Tag Archives: History

Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back in Our Club’s History During the Unrest of the 1960s & 70s

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.  The following message is shared by committee member Jerry Thain:

A strong flavor of the very hostile reactions of many mainstream politicians and much of the general public to the demonstrations by University of Wisconsin students opposed to the escalation of the Viet Nam War and the drafting of young men to serve in it can be found in the records of program speakers to the Rotary Club of Madison during that time. The Club newsletter of October 19, 1968, reported on Governor Warren Knowles’ address on “UW-Madison Disrupters” in which strong action against those who engaged in such tactics was urged but such students were also described as a tiny minority of the student body.

The October 17, 1970, newsletter about gubernatorial candidate Pat Lucey’s talk to the Club indicated how political leaders of the day viewed the University. Lucey’s talk indicated that the state faced many problems including University unrest. He advocated that the Governor should have the power to invoke curfews and to “make it illegal even to be on the street.” He also urged changing the University’s budget to reduce funds for research and increase those for teaching.

Two weeks later, the Club newsletter of October 31, 1970, told of Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jerris Leonard saying that the “demagogues and the charlatans” engaged in “violent dissent or even the lawful dissent” should be exposed but that much of the responsibility for their conduct “must rest on the doorstep of our institutions of higher learning themselves.”

Relations between “town and gown” were at their nadir during this period at a number of major universities. In time, considerable healing of this breach occurred. This could be seen here in the action of our Club directors electing incoming University President John Weaver to membership in December 1970, even before his arrival on campus and especially in the election as Club President in 1972-73 of Michael Petrovich, Professor of Russian and Slavic History at the University. Club programs noting the improvement in relations is a topic worthy of separate consideration.


December 12, 1968: Students erect a cemetery on Bascom Hill as a memorial to the casualties the class of 1968 suffered in Vietnam.

Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back in Our Club’s History During the Vietnam War

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:

For people of a certain age, any reference to the decade of the 1960s will certainly invoke memories of the nation’s divided reactions to the Viet Nam War and the turbulence that swept over many colleges and universities   Opposition hersheyto the war and to the draft of young men that provided large numbers of the men who fought in it, was quite strong on the UW-Madison campus. When our Club, in May, 1968, had Lt. General Lewis B. Hershey (left), Director of the Selective Service System, as its program speaker, the anti-war demonstrations reached the entrance to the meeting that day.

Although there had been efforts to keep the identity of the speaker secret prior to his appearance, it was learned beforehand and the Rotarians who attended the meeting were greeted by chanting demonstrators, many throwing eggs, as they approached the door to the Lorraine Hotel that day. Police kept the line of demonstrators moving and outside the hotel proper.  “A large turnout” of members attended the meeting and apparently reacted favorably to Hershey’s talk, which, of course, defended the draft and criticized those who opposed the war, especially students.

Future demonstrations and protests escalated during the rest of the decade, reaching watershed marks with the fatal shooting of students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University and the subsequent bombing of Sterling Hall on the Madison campus.  Eventually the draft ended, the war ended and UW-Madison and other campuses became calmer places.  However, none who lived through that period will ever forget it.

Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back in Our Club’s History During the Progressive Era

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 Club of Chicago was founded in February 1905. The Rotary Club of Madison began in 1913. Both were products of the Progressive Era, a period marked by a terrible depression and war. Huge corporations and trusts came into existence. It was a time of brutal competition among businesses and business people. Labor and capital were locked in violent, bloody conflict. It saw an ever-increasing and rapid change from rural to urban America, the growth of cities in not-so-wholesome ways, leading to terrible living- and working conditions. It was also a time when people were searching for ways to control and channel all of these developments. Progressivism, which sought to use government to control these forces of change, and the Social Gospel, which sought to modify economic life and social conditions with the gentle influence of Christianity, had an important effect on Rotary.

The Social Gospel was “Built on the premise that social justice and Christianity were synonymous,” and it “emphasized the humanity of Christ, especially his concern for the poor and the destitute.” Advocates of the Social Gospel “called for major social reforms to achieve a more equitable, a more Christian society.”1

rosenberry 3An Address given by Madison Rotarian and Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Marvin B. Rosenberry (left) in 1917, “The Spirit of Rotary in Business,” demonstrates the powerful effect of combining the Social Gospel with the imperative of Service, and it explains what Paul Harris meant when he said “Rotary’s supreme purpose is to serve.”2

You will notice in the Address that Justice Rosenberry was not a supporter of service by checkbook, which is the predominant way of service for our club today. But in 1922 he became one of the founders of that quintessential checkbook service, what is today the United Way of Dane County, and he was the first chair. The size of our Foundation at $8.5 million, our annual fund raising at $130,000, and our annual giving at $500,000 suggest that service, always important to our club, has become a passion. I think Justice Rosenberry would approve.
1. Lewis L. Gould, “Introduction,” The Progressive Era (Syracuse, 1974), p. 13.
2. Paul P. Harris, My Road to Rotary: The Story of a Boy, A Vermont Community and Rotary (Chicago, 1948), p. 253. I should also point out that while Justice Rosenberry’s ideas were obviously informed by the Social Gospel, he was not a Progressive. Actually, he was a “Stalwart” Republican, strongly opposed to the La Follette Progressive Republicans. In fact, La Follette referred to Rosenberry as “a rank reactionary,” which is clearly not true. See Ann Walsh Bradley, “Marvin B. Rosenberry: Unparalleled Breadth of Service,” Wisconsin Lawyer 76 (October 2003), online edition

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.”

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) (http://rotaryfirst100.org/history/headings/ethics.htm 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.