HISTORY OF ROTARY DISTRICT 7620 OF RI
Rotary began in what is now District 7620 with the formulation of the Baltimore club, the 48th Rotary club to be formed, sponsored by Philadelphia (the 8th Rotary club), in the fall of 1911, chartered on January 3, 1912. Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, subsequently visited Washington; as a result, the first club, Chicago, sponsored Washington’s charter on July 11th, 1912. Total Rotary membership at the time was under 5,000, but Rotary already was international, with clubs in Winnipeg, Canada and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Also, in 1912, clubs were formed in London, England and Havana, Cuba (the first non-English speaking club.)
Rotary districts were established in 1915, and the Baltimore and Washington clubs were placed in District 3, which covered all of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. George Harris, charter president of the Rotary Club of Washington, became our first district governor and later (1944-45) was our district’s first RI director. He has the unique distinction of attending every international convention during the first 50 years of his club’s existence, and he maintained perfect attendance.
Subdivided three years later, our portion of District 3 became District 5, encompassing eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The Baltimore club, under the leadership of George Bahlke, sponsored nine new clubs, beginning in 1920 with Frederick. Annapolis and Havre de Grace soon followed, as well as many major clubs now outside of our district, including Easton and Cumberland.
As part of District 34, established July 1, 1922, we added part of West Virginia; New Jersey, and some of Pennsylvania were excluded. Westminster became our sixth club, also sponsored by Baltimore. Beginning in 1927, Brunswick, Towson, Ellicott City, Bel Air, Catonsville, Rockville and Glen Burnie were formed before the Great Depression set in. Yet, between 1933 and 1938, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, College Park, Pikesville, Hampstead and Dundalk—all sponsored by different clubs—joined our growing Rotary family.
Paul Harris spent part of the summers of 1934-1935 on Sam Kaplan’s farm in Ellicott City, and returned to address the Baltimore club on December 31, 1934, at the Rennert Hotel. His subject was “Money and material Things are not Necessary for Happiness.”
District 180 was created on July 1, 1939. We retained the same areas of West Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, plus a different mix of Pennsylvania counties. Middle River, Silver Spring and Sykesville-South Carroll were chartered before World War II, and no more Clubs were established until May 24, 1946 when Kingsville was chartered, and later, Lake Shore, Elkridge, Parkton and Severna Park. District 180 was re-configured on July 1, 1944 by exclusion of the northern and western counties of Maryland.
In 1950, District 180 became District 267. Edwin Unger of the eastern shore’s Federalsburg Club was its first governor. Aberdeen was the first new club to join the District (1950). Bill Hardy, in 1951, became the youngest governor in the world, at age 28. He was an honorary member of the Frederick club. Olney received its charter in 1951, then no more new clubs joined our fellowship until Damascus and Southern Prince George’s (now Upper Marlboro) in 1956-57, under the leadership of PDG Ernie Wooden of Baltimore.
Only July 1, 1957, District 762 was created from District 267; boundaries were set at the Chesapeake Bay and Susquehanna River on the east, the Pennsylvania state line on the north and the Potomac River and Frederick County on the west.
District 762 had some outstanding leadership: PDG Ted Wilson of Baltimore became our second RI Director in 1960-62, serving as third vice president of RI, PDG Donal Chamberlin of Bethesda-Chevy Chase, formed three new clubs in 1960 (Potomac, St. Mary’s County-Lexington Park and Wheaton-Kensington), only to be outdone by PDG Raj Saini in 1985-86 with five new clubs (Columbia-Patuxent, Leonardtown, Mt. Airy, Parole [Annapolis] and Waldorf.) PDG Charlie Bennett of Sykesville, mentored PDG Jim Buchanan, whose happy year of service in 1974-75 was exceeded only by his ongoing devotion to Rotary and to The Rotary Foundation—PDG Jim, in 1990, became the largest contributor in the world to The Rotary Foundation with a gift of over $3.2 million.
