The Paul Harris Fellows Presentation & The Primary Purpose of Rotary

The Paul Harris Fellows Presentation Contributed by: Cliff Dochterman, Past President of Rotary International, l992-93.

The Paul Harris Fellows presentation should be an impressive occasion. That is why The Rotary Foundation has the beautiful medallion on a blue and gold ribbon, in order that it can actually be presented around the neck of the individual, along with the certificate, to show that it is an event of special significance. However, I cannot let the comment that the presentation itself "gives a PHF its true value as a recognition of exceptional service." It certainly is an honor. But, just as a Paul Harris Fellow can be a "recognition of exceptional service," it can also be many other things.

To describe a PHF only in terms of "exceptional service" is far too limiting for the entire Rotary world, and totally disregards the historical background of the expression of appreciation for a very generous contribution to The Rotary Foundation. If we did not think much broader in describing a Paul Harris Fellow, and realize it is primarily a magnificant way to raise money for The Foundation, I assure you that The Rotary Foundation would not be one of the great humanitarian agencies of the world.

What is the historical fact? A few years ago, when I was a Trustee of The Rotary Foundation, I went back and read all of the minutes of the Trustees during the year l956-57. In the year l956, the total contributions to The Rotary Foundation were a little less than $500,000 US dollars ( $493,722 to be exact.) The Trustees began to think about how can they raise more money for the Foundation. What would be a good way to encourage Rotarians to give "big money."

They finally came up with the idea of trying to get some Rotarians to give $1000 in one major gift, by giving them a special form of public recognition. So, it was suggested that we call them "Paul Harris Fellows." There were three conditions: the contribution must be at least $1000; it must be from one individual; and it must be given within a single year. A very attractive pin and medallion were designed as a means to identify this type of generous donor.

As you recognize, in l957, a monetary gift of $1000 was a very substantial amount of money. So, there weren't too many gifts, and thus, very few Paul Harris Fellows. So, in a few years, it was decided that they could collect more money if the gift could be collected and given over several years, and after there was an accumulation of $1000, they would designate the person as a Paul Harris Fellow.

Later, it was suggested, that if a club did not have a person who could afford a $1000 in a personal contribution, maybe several persons could go together and make the $1000 gift. Then the question was raised, "Who will be the person who is named the Paul Harris Fellow?" Gradually, the answer was to pick one person who had long service, or some distinguishing characteristics, and name him or her. Thus, in some clubs, the concept developed that a Paul Harris Fellow was just an award for exceptional service.

The result was, that in those clubs a Paul Harris Fellow took on a totally different meaning that its original purpose -- to encourage individual Rotarians to give larger contributions to The Rotary Foundation. Ironically, in those clubs which chose to limit the Paul Harris Fellow recognition to a form of an "award for exceptional service," many Rotarians seem to be discouraged from making large personal gifts to The Rotary Foundation since it might be interpreted as "giving merely to seek an award." So, the per capita giving in those areas of the world is much lower than those areas where the concept of a Paul Harris Fellow is the original expression of appreciation by The Rotary Foundation Trustees for an individual, or in whose name, a gift of $1000 is given to conduct the work of The Foundation.

Has the Paul Harris Fellow recognition by the Trustees been successful as a fund raising scheme? Absolutely! As I mentioned above, in l956, less than $500,000 was raised annually by The Foundation. Today, nearly $70,000,000 is raised per year -- and about 80% of those funds come from individuals being named Paul Harris Fellows, or are naming other persons Paul Harris Fellows. The last time I checked, there were about 700,000 Paul Harris Fellows, and multi-Fellows in the world. They are the backbone of the annual support to The Rotary Foundation, and those donations are the only reason that enables Rotarians to carry on a world-wide program of educational and humanitarian programs.

So, what is a Paul Harris Fellow? Think for a moment of this statement: "A Paul Harris Fellow means whatever you want it to mean."

Should The Rotary Foundation accept a $1000 contribution as a way to honor a person for exceptional service? Certainly.

Should The Rotary Foundation accept a gift of $1000 as an expression of happiness for 20 years of marriage, or a new grandchild, or success in one's vocation or family life? Of course.

Should The Rotary Foundation accept a $1000 contribution in memory of a friend, relative or associate who has been an important asset to your life? Certainly.

Should The Rotary Foundation accept $1000 if you really believe in the tremendous value of the humanitarian work of TRF in developing parts of the world and express appreciation for your gift by naming you a Paul Harris Fellow or multi-PHF? Absolutely.

So, I suggest that a Paul Harris Fellow can mean whatever you wish it to mean. The Rotary Foundation benefits from your contribution and demonstrates this appreciation through the mechanizm of a Paul Harris Fellow. That is the way I see it.

- Contributed by: Cliff Dochterman, Past President of Rotary International, l992-93.

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The Primary Purpose of Rotary - Contributed by Dan Mooers, Past Rotary International Director

We honor Paul Harris as the founder of Rotary, and the manifestation of his idea of fellowship. The honor is well-deserved. However, we should not cloud the proud history of Rotary by attributing to Paul Harris accomplishes or ideas which did not come from him.

Interestingly, Paul Harris himself said in many writings that there was nothing new in the ideas he had for his business club. In fact, there were much earlier versions of clubs in which one person from a profession or business was admitted to membership and members expected to exchange business with other members. What probably has allowed Rotary to become such an influence in the world, while other similar earlier clubs failed, is that Rotary clubs in Seattle and Minneapolis came forward to quickly move the organization from the "self-centered", "business-promotion" dinner and lunch clubs to the "service clubs" we have today.

