The Seven Pillars of Rotary


“All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are the dangerous men for they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.”

T.E.Lawrence – “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”

With the passage of time, most of the names of those who led Rotary in the past have lapsed into obscurity, yet, many, each in his own individual manner, brought some special talent and innovation into our great Rotary movement, strengthening it and giving it Rotary’s own singular character unlike that of any other Service organisation. Among them are the few, those “dreamers of the day” who through their vision, innovation and dedication stand out above all others.


Paul Percy Harris,

Paul Percy Harris was born in Racine, Wisconsin on 19 April, 1868, the second of six children of George Harris, a pharmacist, and Cornelia Bryan Harris. At three-and-a half years of age he went to live with his paternal grandparents Howard and Pamela Ruskin Harris in Wallingford, Vermont and thereafter had little contact with the other members of his family. After graduating from Princeton University and the Law School of the University of Iowa in 1891 he spent five years roaming the United States and Europe following a number of occupations, he began practising Law in Chicago in 1896. Since 1900 he had contemplated the formation of a club for men which would encourage friendship. On the evening of 23 February, 1905, he met with Silvester Schiele, a coal merchant, Gustave Loehr, a mining engineer and Hiram Shorey, a manufacturing tailor in Loehr’s office in Room 710 of the old Unity Building. Here, he outlined his ideas for such a club and received the support of all. A further meeting was approved to be held two weeks later, when Schiele was elected president and a fifth member Harry Ruggles, a printer became a member. It is unlikely that any of those first five members could have any thought that their club would last for more than100 years nor that over that passage of time, more than 1.2 million men and women would form nearly 32,000 similar clubs in 158 countries, all joined in the two ideals of Fellowship and Service.

On occasions in those earliest days, Paul Harris sometimes disagreed with the direction taken by his own club, but was always encouraged by his good friend, Silvester Schiele. Harris was a gifted writer and many of his essays not only articulated the philosophy of Rotary as ir developed but also helped form it. It is overlooked at times that in its formative years, Rotary had but two objects; the promotion of business interests and friendship, prompting the far-sighted Rotarian, Arch Klumph to later observe that “The first five years are nothing which Rotary can be proud of.”

In August, 1910, the sixty delegates of sixteen clubs met in Chicago for the first Convention, formed the Association of Rotary Clubs and elected Paul Harris to be the first President. He was re-elected at the 1911 Convention and when the Association became Rotary International in 1912, was elected President emeritus. Throughout his lifetime which was dogged by ill-health following a near-fatal heart attack in 1912, until his death on 29 January, 1947, Paul Harris was the international face of Rotary, its creator and philosopher.

Chesley R. Reynolds (Ches) Perry

Ches Perry was a librarian and a veteran of the Spanish-American War of 1898 in which he served as an officer in the National Guard, joined the Chicago club on 23 January 1908, and served on a number of committees. In 1910 as the chairman of the club’s Extension Committee he invited delegates of the sixteen existing clubs to meet at the Congress Hotel in Chicago to form a National Association of Rotary clubs. Perry became the General Secretary of the Association, initially on a part-time basis with a salary of $100.00 per month and $25.00 expense allowance and an office was rented at $50.00 per month. Ches Perry served Rotary as General Secretary until his retirement at the conclusion of the Toronto Convention on 30 June 1942. Perry initiated the name badge and the first Rotary magazine which was named “The National Rotarian” and later “The Rotarian” which he edited for 17 years.

At the second Convention of the National Association of Rotary Clubs, held in Portland, Oregon, Elmer Rich, the Treasurer, reported as fol1ows:

Total receipts $2,661.76

Total Expenditures $2,617.38

Balance on Hand $44.38

Ches Perry, Secretary, reported he had to pay $25 .00 a month for office rent. He was to get $100.00 a month for salary for a part-time job. He reported debts of $514.00 unpaid. He actually only got $428.40 for his year’s work. The President’s office expenses were $111.79; Vice-Pres. $2.50; Ches. Perry had to pay $816.75 of his salary himself to settle debts and he was never reimbursed for this expenditure. In 1912 he was elected General Secretary of Rotary International with a salary of $1,800 per annum.


Throughout his long tenure, Ches Perry supervised the rapid expansion of the Rotary movement into many countries, always ensuring that each new club that was formed followed the same structure as that created from the first club in Chicago, no simple matter considering the complexity of differing nationalities, customs and languages. Paul Harris acknowledged that although he was the” Architect,” Ches Perry “was the Builder of Rotary.” Following his retirement as General Secretary he became president of the Chicago club in 1944-45.

Ches Perry died on 21 February, 1960

Ernst Laughlin (Ernie) Skeel


Ernie Skeel was born in Cleveland Ohio on 12 December, 1881. He had briefly practised law in Ohio before moving to the West Coast of the United States, becoming a successful lawyer and businessman, involving himself in many community affairs in the city of Seattle.. He was a charter member of the Seattle club #4 in 1909, its president in 1914 and was instrumental in the formation of clubs in Oregon and Alaska.