College Park sponsored five new clubs from 1957-1969, and one since then (Greenbelt). Records suggest that Collect Park also established the district’s first Interact club. In 1974, Henry Tate (Potomac) initiated a unique program to establish a Rotary Scholarship Fund for Gallaudet University, which has now grown to an endowment in excess of $400,000.
PDG Roland Cumberland of Southern Prince George’s (now Upper Marlboro), formed the first breakfast club, North Bethesda, in 1974. He also established the first district dues—$5.00 per member per year. He appointed PDG Dr. John Sever (Potomac) as our first GSE chair, with the first GSE team exchange to/from Australia that same year. As DG, Roland also started quarterly presidents’ meetings, well in advance of the first district Presidents-Elect Training Seminar (PETS) in 1987 by PDG Morris Pallozzi (Ellicott City), with PDG Bill Luckan (Towson). In 1978, also under the leadership of PDG John Sever, we began participation in the Youth Exchange program.
Our first African-American club President was Tom Briscoe (Columbia) in 1976-77. In 1987, during the term of PDG Bill Luckan, women were first admitted into clubs in the district, a result of a US Supreme Court decision. JoAnne Dorman (Owings Mills-Reisterstown) became the first woman club president in District 7620 in July, 1990. With Albert Kim’s serving as president of Woodlawn-Westview in 1999-2000, that club has the distinction of having had European, African and Asian presidents since its chartering in 1987.
General support of the Rotary Foundation began in 1963 when PDG Wilbur Baughman (Olney) became the district’s first Paul Harris Fellow. He served as the District’s first Foundation chairman. PDG Raj Saini (Columbia) became our region’s National Coordinator for Polio Plus, credited with raising $4,750,000, with almost $2,000,000 of that from our own district. As Polio Plus began immunizing the world’s children, PDG John Sever (the originator of the Polio Plus program) took on a key Foundation role as international vaccination coordinator.
All Rotary districts added a zero to their designation in 1991, and Judge Larry Margolis became the first governor of District 7620.
In 1992, PDG Rob Ketron (Woodlawn-Westview) establish the pre-PETS for DGN Morris Gevinson, who then built his friendly and effective team of club presidents a year in advance. A 4-Way Test Speech Contest was established as a district program, as well as the district 4-Way Test award in honor of Jim Houck (Timonium, Hunt Valley), who has been administering a 4-Way Test program in local schools, as a club project, for over 30 years. The present District Directory format was established, a ten-year club extension plan was created, and a focus was established on Rotaract, with both Washington and Baltimore sponsoring Rotaract clubs that year.
In 1995, PDG Bob Nelson capped off a most successful year by having RI President Bill Huntley of England at our District Conference. PDG Bob’s leadership abilities have resulted in his having been selected to serve as RI President’s Representative to several other District Conferences, along with PDG John Sever and PDG Larry Margolis. In 1998, PDG Bob served as trainer for new governors at the International Assembly.
The 1993 visit of RI President Cliff Dochterman to President Bill Clinton initiated establishment of an NGO-government partnership to fund the remainder of PolioPlus’ cost. Finally, in 1996, due to considerable effort by PDG Sever, the US Congress and the White House recognized the unique NGO-government relationship that exists with Rotary in its drive to eradicate polio. This resulted in the US government contributing $90 million to the PolioPlus program. These funds, along with those from Rotarians and from other countries around the world, have generated in excess of $400 million. The anticipated completion is unknown, but currently we are down to 3 countries that need to be certified to be considered a polio-free world.
John Murkey (Parole) served as Governor for the 1998-99 year. The RI theme was “Follow Your Rotary Dream and, for the first time the District Conference was held out of state – in Williamsburg, VA.
