Category Archives: History

Join Us to Make More Rotary History on February 26

Your Centennial Celebration sub-committee has extended the registration deadline for our Tuesday, February 26 event through February 14. You may still register through the office, at our meeting tomorrow, or online.  Click here for details and link to online registration.

With much input from the full Centennial committee, this event will focus on fellowship – there is no long program, we ourselves are the main attraction. We will put the Capitol Theater to use in fun ways and have a lovely evening kicking off our special Centennial year.

One of the tasks I volunteered to work on is a slide show of images from our history. This led Terry Anderson and Rich Leffler (both Centennial committee members) to meet me at the office one Friday afternoon to go through our archives together. Rich has been working on them for the documentary project, and it was great assistance to have him guide us. It took enormous restraint to not stop to read everything and have Rich tell a story to put materials in context. I now regret not convening later in the afternoon with a bottle of Scotch and a sleeping bag because it was truly a special experience to get to review the archives, and it was far too brief and expeditious a tour.

As a result, when you join us at the event, playing on the big screen will be snapshots of great moments from our first 100 years: some formal portraits, some action shots, past anniversary celebrations, current members in years past, and current members in the present. Here is one of my favorites:

Scan 20

The hand-written label on the back of it reads “Baseball team loses game in 1925, watches Kiwanis’ team victory banquet at new Madison Club.”

Also in the show will be sets of historic and contemporary photos taken from the Capitol dome. By sheer chance, Terry Anderson hosted a vocational fellowship group at the Capitol last summer, and Rick Kiley snapped photos all the way around the Capitol. Terry observed these photos happen to match historic photos in a project the full Centennial committee is working on with Gregg Tipple. They are paired in the presentation so you can see “then and now.”

We will celebrate not only our past but our present and future on the 26th. I hope to see you there.

Juli Aulik
Rotary Centennial Celebration Event co-chair

Celebrating 100 Years: Politics & Poetry at Madison Rotary Club in the 1960s

Rotary Club of Madison-Centennial Logo   As 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:

The polarization of politics today is a topic of widespread analysis. As is well known, there is no official political leaning of our Club although individual members certainly are free to express strong views to others at their table during the Club meetings (and sometimes in a birthday message). It is unusual for the Club newsletter to note political leanings other than in reporting the statements of speakers. Thus, an interesting situation was presented in 1968, following the very narrow victory of Richard Nixon over Hubert Humphrey in the presidential race. In the November 16, 1968, Club newsletter, Rotarian Cecil L. “Duke” Duquaine wrote a tribute to Nixon, referring to him as the one who would bring us together as a country–rather ironic in light of later developments.

Probably as a means of evenhandedness, the November 23, 1968 newsletter carried a poem by Rotarian Joe Silverberg entitled, “The Loyal Opposition…or Close Counts Only in Horseshoes!” This piece, while honoring Humphrey, also recognized the control that election victory brought to Nixon and his party.

Perhaps present day Rotarians–including Joe Silverberg–will find these two poems about politics somewhat bemusing. It is hard to imagine anything similar occurring today.

Incidentally, Cecil L. Duquaine who was Club President in 1966-67, apparently enjoyed expressing his views in poetry. The December 17, 1966, edition of the Club News carries a poem by him extolling the hardworking and dedicated secretary of the Club, Brud Hunter, entitled “Our Brud.” It seems certain that there was no effort to rebut that piece by other Rotarians in light of the excellent reputation of Brud Hunter as vital to the Club’s successful operation. The duties of the Secretary noted in the poem may be compared with those of the Executive Director’s office today, if one wishes.

Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back in History

As 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:

Committee on Code of Ethics

The Rotary Code of Ethics for Business Men of All Lines

At one time, Rotary had an astounding Code of Ethics, as once required by the Bylaws. But for reasons that are unclear, the Code fell into disuse. Once, it was widely published and distributed. Today, it can hardly be found. We are publishing this remarkable Code of Ethics here, along with a brief history of its rise and fall as a tenet of Rotary.

In 1912, Rotary president Glenn C. Mead proposed that the newly formed Business Methods Committee prepare a code of business ethics for “the advancement of business morality.” (The Rotarian Commemorative Centennial Edition [June 2005], 89) The chair of the committee was Robert W. Hunt of Sioux City, Iowa. Much of the Code was composed by an unofficial committee of Hunt’s fellow Iowa Rotarians while en route to the June 1914 convention in Houston. One of these Iowans, J. R. Perkins, explained that “the articles of the code were revised both as to phrasing and content. The third, eighth, and ninth articles, in their basal ideas . . . grew out of the general discussion. The tenth article, which in the writer’s judgment is the highest ethical upreach of them all, did not appear in [the original] manuscript, tho it was held to be germane to the whole and really expressive of what is fundamental in Rotary.” Perkins also explained that the stunning final paragraph of the “Summary” was “a bit of pragmatic philosophy from William James, but he really borrowed it from European philosophy.”(J. R. Perkins, “History of the Rotary Code of Ethics,” The Rotarian 10, no. 2 [February 1917], 119–21).

