The first four Rotarians (from left): Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram Shorey, and Paul P. Harris, circa 1905-12.
The Rotary movement began when Paul P. Harris, an experienced attorney, wanted to form a group of like-minded professionals and called together a meeting of three business acquaintances on February 23, 1905, over a hundred years ago. Subsequent meetings were held in different venues, and the Rotary Club was born. The Rotary Club gained popularity, and within the short space of five years many clubs had been formed.
The Rotarians held their first convention in Chicago, in August 1910. All sixteen groups in existence joined together to become known as the National Association of Rotary Clubs. However, some two years later, after clubs from other countries joined, they were renamed the International Association of Rotary Clubs. In 1922, the name Rotary International was formally adopted.
By mid July 1925, the Rotary had an estimated one hundred and eight thousand members in a total of two thousand clubs on six continents. Since then, the organization has grown to over 35,000 clubs spread across 200 countries globally. Collectively, these clubs have about 1.2 million members. As part of an international organization, Rotary clubs from around the world work together to maximize our impact and expand our reach.
Rotary International today is an organization comprised of professional and business people from all walks of life, who want to use their expertise for good. Our motto is “Service above Self”. Members of Rotary Clubs, known as Rotarians, are encouraged to foster archetypes of high standards in both their professional and private lives. A Rotarian may be a community leader, a neighbour or a person who has played a significant role in history.
Rotarians are challenged to aid the advancement of international goodwill, understanding and peace, and are dedicated to assisting both their immediate communities and others around the world. As an organization, we’ve taken on some of the world’s toughest challenges and helped a wide range of international and service organizations—from the UN to Easter Seals—get started. One of our biggest challenges that we continue to fight is ending polio, a devastating disease that was endemic in more than 125 countries just 30 years ago. Today, through our Polio Plus program and partnerships with international organizations, polio has been eliminated from all but 3 countries in the world.