Category Archives: History

Fred Mohs Tells His Father’s Story

–submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Loretta Himmelsbach

Fred MohsA 11 18 15As a three-time beneficiary of the Mohs surgical procedure at the Mohs Clinic of UW Hospital, this reporter was especially interested to hear Fred Mohs talk about his father, Dr. Frederic Mohs, Sr. Born in 1910, Dr. Mohs was a medical pioneer. Although he intended to be a radio engineer when radio was the popular technological rage, he got a college job at Birge Hall at the UW. A prominent cancer researcher introduced Dr. Mohs to the work being done in the 1930s on cancer: what exactly was it and how could it be treated? His mentor changed the trajectory of young Fred’s career. He went to medical school.

Dr. Mohs was an admirer of Thomas A. Edison, and he used Edison’s technique of intensive experimentation until he found that zinc chloride in a paste could kill cancer cells while still preserving cellular structure. Much of Dr. Mohs’s work was funded by WARF’s first research grants. He applied this compound to tumors of the skin to kill the cancer, while allowing a pathologist to determine whether the cells on the periphery were cancerous or normal. Very large and invasive tumors, which other surgeons were unable to excise, were now susceptible to treatment.

Dr. Mohs early-on learned the difficulty of communicating medical science to the general public. An interview with the Wisconsin State Journal about his technique resulted in a headline: “Cancer Cure Discovered.” Colleagues were outraged. His license to practice medicine was threatened. Eventually, especially after Dr. Mohs successfully treated a prominent Madison physician for a very large neck tumor, the value of the Mohs procedure was generally recognized.

Today, the Mohs procedure is widely used. In combination with an onsite pathologist, and working closely with plastic surgeons when needed, Mohs clinics allow surgeons to remove skin cancer with a minimally invasive and disfiguring procedure. Thank you Dr. Mohs, and thanks to Fred for telling us the story.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.

Melanie Ramey Receives Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award

–presented by Carol Toussaint, June 4, 2014


Club President Renee Moe (left) pictured here with Melanie Ramey

Club President Renee Moe (left) pictured here with Melanie Ramey

The 2014 Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award is presented to Melanie Ramey for her extensive service to Rotary.

Joining the club in 1991, Melanie immediately signed on for committees, especially those that called for a tireless volunteer.   She brought humor and hard work to every task and seemed always ready for the next assignment.  She became a Rotary News reporter, managed the Sergeant at Arms position and was elected to the board of directors, then vice-president, president in 1998-99, followed by more service on the board of the Madison Rotary Foundation.  Her Rotary reach extended to leading the Ethics Symposium Committee and helping organize the first Ethics Symposium for high school students.  She is a mentor for Rotary scholars, an advocate for UW and Edgewood College students in Rotaract, helped secure funding from Rotary International Foundation to launch CECADE, the club’s signature international project, is active on the Orientation, Visitor Hospitality, Member Development Committees, and on and on.

There is also something special about Melanie and money.  There was a club auction held in 1994 to raise funds for community grants and youth awards.  President Alan Orenberg used words such as brash, forceful, persuasive to describe her auctioneering style, but he also praised Melanie for the $8000 added to the fund.  In 1998 at the start of her term as president, she inaugurated the system to pay forward on your birthday with the suggestion that each celebrant make a gift of one dollar for each year of age, rounded up to 100.  Succeeding presidents have not wanted to tamper with a sound money scheme and to date Melanie’s presidential year idea has averaged over $26,000 a year for a 15-year total of $402,021 to the Foundation from the birthday “tax”.

The Werner Award Committee also takes into consideration an individual’s work for community causes whether as a volunteer or professional.  In 2010, Melanie was nominated by our club and was selected by the Madison Area Service Club Council to receive the Ruth Gordon Service Award.  This award is given to honor an individual who, over time, has exemplified the concept of volunteer service for the betterment of the community.

In 2012, the club honored Melanie with the Manfred Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award and detailed many of her selfless acts in support of others.  Individuals and organizations needing an advocate seem to find Melanie or perhaps she finds them.  Those living in poverty, those in prison or any who are denied rights as citizens have seen that same forceful, persuasive, might I add, brash and effective style, put to work on their behalf.