The Rotary Code of Ethics for Business Men of All Lines, printed here, was adopted by the Sixth Annual Convention of the International Association of Rotary Clubs meeting in San Francisco in July 1915. Great faith was put into the power of the Code. A report to the 1919 Convention argued that “if the business men of the world would adopt the Rotary Code of Ethics as their rule of conduct, as their guide in commercial intercourse, the world would be a safe place for democracies. . . . Had the business world been operating according to a standard of practices which conform to our Code of Ethics, does any real Rotarian believe that we would have been plunged into a night of horrors such as lasted from August 1914, to November 1918?” (Robert H. Timmons, “Report of Committee on Publicity,” Proceedings of the Tenth Annual Convention . . . [July 16–20, 1919], 430–31)

In 1921, when the Rotary Club of Madison celebrated the sixteenth birthday of Rotary with a full-page spread in the Wisconsin State Journal, it proudly published the Code of Ethics and declared that Rotary is “based on the following Code of Ethics.” (WSJ, February 23, 1921) And the History of our Club recalls that in the mid-1920s the Club’s “leadership began to use it [the Code] as the focal point of a number of somber investigations into the allegedly unethical business dealings of some of its most prominent members.” (John Jenkins, History of the Rotary Club of Madison [Madison, 1990], 56) This latter point deserves scrutiny in future blogs.

But as early as 1921, there were objections to the Code. Ironically, it was Rotary President Mead who asked “Is the Rotary Code of Ethics a code of ethics at all? Is it not a confession of faith or a creed?” (The Rotarian 19, no 1 [July 1921], 39) Similarly, in 1924, Rotary president Guy Gundaker echoed Mead when he observed that the Code was “more in the line of a confession of faith, or a creed.. . . [The Code] should be specific, plain-spoken, and expressed in commonly understood terms; also that its provisions should be given as rules of conduct expressed as ‘Shall and Shall Not.’ This, of course, does not preclude preambles to any of the sections of an informative character.” (The Rotarian 25, no. 3 [September 1924], 42) By 1931, Rotary began to consider itself less a business club than a service club, and Rotary International adopted its “Aims and Objects,” which had application beyond business matters. The Board appointed a committee to revise the Code of Ethics. The Code continued to be published in the Manual of Procedure, but it was no longer separately distributed. In 1943, the Four-Way Test was adopted, and it became a sort of substitute code of ethics with broad application.

In 1951–52, the Board discontinued the distribution of the Code of Ethics entirely. In 1977, an attempt was made to “revive the publication and dissemination” of the Code. But the following year, the Board determined that “because of changes in the realm of business and professional life since the adoption of the code, any revision and updating for the purpose of re-instituting the publication and distribution of the code would be ineffectual.” So the Board voted not to revise the Code or to distribute it. In 1980, reference to the Code was removed from the RI Bylaws.

Although the Four-Way Test is often referred to as a Code of Ethics, it has never been so designated. In fact, the 1981 Manual of Procedure stated that “The Four-Way Test should not be referred to as a ‘code’ in any sense.” So, presently, Rotary has no code of ethics. Our Club is, however, as concerned as ever about ethical behavior, and our annual Ethics Symposium program extends outward to high school students in the Madison area. It is one important way of serving the community.

This introduction is partially based on Doug Rudman, “The Rotary Code of Ethics,” The Rotary Global History Fellowship (An Internet Project) ( and Rudman, “Is the Four-Way Test a Code of Ethics?” (ibid.).


Celebrating 100 Years: A Dramatically Mixed Message on December 26, 1944

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:

The Rotary News issue of December 26, 1944, offered a dramatically mixed message. On the one hand, it announced that the annual Children’s Christmas Party, also called the Kiddie’s Party, was to be held on the following Thursday, which was then the day of the weekly meetings of the Club. The party in 1944 was being held not at the Lorraine Hotel, but at the Bethel Lutheran Church. Meetings had been discontinued at the hotel because war shortages made it impossible to serve large lunches there.

Since the late 1920s, the Club had held a party for the children of Rotarians instead of the usual meeting of the Club in the week between Christmas and New Years. You will see on page 2 brief accounts of past parties for five-year intervals, going back to 1929. Note also that in 1919, the Club sponsored the “community Christmas tree” in the rotunda of the Capitol, and in 1914 the Club was sponsoring an “ornamental lighting system” downtown, which some of the property owners were not supporting.

Rev Vander GraffA very different and even terrible note was struck in secretary Paul Hunter’s account of the talk given to the Club on Thursday, December 21, 1944. The speaker at Rotary that day was Captain Jens J. Vander Graff, who had been pastor at the Stoughton Methodist Church for four years, but who was most recently the chaplain to the Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard units fighting in the Pacific Theater. It is a stunning talk, and Paul Hunter notes that “Much of Captain Vander Graff’s address cannot be printed for various very good reasons.” Although his remarks were shockingly different from the common reports that Americans got from official and media accounts of the war, given his background they must be given credence.

