail Borden Library allowing community to become involved after typhoon hit Phillipines.

2014-2015- President- Wendy Romero- Awarded 32 Paul Harris Awards with 7 new PH +8 and 5 brand new PH Fellows. Raised over $50,000 for Rotary International. Partnered with Elgin Breakfast Club doing a matching grant to sponsor a Veterans Housing project. Awarded 5 students $1,000 each at the Student Awards ceremony.  The Club was recognized for giving over $100,000 to Elgin Community College. A Rotary plaque was put up at the ECC Business Services building E. St. Patricks Rotary 5000 Fundraiser Event raised $24,500 in which $15,000 to go back to the community. 6 Students sent to RYLA. Re- engaged members to volunteer at Food for Greater Elgin on Mondays.  End Polio Now campaign, raised $1,600.