In 1999-2000, under the leadership of Rob Brown (Towsontowne), the District participated for the first time in the Rotary Leadership Institute, created its first web page and implemented its first district-wide project with Bonds Meadow leading 17 clubs and the Washington Rotaract Club in a River Blindness Project in Tanzania. The RI theme was “Rotary 2000: Act with Consistency, Credibility, Continuity. We also sent and received a Group Study Exchange to Japan. DG Rob was also the first Rotarian in many years to take an active role beyond the district – serving as RI Representative to the OAS, Moderator and Discussion Leader at Rotary Institutes, Member of the RI Peace Fellows Selection Committee, Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator (3 years) and District Foundation Chair (5 years).
The RI theme for Tom Kwako’s year, 2000 – 01 was “Create Awareness Take Action”. Tom held his installation ceremony in a baseball stadium in the presence of over 13000 spectators and some 380 Rotarians. He initiated a comprehensive training program for incoming Presidents and Assistant Governors and over saw the chartering of four new Clubs. Four 3-H grant applications were approved along with a GSE exchange with New Delhi. Another highlight was the presentation of a $270,000 mobile medical/dental van for the District of Colombia. District 7620 was placed 12th out of 532 Rotary Districts worldwide for contributions that year to the Rotary Foundation. Tom continues to be active in Rotary as Chair of the RI Action Group for the Prevention of Blindness.
2001-02 started out like any other Rotary year for Andy Baum (Carroll Creek) with a focus on membership growth. President Rick King's theme "Mankind Is Our Business" resonated throughout the District as clubs positioned themselves for a strong year. Then the worst day in history befell us on 9-11-2001. In the days, weeks and months following the attack, Rotarians responded with words and actions to aid those affected. If one disaster was not enough, the spring of 2002 brought yet another. La Plata was directly in the path of a strong tornado that ripped across the center of town resulting in falling trees and power lines and much damage to property. Rotarians across the District once again responded in force to aid community members. These acts of kindness carried the District through a tumultuous year highlighted by a day of community service in Cumberland, Maryland during the District Conference. DG Andy also oversaw the first ever Interact Conference during his year.
DG Bob Grill (Bladensburg) began his year with a Pig-Roast, BBQ held at the 4H camp grounds in Upper Marlboro, MD ending with a fireworks display. A highlight during 2002-03 was an honor bestowed on PDG Dick Angus for his exemplary service to the District over many years. Dick was presented with a book entitled “A Treasure of Activities” illustrating the signature projects of every club – an appropriate way to recognize the RI theme of “Sow the Seeds of Love”. Bob’s year ended with his District Conference in Ocean City, MD. President Bhichai Rattakul honored our district by selecting RI Director (and subsequently RI President), Kalyan Banerjee and wife Bonita as his Representatives for the Conference.
In 2003-04 Jim McDiarmid (Columbia) helped facilitate the visit by RI President Jonathan Majiyabe to the World Bank and was also instrumental in introducing Rotary to the leadership in Yemen. DG Jim also carried out a significant reorganization of the District, creating several new committees and bringing in many new Chairs, Directors and Assistant Governors. The Rotary Clubs of Clarksville and Capitol Hill were formed and a major Safe Blood project involving three countries in Latin America was developed. A Club Media Kit was created and the year saw a heavy emphasis on training. The RI theme for this Rotary year was “Lend a Hand”.
During 2004-2005 Rotary celebrated its centennial year and the RI theme appropriately was “Celebrate Rotary – 100 years”. The District held a Centennial Gala on February 26, 2005 attended by over 400 Rotarians. Throughout the year, each club was encouraged to develop a signature project to promote Rotary and to leave a lasting impact on their respective community. DG Ray Streib (Glen Burnie) raised over $100,000 to initiate a Dictionary Project whereby a dictionary was distributed by Rotarians to every third grade student in all public schools in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Separate programs were initiated including promotion of District pins, scarves and ties and other items to promote the District and raise funds to pay for the dictionaries. The year concluded with an out of state District celebration at Hershey Park where a red carpet tribute was provided to each Club in recognition of their success in celebrating Rotary with their signature centennial project.