Rev. Vander Graff was not a malcontent. Far from it. He volunteered to become an Army chaplain in 1942. He served at the front for nine months in the Southwest Pacific and was awarded a Bronze Star for his service at headquarters under General MacArthur in New Guinea. Rev. Vander Graff returned to the United States in late 1944 after being hospitalized in New Guinea. In 1945 he did public speaking on behalf of the war loan drive and to recruit chaplains. He was eligible for discharge in November 1945, but he chose to remain in the army until June 1946, serving as a chaplain at various hospitals.

Reading this issue of the News makes it clear that Americans on the home front were blessed, even during total war. Their quality of life was being protected by the sacrifices of the men and women at the front. The soldiers’ experience, however, was so awful that many suffered profound psychological injury. In World War I it was called “Shell Shock;” in World War II and Korea it was “Battle Fatigue;” and in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan it is “Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.”

After World War II, the United States adopted the G.I. Bill to help returning veterans rejoin civilian life. And today, we recognize the need to help veterans recover from their service-related injuries, physical and psychological. Our Vietnam veterans were not so lucky; but today, belatedly, their sacrifices, too, are being recognized and they are being thanked for their service. So, at least in this one way Reverend Vander Graff was too pessimistic.

Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back on Pearl Harbor

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:

December 7, 2012, marks the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II. The first Club newsletter following the attack carried this:

We’re All In Service Now
   In opening the meeting of the Rotary Club last Thursday President Leon Smith said, “Since we met a week ago war has been declared as you all know, with Japan, and this morning with Italy and Germany.  I have been in correspondence with the President of a Rotary Club in the British Isles and he has declared that ‘one of the best ways to maintain morale is to not disturb the routine of habits of the people.’  If each one of us will each day do the best we know how in our personal, business and social activities to aid in the defense of our country it will help materially to maintain the morale.”

The following week’s newsletter reported an address to the Club by George S. Whyte of Kenosha, a “past District Governor and prominent manufacturer who had been scheduled to speak on ‘Defense’ but in wake of war being declared spoke instead on:

Victory-America’s Responsibility
When President Smith sounded the gavel, calling the meeting to order, a sextette standing in the doorway at the end of the room sang “Silent Night” and then Ray Dvorak led all in singing “Loch Lomond” in honor of the speaker, who was born in Scotland, and then called on George to sing the second and third verses, which he did in real Scotch dialect. Annie Laurie was then sung as further compliment to George.
It is regretted that George’s address cannot be printed in full. He spoke of the armistice signed on November 11, 1918, to end all wars; the Treaty of Versailles; League of Nations; and the disarmament program, which the democracies adhered to while Germany was re-arming for the present war. It was not until June 1940 that the first of the huge appropriation bills for rearmament was passed by Congress but the actual orders did not begin flowing to industry until near the end of 1940. “It was last December,” he said, “that Mr. Knudsen informed industry of the terrible urgency, and industry responded with sharp increases in every phase of defense production. On May 27, 1941, President Roosevelt declared an unlimited emergency.
“Industry has been accused of fostering the war spirit. This is positively untrue.  Industry abhors war and always opposed it. Manufacturers know the price of it in blood, sweat and tears. Thousands of today’s manufacturers were in the last war and know the cost in terms of depression—resulting in extended unemployment.  War-time profits—when they are made—are lost many times over in the period of economic maladjustment which always follows a big war.”

Also in the same newsletter was an item entitled “We Need Rotary Now” which took note of the Club in the days of World War I as well as in the new conflict.

Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back in our Club’s History – George Wallace Visits Club in 1964

Rotary Club of Madison-Centennial LogoAs part of our celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Rotary Club of Madison, Jerry Thain and Rich Leffler are publishing original documents from the Club’s archives and other sources. We hope that these documents will recall for you the rich history of the Club and the times during this momentous century.

This week, Jerry Thain provides the following history piece:

The Rotary Club of Madison has had many famous people speak to it over the years. Possibly the most surprising name among the list of speakers is that of Alabama Governor George Wallace, whose February 1964 talk was an attack on the pending Civil Rights Bill that was enacted by Congress later that year. Since it was almost universally thought that some version of the civil rights bill that had been strongly promoted by President Lyndon Johnson was certain to be passed, political observers believed that Wallace’s purpose in speaking against it around the nation was not so much to block enactment of the bill as to start promoting himself as a future candidate for President. That campaign, of course, was ended when he was seriously wounded by a would-be assassain’s bullet in 1968.

I trust it goes without saying that this post is in no way an endorsement of the arguments by Wallace but simply the citing of a notable moment in our Club’s history. The Wisconsin State Journal reported picketing took place outside the meeting and there was a report of a supposed assassination plot as well.  As most know, Wallace later recanted many of his earlier views on civil rights and ran for Governor on a different platform.