Columbus Rotary Club History

Rockne stays at Notre Dame ... Reeves Auto Company advertised the new Ford Runabout at $260 (FOB Detroit) ... Dell Brothers advertised warm winter overcoats at $13.50 to $35.00 ... and the Rotary Club of Columbus, Indiana, held its first meeting.

These were the headlines from the December 2, 1924 issue of the Columbus Evening Republican (now The Republic). Back in 1924, Columbus had a population of 9,000, the economy was primarily agricultural, and Cummins Engine and Noblitt-Sparks (which later became Arvin Industries) had been in existence only five years.  That first meeting on December 2, 1924 was held in the Chamber of Commerce room in the Bassett Building. Present were twenty-one members, representing that many different professions and businesses in the city and county.

Elected as President was William G. Irwin, President of Irwin's Bank and cofounder of Cummins Engine Company. Other charter members were H. Lee Bassett, Yandell Cline, Clessie Cummins, Robert Custer, Donald Dushane, Joseph Hilger, William Lincoln, Dr. George MacCoy, Edward Marr, Will Mooney, Girnie Reeves, Frank Richman, Dr. Alfred Roope, Robert Seward, Rev. Alexander Sharp, Sr., Thomas Sheridan, Ernest Snider, Fred Sutter, Lawrence Whitehouse and William Yost.  Assisting in the installation of the new Columbus Rotary Club was Don Bollinger, President of the Seymour Rotary Club. A message of congratulations, accompanied by a beautiful basket of cut flowers, was received from the Columbus Kiwanis Club.  When the Columbus Rotary Club was chartered in 1924, there were 1,890 Rotary Clubs in 33 countries; Columbus Rotary received charter number 1891.

The Columbus Rotary Publication, which was started by Yandell Cline (then editor of the Evening Republican and later, Treasurer of Arvin Industries), was known as "The Oil Can, Lubricator of the Columbus Rotary Club."  The logo-type for The Oil Can was designed by Fred Sutter, then the local Dodge and Plymouth dealer.  From inception in 1943, the names of the Oil Can editors were kept secret which allowed personal kidding and occasional insults. Individual Oil Can issues were never signed by the writer and had an anonymous characteristic that often provided humor in reporting club activities and meetings.

At the time of the Columbus Rotary 25th Anniversary party, held at Harrison Lake Country Club in December, 1949, there were 86 active members. During that year, Columbus Rotary was honored by having one of its members, Lynn N. Stewart, elected Governor of District 226, Rotary International.

When the Columbus Rotary Club held its 50th Anniversary dinner on December 2, 1974, there were 16,151 Rotary Clubs in 151 countries.  The 127 Columbus Rotarians celebrated with a dinner at the Columbus Imperial House. Besides the Rotary-Anns (wives and widows) honored guests included all Past District Governors and our last surviving Charter member, Fred Sutter. Four Rotary International Scholars attending Indiana University on Foundation Scholarships provided the program which took note of Columbus Rotary's interest in world-wide good will and the fact that Columbus had become famous for its unique architecture.

Columbus Rotary was again honored by the 1978 election of one of its members, Robert N. Stewart, as District 6580 Governor-nominee. Mr. Stewart served as Governor in the vital 75th year of Rotary History, 1979-80. Mr. Stewart's service as Governor was unique in that his father, Lynn N. Stewart, served our district as Governor just thirty years before, in 1949-50.

Again, in Rotary year 1986-87, the Club was honored with the election of our third District Governor, Orphie R. Bridges. Orphie, at the close of his year as District Governor, spearheaded the Polio Plus Drive.

July 1, 1992 marked the date our fourth District Governor, Owen D. Hungerford, took office. Owen set several goals relating to membership and the starting of new clubs. Owen also has served as a Group Study Exchange Team Leader to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

From 1964-1999, each Columbus Rotarian, on his/her birthday, donated a book to the Bartholomew County Library. All of these books have been plated with the donor's name as a participant in the Columbus Rotary Club Birthday Book Project. As a result more than 5,000 books valued at over $50,000 have been donated to the library. Since 2000, Rotarians have instead participated in the "I Like Me!" project presenting all Bartholomew County kindergartners with their own personalized book.

In 1997-98 Columbus Rotary founded its first Interact Club at Columbus East High School. Over 30 students became members of the charter club. Later, a second Interact Club, at Columbus North High School, was also founded.

Columbus Rotary celebrated its 75th Anniversary on December 1, 1999 at the Ramada Inn. The speaker for the program was Bill Sergeant, the director of Polio Plus for Rotary International.

On April 3, 2000, Columbus Rotary voted to share its territory with a new morning club, Columbus Sunrise. Also in 2000, Teree Bergman became the 5th District Governor from our club to serve District 6580. This was for the 2000-01 Rotary year.

In 2001, the 1st Annual Judson Erne Golf Tournament raised $17,000 for local student scholarships. Mr. Erne, a Rotarian and a past Principal of Columbus North High School, hit the first ball to begin this new Rotary initiative. The scholarship fund has since reached its $100,000 endowment goal and now provides financial assistance to 4 area students enrolled in college each year.

Like most Rotary clubs, Columbus Rotary supports the Rotary Foundation. Rotarians can contribute directly to the Foundation which upon receipt of $1,000 will designate the donor, or any person they choose, as a Paul Harris Fellow.  Columbus Rotary also participates in the Youth Exchange Program, whereby our club acts as a host club for a year during which we house and maintain a foreign student.  Our club also makes it possible for a student in Columbus to visit with a host club in another country.

One meeting of long tradition is the last meeting of the Rotary year each June when the club president is roasted by the Immediate Past President. Occasionally a few hot coals even pop toward other members for what they did or didn't do in the previous twelve months.

Below: 2014-15 President Jeff Bergman impersonates 2015-16 President Dan Arnholt during his roast.

Club Leaders
District Events