The world’s first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA, was formed on 23 February 1905 by Paul P. Harris, an attorney who wished to recapture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth.
The name “Rotary” derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members’ offices. President Brian said his main aims where to uphold the Rotary motto of “Service above Self” and to endeavour to raise the awareness of the Rotary movement both at District and International level.
Rotary’s popularity spread throughout the United States in the decade that followed; clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York. By 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents, and the organisation adopted the name Rotary International a year later.
As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving the professional and social interests of club members. Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. “Rotary is a worldwide organisation of business and professional leaders that provide humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world”.Today, 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.
An endowment fund, set up by Rotarians in 1917 “for doing good in the world,” became a not-for-profit corporation known as The Rotary Foundation in 1928. In 1947, it launched the Foundation’s first programme graduate fellowships, now called Ambassadorial. Today, contributions to The Rotary Foundation total more than US$80 million annually and support a wide range of humanitarian grants and educational programmes that enable Rotarians to bring hope and promote international understanding throughout the world.
In 1985, Rotary made a historic commitment to immunise all of the world’s children against polio. Working in partnership with nongovernmental organizations and national governments through its PolioPlus programme, Rotary is the largest private-sector contributor to the global polio eradication campaign.
As it approached the dawn of the 21st century, Rotary worked to meet the changing needs of society, expanding its service effort to address such pressing issues as environmental degradation, illiteracy, world hunger, and children at risk.