“Ernie” Skeel was a forward thinker who argued strongly against the single classification system, which he believed was detrimental to the growth of Rotary. He was one of the authors of the Platform of Rotary for the Seattle club. This promoted the education and development of Rotarians through the study of businesses and professions other than their own; sought to establish ethical standards in the conduct of business; recognised the equal worthiness of all legitimate occupations. He argued strongly, but without success for the general adoption of the Seattle Platform at the 1911 Convention. Undeterred, he proposed it again at the 1912 Convention and was supported by his clubmate Jim Pinkham, and it was adopted with the addition of Arthur Sheldon’s earlier credo, “He Profits Most Who Serves Best.” It is at this point in the evolution of Rotary that there began the gradual transition from a philosophy of friendship and business boosting to one of friendship and Service. He died in Seattle on 12 November 1969..

Arch J Klumph

No single Rotarian has had a more pronounced and lasting influence on the activities of Rotary than Arch Klumph..

Born in Conneutville, Pennsylvania on 6 June, 1869, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio at an early age and left school at 12 years of age to supplement the family income. He became office boy at Cayuhoga Lumber Company where he spent his working life, eventually owning the company. Aware of his lack of formal education, he attended night school. He also took music lessons becoming an accomplished flautist and was flautist in the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra for seven years. Joining the Rotary Club of Cleveland in 1911, he became its president in 1913 and the sixth President of Rotary International in 1916-1917.

On June 18, 1917 he took the rostrum at the first plenary session of the Atlanta Convention saying, “We have called the attention of the organisation this year to the possibility of a future endowment fund for Rotary. Carrying on as we are, as a miscellaneous community service, it seems eminently proper that we should accept endowments for the purpose of doing good in the world, in charitable, educational or other avenues of community progress, or such funds could be used in extension work….” A near unanimous ballot approved Klumph’s proposal, and the Endowment Fund became a mere technical reality until one year later, when the Fund received its first contribution of $26.50 from the Rotary Club of Kansas City Mo, being the cash surplus from the 1916 Kansas City Convention which the Kansas City club had intended to be spent on a memento for Klumph. Klumph’s plan, however was not new to him, at least. Four years previously, on the day of his retirement from the presidency of the Cleveland Club, he had proposed “that an emergency fund be built up which will, in future enable the Club to do many things.” On 10 June 1928, the Endowment Fund became The Rotary Foundation and Arch Klumph served as chairman of the Board of Trustees for the first five years.

Arch Klumph died in Cleveland on 3 June, 1951.

James Wheeler (Jim) Davidson

Born in Austin, Minnesota on 14 June, 1862, Jim Davidson graduated from the Northwestern Military Academy in 1891. Big in body, in mind and vision, he accompanied Admiral Peary to the North Pole in 1893, became a war correspondent for the New York Herald covering both sides of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1896, served as a US Consular Agent in Formosa, Dalay (Manchuria),and Consul General in Shanghai. He travelled to Japan in 1905 where he met Lillian Dow, the daughter of an American businessman and they were marriedin 1905 after a short engagement. In 1906, the couple moved to Winnipeg, Canada and then to Calgary in 1907, where Davidson became a Canadian citizen and established interests in lumber and land and joined the Rotary Club of Calgary in 1914.

Jim Davidson and Lt Col. James Layton Ralston of the Halifax, Nova Scoti club, travelled to Australia and New Zealand in 1921 as RI Special Commissioners and formed the first clubs in the southern hemisphere in Melbourne, Wellington, Auckland and Sydney.

Charged as a Special Commissioner to establish Rotary in the Middle East and Asia and with a grant of $8,000 from the Board of RI, Jim and Lilian Davidson and their small daughter left Canada on 23 August, 1928 on an odyssey intended to last about nine months, but which was to last for nearly three years and cost Davidson an estimated $250,000 of his own fortune. On arrival in London he held a series of meetings with Government officials before leaving for further meetings in Amsterdam, Haarlem, the Hague and Zurich, establishing contacts who could be helpful in his task. From Zurich he travelled by train to Istanbul, where he concluded that the time was not right for the introduction of Rotary into Turkey. On 18 November, 1928 he flew to Athens and organised a club before flying on to Egypt where he inaugurated the Cairo club on 29 December after which he travelled to Jerusalem where an American Rotarian, Edward Wisher had formed the nucleus of a club, which the two men formalised on 8 February, 1929. Then it was on to India where the Bombay club was formed on March 19.

Then followed the establishment of clubs in Delhi, Madras, Colombo, Theyetmyo, Rangoon, Penang, Seremban, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Singapore, Medan, Klang, Malacca, Bangkok and Hong Kong. In a journey of 20,000 miles by ship, aeroplane, bus, car and elephant and attacked by fever, Jim Davidson interviewed over 2,000 men in their offices.

