About Rotary Club of Wichita
Wichita Rotary Club has planted deep footprints in the past and in the present of our great city. We will continue to lay footprints into its future.
Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.
The Four-Way Test
Every meeting of the Rotary Club of Wichita begins with members reciting the Four-Way Test. Written by Rotarian Herb Taylor, the Test was originally composed to provide guidance to employees of a nearly bankrupt Chicago company. In 1943, the test’s simple, powerful questions were adopted by Rotary International as vital guideposts for Rotary life.
Of the Things We Think, Say or Do
1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
History of Rotary Club of Wichita
Excerpts from This is The Wichita Rotary Built, 2018
What is This Thing Called Rotary?
On February 23, 1905, in Chicago, a young lawyer named Paul Harris met with a mining engineer, a coal dealer, and a tailor to talk about forming a men’s club.
The purpose of the club would be “good fellowship, social activity, and the exchange of ideas on how to expand professional and business contact.”
As it turned out, a lot of Chicago businessmen were looking for those same things, and before long the four-man club grew and became an important part of business life in the city. Periodic meetings were held in member’s offices on a rotating basis, leading to the name “Rotary.”
Today, there are 1.2 million Rotarians in more than 35,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide – including #30, the 17th largest club, the Rotary Club of Wichita.
Rotary Finds Its Roots in the Heartland
In August 1911, thirty-one-year-old Wichitan Harry Stanley traveled to Chicago for the annual convention of his employer, the Equitable Life Insurance Company of Iowa.
A fellow agent from Des Moines told Stanley about a new organization he had just joined. The Iowan spoke so highly about the club’s reputation for making friends and volunteering service that Stanley became convinced Wichita needed and deserved such a club.
And so when he returned home, Stanley pulled together a dozen men for the sole purpose of joining the new Rotary movement and starting a club in the heart of Wichita. By November, when the club applied for a Rotary Charter, the group had grown to 72 members. And on November 18, 1911 Rotary Club of Wichita was admitted as the 30th member of the National Association of Rotary Clubs. For more than 52 years, Harry Stanley served as the guiding force of Wichita Rotary.
The Changing Face of Wichita Rotary
It wasn’t all that long ago some would dismiss Rotary as “Just an old, white-man’s club.”
The characterization stung, not only because it overlooked the many significant contributions of the Wichita Club, but because there was actually some truth to the statement.
Through much of the 20th century America, business leaders were indeed “old white men” who shared economic interest and social life with other old, white men. Potential members needed to be sponsored or proposed by a current member for membership into Rotary. In a racially, religiously, and ethnically divided America, that left many out-standing people in Wichita without an entrance door into the Club.
While Wichita Club newsletters from the first half of the century sometimes reflected America’s divisions, there is also evidence of shifting attitudes towards inclusion, and a step away from the traditional stereotypes. Articles in the Rotary publications encourage readers to see each other first and foremost as individuals.
Though the road to diversity and inclusion was long and slow. the resulting changes have resulted in a Wichita Rotary Club that is far stronger and more successful. In fact, those changes have made the club more “Rotary-like,” as a meeting place where people of the highest quality can exchange ideas, experiences, and support for all the good of all.
From Rotary Anns...To Rotary Presidents
For 76 years, women were flatly denied membership by Rotary International’s constitution.
That doesn’t mean they weren’t active in the club. Accounts from the earliest Wichita Rotary meetings list support from the wives of members as essential for the club’s development. In 1922 they formed their own auxiliary club, the Rotary Anns. They took off with their husbands for the 1929 Dallas Fly-In at the Rotary International Convention. They played gracious hostesses to visitors from fellow Rotary Clubs and officers of Rotary International. The women were dined at countless banquets and “Ladies Nights.” But for all their work on behalf of Rotary, women simply couldn’t become Rotarians.
In the 1970s and 1980s, as women’s equality became the topic of national debate, the Rotary Club of Wichita tried to come to terms with the men’s only policy. In 1986, the club’s Board of Directors approved the acceptance of women members, however the official men-only policy of Rotary International kept the resolution from going into effect.
It took a 1987 decision by the Supreme Court siding against Rotary International to break down the walls barring women into membership. The Wichita Club passed resolutions to change its by-laws and welcomed its first female members. The first year of the new millennium brought another first for the Wichita Rotary – its first woman president. Today, more than 1 in 4 members of Wichita Rotary are women.