Raymond Raedy (Frederick) served as District Governor for the 2005-2006 year. The motto for that year’s RI President, Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, was "Service Above Self" and his objective was to have Rotarians continue the projects in which they were engaged and do them well. This philosophy was carried down to the District level so no new projects were initiated but Clubs were encouraged to partner with other Clubs and replicate successful projects. The District exchanged GSE teams with Norway. DG Raymond also took steps to restore the District’s financial health by implementing cost controls without raising dues. By the end of his year the District had a substantial surplus.
Another first for the District occurred in 2006-07 with the selection of Pat Kasuda (Glen Burnie) as our first female Governor. DG Pat introduced the first District 7620 banner and oversaw a highly successful GSE exchange with Russia. Both teams focused on the medical profession. This Rotary year also saw the establishment of the Paul Harris Society. Past RI President Bill Boyd’s theme for this year was “Lead the Way”. DG Pat served two terms as the District Representative on the Council of Legislation and was also active in District training activities and at the Zone level of Rotary serving as an Assistant Rotary Coordinator.
In the 2007-08 year Rich Carson (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) initiated an informative program of Summits bringing Rotarians together to focus on issues of hunger, literacy, water and health. DG Rich introduced the DaCdb system to the District and pioneered affordable websites for Clubs. He also held a highly successful Foundation Dinner at the Canadian Embassy, initiated the District’s participation in the Chesapeake Multi District PETS and oversaw the creation of several new Rotary Clubs. The RI theme for this year was “Rotary Shares”.
DG Bette Lewis (College Park) (2008-2009) – our second female Governor - kicked off the 2008-09 year with her Official Visit speech, “The Power of Rotary”, delivered to all clubs in the District by October 2008. The intent was to inspire clubs to do all that they could do as clubs to “Make Dreams Real” and to realize the power they have as Rotarians. RI President D. K. Lee chose District 7620 as the site for one of his Presidential Membership Conferences and then stayed on for an official Presidential visit to the District. This year’s District Conference took a different format and venue in the form of a multi-district conference between Districts 7260 and 7620 on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Bermuda. Both Districts were honored to have two Rotary Directors as their official RI President’s Representatives, Director Michael Colasurdo and Director Eric Adamson, from each District’s respective Zones.
2009 – 2010 was the year that District 7620 was selected to be one of the 100 pilot districts for the new Future Vision grants program. Under Paul Frey’s (Carroll Creek) leadership the District wanted to be among the first Rotarians to experience the new grants program and to provide feedback to The Rotary Foundation. Another first for this year was the holding of a Multi-District Conference, which was done with District 7390. Headline conference speakers included Mia Farrow and PRIP Richard King. Perhaps the most important initiative begun during DG Paul’s year was the development and implementation of the District’s “GROW Membership” program. Past RI President Wilf Wilkinson’s theme for this year was “The Future of Rotary is in Your Hands”.
In 2010-2011 Jayaram (Jay) Kumar (Columbia) served as the District Governor. RI President Ray Klinginsmith’s theme for the year was “Building Communities – Bridging Continents”. DG Jay established a team approach to the leadership of the District whereby all District-related issues were discussed at monthly meetings of the DG, DGE, DGN and IPDG. The District budget process was streamlined. DG Jay was honored by the presence at his District Conference of RIPE Kalyan Banerjee as the RI President’s Representative and by John Hewko, the new General Secretary of RI. Jay and his wife, Geetha, met as Rotaractors and both served as President of the Columbia Rotary Club. Geetha was a RF Alumna and in 2011 was honored by Zone 33 as the RF Global Alumni Service to Humanity awardee.
The international theme for Claude Morissette’s (Potomac) year as District Governor during 2011-12 was “Reach Within and Embrace Humanity”. The consensus approach to District leadership was continued by DG Claude and his efforts to reach out to Clubs resulted in a 100% Club participation rate of giving to the Foundation and an increase in per capita giving of over 19% with a record level of giving of $666,066. October 24, 2011 was declared World Polio Day by the State of Maryland. During DG Claude’s year the District also saw the formation of the Dupont Circle Club with 37 new Rotarians comprised mainly of RF Alumni. The first ever White House Rotary Day was held with over 160 Rotarians from all parts of the country. Washington, DC was also the site of the 4th RYLA North America Conference with over 140 attendees from 37 countries.