Sadly, this great Rotarian, dubbed “The Marco Polo of Rotary,” did not live long after completing his epic journey, dying in Calgary on 18 July, 1933. Rotary is fortunate that Lillian Dow Davidson maintained a written record of their great journey which is preserved for all time.

Clement W B (Clem) Renouf

The architect of Rotary’s most wide-reaching humanitarian project, Clem Renouf was born in Ingham, Queensland, Australia on 19 April 1921, and after seving as a bomber pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force in the Pacific during World War II, he completed his studies to become a chartered accountant and set up practice in the town of Nambour, Q!ueensland, where he became a charter member of the Nambour club in and District Governor of District 260 in 1965-66 As District Governor he involved his District in a continuing aid project for the Vellore hospital in India as a joint project with District 665 Ohio. Elected to the Board of RI in 1970-72, his breadth of vision and willingness to promote original thinking brought him into conflict with both presidents under whom he served and at the same time, he was loyal to both.

Elected to the presidency of RI in 1978-1979, he proposed a new programme at the first Board meeting of 1978, and at President Rick King’s invitation he introduced the 3H (Health, Hunger & Humanity) programme at the Tokyo Convention in Tokyo that year. Although solidly supported by King, who was an advocate of child immunisation, the programme received strong opposition from members of the RI Board, who considered that it contravened the terms of Board Resolution 24-34 which determined that Rotary not undertake activities of a corporate nature under such a framework. (Up to this time the Board had restricted its parameters to the governance of Districts and clubs). It was also opposed by the trustees of The Rotary Foundation who feared that it would divert funds from the Foundation. Renouf argued that the programme would increase contributions to the Foundation and events proved him correct. In February 1979, Renouf received a Board grant of $760,000 to fund the 3H Committee, which then immunised 6.3 million children against poliomyelitis in the Philippines. Following the success of this mass immunisation he proposed that it be extended as a programme to eliminate poliomyelitis world wide by 2005 to celebrate Rotary’s centenary. In 1983 the World Health Organisation and UNESCO joined the programme and Polio 2005 was established, later to be known as Polio Plus. Despite the unqualified benefit of the programme to mankind, and its universal support by Rotarians world-wide, it was resolutely and articulately opposed at every forum right through to the Council of Legislation in a group of senior Rotarians including four past RI presidents and one past General Secretary.

The Rotary Club of Duarte.

The Rotary Club of Seattle International Districts:

On its 25th anniversary, on 1 June 1977, the eight members of the Rotary Club of Duarte admitted two women, Mary Elliott and Donna Bogart, shortly followed by a third, Rosemary Freitag.

The reaction of the Board of RI was predictable: on 27 March 1978, Duarte’s charter was terminated. Duarte re-named itself the “Ex Rotary Club of Duarte” and in June, 1978 filed a suit in the California Superior Court against the RI Board decision. This was not heard by the court until 1983 when Judge Max Deutz ruled against Duarte, which in 1986 appealed that decision to the California Court of Appeal and the Deutz judgment was reversed. The RI Board appealed that decision to the California Supreme Court which refused to hear the case and the RI Board then appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1986.

In 1984, D-5030 District Governor Carl E Swenson perceived the need of a new Rotary club in Seattle and appointed Lloyd Hara as his DG’s Representative to form the Rotary Club of Seattle International Districts. When the provisional club prepared and filed its Charter Application, it deleted references to “male” or “men” and the application was rejected by RI. The application was re-submitted including those terms and a charter was issued on 18 September, 1984, and Seattle ID took a resolution for the admission of women to the 1986 Council On Legislation. This was soundly defeated. On 4 September, 1986 Seattle I D admitted 15 women members and on 17 September, General Secretary Philip H. Lindsey wrote a strong letter to the club informing it that it could not admit women and continuing to do so would result in its charter being withdrawn. In January 1987, Seattle I D then filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of the Duarte club, and in that year the Oakland club #3 wrote to the General Secretary of RI questioning the termination of Duarte’s charter.

On 30 March, 1987, the US Supreme Court heard an appeal by the Board of RI against the California Court of Appeal decision and on 4 May handed down a 7-0 unanimous decision affirming the California Court of Appeal decision, ruling that Duarte could not discriminate against members because of gender. Duarte had the final say in the matter when on 23 June, 1987 Dr Sylvia Whitlock was inducted by DGE Dr Kim K Siu as the first woman Club president in the history of Rotary. In January 1989, the Council on Legislation voted to change the Constitution and By-laws to permit the admission of women into Rotary. The equal status of Women and Rotary was finally defined by the appointment of Carolyn E. Jones of Canada as a Trustee of The Rotary Foundation for four years in 2005 and Catherine Noyer-Riveau of France to the RI Board for two years from 2008.

These then, are “the dangerous men who acted their dreams with their eyes wide open” and in their times irrevocably changed the face of Rotary. By the strength of their convictions, and by the course of their actions, Rotary has grown in stature, world peace and understanding has been encouraged and some of the suffering of the people of the world has been alleviated.

Norm Winterbottom

RGHF History Committee, 28 November 2007