Celebrating 100 Years: General’s Hat Ceremony

Rotary Club of Madison-Centennial LogoAs we celebrate our 100th anniversary, our History Sub-Committee is taking a look back in our club’s rich history and is sharing highlights from the past century. This week’s message is shared by committee member Rich Leffler:

One of the practices of this Club, no longer used, was the “General’s Hat Ceremony.” According to John Jenkins, “History of the Rotary Club of Madison,” “the special chapeau was awarded to one or two members each week to honor them for their ‘community service in action,’ at once providing a more congenial Club environment, pleasing the members so honored, and encouraging other members to appreciate and act in terms of Rotarian ideals” (p. 145).

Conrad ElvehjemOn February 5, 1958, the General’s Hat was awarded to Conrad (Connie) A. Elvehjem, (left) who had just been appointed by the Regents to be President of the University of Wisconsin, to succeed E. B. Fred on July 1, 1958. Elvehjem received his Ph.D. from the UW in 1927. He was a long-time member of the faculty and an internationally known biochemist whose research in nutrition resulted in hundreds of scientific papers. He was Dean of the Graduate School from 1946 until he was appointed President. He served as President until his sudden death in 1962 at age 61.

The Rotary News of February 8, 1958, reported on the General’s Hat Ceremony and printed Elvehjem’s thanks the following week, when he presented the award to Rotarian Louie Hirsig.

Elvehjem’s membership in Rotary was symbolic of the close association the Club has had with the University. Many Club members, from very early on, were members of the faculty, and the Club’s podium was useful to the faculty and administration as a means of communicating university events and research to the greater Madison community. Elvehjem referred to this relationship as a “symbiosis.”

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