DG Bob Parkinson’s (Lexington Park) year 2012-2013 was one of steady progress in the development of Rotary in Central Maryland and Washington DC. We had the first year in several years with a net increase in membership, the highest annual giving in several years and a major jump in contributions to the world-wide polio campaign. This was the first year of three years of matching funds to reach the $500.000 goal for a permanent fund with Gallaudet University for scholarships to attending students. Highlights of the year included a tremendous outpouring of time, treasure and material to support the victims of hurricane Sandy and the tornado victims in Moore, Oklahoma. It also was the year for a three districts to come together to have a successful joint district conference. District Governor Bob Parkinson sends his heartfelt thanks to all district Rotarians for all they do for their clubs, their communities and our world.
During Peter Kyle’s year as DG (2013-2014) the District experienced a net increase of 4% in membership and dramatic increases in giving to the Annual Fund ($143 per capita) and to the End Polio Now campaign (40% over the target). Other highlights of this year – during which Rotarians were encouraged to “Engage Rotary Change Lives” - included the adoption of a comprehensive 3-year Strategic Plan, the reinstatement of a Rotary Foundation Dinner, a RF Alumni Reception, Rotary Day at the White House, another highly successful RYLA North America Conference (200 delegates from 45 countries), the chartering of the Federal City Rotary Club (the fourth Rotary Club in Washington, DC), two new Rotaract Clubs, three new Interact Clubs. New Grants Committee Guidelines and Eligibility Criteria were promulgated and we saw an increase in District Grants (4 scholarships and 20 humanitarian totaling $60,142) and Global Grants (6 totaling $72,500 including two scholarships of $15,000 each). On the communication front weekly news rounds up were supplemented by the Minutarian (a one-minute news brief), the development of a District Marketing Plan, the first ever Interact Newsletter and the reinstatement of a District Foundation Newsletter. The year culminated in an extremely successful and well-attended District Conference in Baltimore which included Rotaract, Interact and Alumni Conferences as well as a Mother’s Day brunch to celebrate the Mothers of 50 Wounded Warrior Families.
DG Bill Fine’s (Parole) year 2014-15 to “Light Up Rotary” did just that. The District continued to experience positive member growth and chartered a new club at Howard West. Foundation donations continued to rise and the Grants committee under the leadership of PDG Andy Baum and DRFC Claude Morissette awards 21+ District grants and what will prove to be 8 Global Grants approved with a value of $223,567 in grants that amounted to $750,000 plus in total projects for good in our communities and the world. This is first time in years there will be minimal carryover of Grant funds. We awarded 2 Global Grant Scholarships, donated $10,000 to the Peace Fellow Program and $10,000 of DDF to the Polio Plus Program. This was the first year of a District wide Polio Fundraiser utilizing Sandler Sales Training to raise over $15,000 which was tripled by the Gates Foundation. The Gallaudet scholarship endowment fund, chaired by PDG Pat Kasuda reached its goal of $500,000 in the permanent fund and 32 scholarships were awarded over the year. We chartered two new Rotaract clubs and 4 Interact clubs. Two of our own, Clarissa Harris and Justin Saltzman joined a total of 30 Young professionals at a Rotary Summit in Evanston. The District endorsed a District Disaster Aid US Committee, headed by PDG Bob Grill, Paul Mahata, and Larry Heilman. This group provided DART training in the District and took the lead in helping with Ebola and the earthquake in Nepal. The District Strategic plan and Grant Guidelines were reviewed and updated. We held another Rotary Day at the White House, another successful RYLA North America, a new lunch for Ambassadors to the OAS initiative and a RF Alumni gathering. Rotary International recognized Dr. Geetha Jayaram with the Global Alumni Humanitarian Service Award, Dr. Raj Saini with the Service Award for a Polio-Free world and Peter Kyle with the Rotary Foundation Citation for Meritorious Service. The District PR committee continued its efforts to establish a good social media base for clubs and the District. A partnership was formed with the Melwood Vehicle Donation Program to provide additional funds from sales of donated vehicles to both the RI Foundation Annual Fund and District Rotary clubs. The year wound up in Frederick, Maryland at the Star Spangled District Conference, attend by over 425 Rotarians and spouse featuring a unique format that allowed the city of Frederick and her four strong Rotary clubs to shine.