I do not cast aspersions on the memory of Paul Harris - as the founder of the idea that started Rotary, he deserves to be honored. However, I also believe that we must be truthful in our history and that we need to be honest in recognizing those who deserve credit and those who do not.

The primary purpose of Rotary, when it was founded, was the business promotion of its members. This purpose was reflected in the very first "Objects of the Rotary Club" of Chicago when Paul drafted the first club constitution in January 1906. The purpose was stated as: "First: The promotion of the business interests of its members. Second: The promotion of good fellowship and other desiderata ordinarily incident to Social Clubs." Describing Rotary in 1905, Paul P. Harris, said that "in the beginning, Rotary was 'self-centered' and for the promotion of business".

Very early in Rotary history, however, some of the new clubs wanted to move away from the first purpose. Some of the new and rapidly forming clubs did not agree with the Chicago "business boosting" purpose. When they had the opportunity, they began to express it. That opportunity came when Paul Harris and Chesley Perry took steps to call a convention in 1910 of the then 16 Rotary clubs. Out of that came the National Association of Rotary Clubs, but there also came a cry for moving away from the business exchange.

It came first in a speech by Arthur F. Sheldon. Speaking at that first convention, Sheldon in his passionate speech said: "It is our blessed privilege to be standing in the glow of the early morning of this Twentieth Century, upon which light of wisdom is beginning to shine, And its distinguishing mark of the commercialism of the Twentieth Century is to be cooperation, for as man comes into the light of wisdom he comes to see that only the science of right conduct toward others pays. He comes to see that the science of business is the science of human service. He comes to see that he profits most who serves his fellows best."

Years later, Arch Klumph, the father of The Rotary Foundation, had his usual insight into Sheldon's talk. In a letter to a past RI Director in 1951, he said: From testimonials made to me during recent years by men who were in the Rotary movement from 1905 to 1910, and particularly one from whom I received the most information (one of the first four members), I learned there was no thought to any idealism in the Rotary movement until the Sheldon motto.
The very next speaker after Sheldon at the 1910 Convention was E. L. Skeel from Seattle, Washington, one of the clubs trying to gain acceptance of a different idea or purpose for Rotary. Skeel's speech is the first that really called on Rotarians to support humanitarian projects.

Skeel said: "We of the individual clubs should, of all people, be the most willing to give our time and our money to the advancement of those ideas which make for the uplift of our people."
Despite the obvious signs that Rotary was moving in a different direction than that conceived by the four Founders, Paul Harris continued to promote the "business boosting" purpose. However, when he finished his two terms as President of the National Association, it appears that the organization moved in a different direction.

In various writings of some RI Presidents during Rotary's first 25 years, there were sometimes criticism of the motives and self-centered interests of the early Rotarians. For example, as Arch Klumph later wrote: "The first five years from 1905 to 1910 are nothing to be proud of except that they did start the Rotary movement."

At the 25th Anniversary of Rotary in Chicago, Paul Harris appeared briefly with his wife, Jean. In a message from Paul, read before he appeared, he showed that he was well aware of the feelings of other early Rotarians about the business boosting. In his message, Paul wrote: "I am not ashamed of the Rotary of 1905. It contained the germ of all that there is today, although it was at first very much self-centered."

Thus, when I say Rotary in the beginning was "self-centered," I quote the very best authority, Paul P. Harris. As Paul said, the "germ" of what was to come in Rotary was present at that very first meeting, but it took a decade and several RI Presidents to really bring the idealism into the organization and to rid the organization of the mandatory business exchange.

By the time Frank L. Mulholland was RI President of RI in 1914, Rotarians were beginning to focus on international affairs. In September, 1914 the Rotary Club of Minneapolis sent a proposal to the International Association of Rotary Clubs suggesting that all clubs become advocates for peace in their communities. A few weeks later when US President Woodrow Wilson declared October 4th a day of prayer for peace, RI President Mulholland called on all Rotary clubs to devote their meeting that week to discussions about ways to achieve international peace.

Jean Harris, Paul’s wife, also spoke at the 25th Anniversary Convention. She made an interesting statement, saying: "We who have done so little, deeply appreciate seeing you all and meeting you who have done so much."

After he served as the first President of the National Association of Rotary Clubs, Paul Harris had serious health problems and rarely attended RI Conventions until after 1930. The organization carried on primarily through the efforts of Ches Perry who made sure Paul Harris was cast in an exalted position as the Founder of Rotary. Paul Harris moved with the flow and accepted the development of Rotary as a community and international service organization.

To whom do I credit the success and respect which Rotary today is accorded, if it was not the original gang? My answer is: the idea of fellowship, the most important ingredient of what came later, is attributable to the four Founders of Rotary. That is without question the germ, that essential ingredient, that allowed the organization to become what it is today. From that point on, particularly beginning in 1910, every RI President and many Rotarians who did not achieve the presidency of Rotary, like early Rotarian Skeel and today's Rotary leader Bill Sergeant, have contributed significantly to the success of the organization and to the respect that Rotary holds today.

I hope during our Centennial we honor all these great Rotarians and recognize that Rotary in 04-05 is the work of millions of like-minded people, not just one man who for most of his membership in Rotary was caused by circumstances to be quite inactive in the development of the organization.

- Contributed by Dan Mooers, Past R.I. Director


Share your ideas in approximately 100 words on the Paul Harris Fellow Presentation & on The Primary Purpose of Rotary, and earn a Make-up

Rotary is NOT:
* A "job" where taking a "lesser" position would be seen as a "demotion".
* A political arena for grandstanding.
* A group of well-meaning folks who get together once a week for a meal.

Rotary IS:
* A Calling
* An opportunity to give something back to the community & world in which we live and work.
* An opportunity to share with other caring members (Club/District/Int'l) our talents & time.

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