In November 1974, nearly 40 years ago, club president Ted Long presented the first Werner award.  He told the club that the intention is not to provide a reward or incentive for Club efforts, but rather to maintain examples of the Rotary tradition of “Service above Self”.  It was a special moment for Ted.  Joe Werner had been his mentor at the law firm and his sponsor for Rotary membership.

Congratulations Melanie!

Congratulations Melanie!

It is also a special moment for me to congratulate a friend who becomes the 29th member of this club to receive the Joseph Werner award.  Melanie Ramey.

History of Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award: In 1974, our club established the Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service award as the club’s highest recognition for club service.  This award is granted by our Rotary Club in recognition of outstanding club service in the Rotary tradition of “Service Above Self.”  Joseph Werner was a committed Rotarian.  He chaired many significant committees, both before and after serving as club president in 1953-54.  He served as a district governor in 1958-59 and became the second member of this club to serve as director of Rotary International in 1969-71.  He later served Rotary International in many other positions, and two different RI Directors indicated that Joe was in line for president of Rotary International at the time of his death from cancer in 1973.  Joe was a truly committed Rotarian whose example of “Service Above Self” is memorialized in this award.

Celebrating 100 Years: How Our Club Celebrated Earlier Landmark Anniversaries

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 Jerry Thain:

How Our Club Celebrated Earlier Landmark Anniversaries
Our Club has been celebrating its 100th anniversary this year in a variety of ways that look back on the Club’s past accomplishments and forward to future goals. The Club newsletters inform us how earlier significant anniversaries were celebrated. The 20th anniversary occurred in the depths of the Great Depression in 1933. The meeting marking that occasion honored Milo Hagan for serving as Club treasurer for all 20 years of the Club’s existence; Louie Hirsig for perfect attendance for those 20 years; and Charles G. Campbell, then of Kewaunee and formerly with the Chicago club, for planting “the Rotary seed in Madison.”  A birthday cake, four feet in diameter in the shape of a Rotary wheel, was served and the meeting ended with the singing of Auld Land Syne.

25 Anniversary CakeFive years later, the economy was improving although war clouds were gathering over Europe. The Rotary News of March 22, 1938, a week before the anniversary meeting, was printed with a silver cover befitting a 25th anniversary event and pictured the twelve surviving original members to honor the “class of 1913.” The newsletter followed with a very nice summary of the accomplishments of the Club in its first 25 years and noted that the Club was the largest Rotary Club in any city of less than 100,000.  Charles G. Campbell again was present as was Rotary’s founder, Paul Harris.  In his brief remarks (Rotary News, March 29, 1938), Harris said he “had tried to send more foreign Rotarians to visit Madison than any other city because it was such an ideal American city and one of the best clubs” in any city of its size in “all of Rotary.”

It would be fascinating to know how future Club anniversaries will be noted. Perhaps some of our current members will be present for one of them?

Highlights from Rotary SummerPalooza June 8, 2013


It was a picture perfect day for our club’s inaugural SummerPalooza event on the Capitol Square!  There was music and entertainment outside of the Madison Children’s Museum and free admission to the museum throughout the day.  A parade started at noon and looped around the Capitol Square.


We had 39 Rotary volunteers and 20 BMO Harris Bank volunteers who helped out during the event.  There were 16 community grant organizations and 14 other groups that participated in our parade.  The Madison Children’s Museum welcomed 3,187 guests inside the museum which is a record number for the museum.


It is estimated that the event drew 4,000 attendees, 300 parade participants, and there were about 2,000 additional people watching the parade on the square.



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It was a success on many levels, and we thank Steve Goldberg for chairing the planning committee within our club, and thanks also to all of our volunteers.


Our thanks to the following sponsors for making the event possible:  BMO Harris, MGE Foundation and UW Health & Unity Health Insurance. 


Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back in our Club’s History on Member Classifications

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 Carol Toussaint:

One thing I’ve learned from looking back to the beginnings of our Rotary Club is how the classifications have changed.  Here are few we don’t see today as documented in a book covering membership from the years 1913-28:

Adding Machines (Alfred Rowlands)
Barber Shops (John Runkel)
Bookbinder (Frederic Brandenburg)
Butter, Manufacturing (Rubert Steinhauer)
Charity Associations (Charles Wirt, Community Union)
China & Glassware (Robert Douglas)
Cigar, Tobacco (William Fisher)
Coal (Emil Frautschi)
Eggs, Distribution, Retail (Theodore Montague)
Eggs, Wholesale (William Power)
Farmer (John S. Donald, College of Agriculture, UW)
Furniture (Irving Frautschi)
Hardware, Distributing (George Britten)
Hardware, Retail (Louis Hirsig)
Hardware, Wholesale (Albert Strang)
Heavy Hardware (Theodore Wiedenbeck)
Insurance, Adjusting (Paul Rehhfeld)
Insurance Agency (Reuben Neckerman)
Fire Insurance (Arthur Schulkamp)
Fraternal Insurance (Stephen Oscar)
Physical Education (Glenn Thistelthwaite, football coach)
Public Defense Service (Joseph Barnes, U.S. Army)
Steam Railroads (James MacDonald)
Undertaking (Art Frautschi)
Underwear, Manufacturing (Lester Watrous)

The Classification Committees in these early years deserve credit for creativity in getting four members each into the Hardware and Insurance categories!

In the early years of Rotary, there could only be one active and one additional active member per classification.  Several years ago, however, our classification system was revamped to a much broader classification system, and we can now have up to 10 percent of our membership within each classification (see pages 47-53 of our membership roster for the current classification listing).

Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back in Our Club’s History: Happy Birthday to Us!

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:

Founders Photo

From left: John McKenna, C.R. (Rex) Welton, Art Schulkamp and Bob Nickles

These days 100 years ago were momentous for the Rotary Club of Madison. As you all know, the first meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a Rotary Club here was held on March 13, when Bob Nickles invited three fellow businessmen to have lunch at the Elk’s Club. In addition to Nickles, those in attendance were John C. McKenna, Art Schulkamp and C. R. (Rex) Welton.

On March 20, ten men met and probably discussed a letter and some Rotary literature that Nickles had received from Chesley Perry, secretary of the International Association of Rotary Clubs in Chicago, that explained what Rotary was all about. The group apparently was interested, and they decided to form a “temporary organization,” anticipating that they would affiliate with the IARC. They also elected McKenna as “acting chairman” and Welton as “acting secretary.”

On April 3, nineteen members of the Rotary Club of Madison met at the old Madison Club, adopted a constitution and bylaws, and voted unanimously to affiliate with the IARC. They then elected their first officers, including as president, John C. McKenna, who appointed a membership committee to recruit appropriate people for the Club. Perry had sent Nickles some suggestions on how to recruit members. He advised that forty or fifty business leaders of different lines, many already known to Club members, should be called upon and that it should be explained to them that the Club was “something new and unique which would be a benefit to the city and to them as individuals.” He advised, “Make sure that those who join with you have caught the spirit of Rotary and exclude those who see in the Rotary club naught but possible commercial advantages for themselves.” He also invoked the concept that “He profits most who serves best.”

Typically for this Club, although the Club had voted unanimously on April 3 to affiliate with the IARC, there seems to have been some ambivalence about a relationship with the greater Rotary organization. Welton told Perry of these doubts: “Many of the members, in fact most of them, have somewhat hazy ideas of what the Rotary Clubs are really doing and of the lines along which they are working.” Perry would have liked to have sent more explanatory literature to the Madison club, but he explained that “As the whole Rotary movement is in a process of evolution–not only as to its philosophy but as to its literature, we are not able to send out just the printed matter we should like you to have.” Instead, Perry appeared personally before the Club on April 17. Finally, on May 16, the Rotary Club of Madison formally applied for affiliation.

Charter Pic

On June 10, Perry wrote to the Madison club that “We are pleased to advise you that your application for membership in the International Association has met with the approval of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors by whose vote [on June 2, 1913] the Rotary Club of Madison has been made an affiliating Rotary Club.”  Perry enclosed with the letter The Charter, making Madison, with thirty-three members, the seventy-first Rotary Club in the world.