The RI theme for 2015-16 RI President, Ravi Ravindran, was “Be A Gift to the World.” District 7620 did its best to rally to that theme during DG Ken Solow’s (Columbia-Patuxent) year. Some of the highlights were:
The District emphasized the importance of Young Professionals in Rotary with three separate events and achievements. In September of 2015 the District held a Young Professional Summit at Howard Community College. Planned by Clarissa Harris and her team of District YPs, the event was attended by more than 20 Rotary clubs. Additionally, the District sent three participants to the Southland YP summit held by Zone 33. And the District had two grants approved of $15,000 each for a Young Professional event grant from RI. The grants were awarded to Harford Country Rotary Clubs and to District 7620.
In September the District held a unique Conflict Resolution Workshop as a fundraiser for Polio Plus. Run by Transformation Associates, and held at Charlestown Retirement Community, the workshop, which taught techniques to minimize conflict in the workplace in our personal lives, was a great success.
April 2015 was the date of RI’s tri-annual Council of Legislation. Our elected COL representative, Pat Kasuda, represented the District in one of the most sweeping COL’s in memory, which effectively eliminated many of RI’s rules for club membership and meeting structure giving clubs great flexibility to grow.
RI President, Ravi Ravindran, visited the District to speak at the RYLA International Conference. A highlight of his visit was a “Town Hall” meeting with our Area Governors and selected Club Presidents, giving many an unprecedented opportunity to share their views with the RI President. President Ravi was an inspiration to all.
District 7620 changed its by-laws to allow a DG to support an international service project on behalf of Rotary clubs in the District. On the request of DG Solow, $3,000 of district-designated funds was allocated to support a $120,000 Rotary Family Health Days project in the country of Ghana. The funding was in partnership with more than twenty other districts in Zone’s 33 and 34.
District 7620 was a major funder of the Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, documentary film project. Owned by the District 7620 Project Trust Fund, the film will be distributed to Rotarians in the District, and around the world, to raise awareness of our history in eradicating the disease, and to raise funds for Polio Plus.
Under the direction of AG Jimmie Gorski, the District funded three global grant scholars. Under the direction of Patsy Ezell, the District endorsed three Peace Fellows, two of which were accepted into the program.
The Rotary International Conference was held in Seoul South Korea. The District Conference theme was “Reimage Rotary” and the RI Representative was PDG and member of Rotary’s Foundation investment committee, John Stairs.
Dr. Anna-Mae Kobbe (College Park) served with Rotary International President John Germ and the theme for 2016-2017 was Rotary Serving Humanity. The year was highlighted with the 100th Anniversary of The Rotary Foundation which culminated with festivities at the 2017 Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Almost 200 district Rotarians attended the RI Convention. In District 7620, Governor Dr. Anna-Mae Kobbe recognized outstanding women members in the district to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Rotary opening membership to women. A Forum on Human Trafficking was held to raise awareness of the growing crisis of human slavery. The District Conference was held at the College Park Marriott. The theme was Celebrating Rotary.
Each of our governors and club leaders brings time, talent and energy to help the program of Rotary continue to grow. Changing times are upon us, but Rotary provides a special opportunity to provide “Service Above Self” to those in need throughout the world. We must, and will, respond to the needs of the hungry, the homeless, and those without health care to provide hope to improve the human condition and leave this world a little better for our having served Rotary and the people of the world.