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:
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.
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.