News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 5, 2013

Terre Haute Rotary Club celebrating 100 years

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — One of the city’s most dynamic and active service clubs, the Rotary Club of Terre Haute, is celebrating the close of its first century today.

The club, which is part of Rotary International, was formed Oct. 1, 1913, by Terre Haute photographer George Graham Holloway. When launched, it was just the 84th Rotary Club in the world. The international organization now has roughly 32,000 clubs worldwide.

“It’s a pretty extraordinary achievement for a club to reach its 100-year anniversary,” said Nancy Brattain Rogers, club president.

The Rotary Club of Terre Haute, which has about 140 members, will mark its 100th anniversary with a celebration tonight in the Sycamore Banquet Center at Indiana State University. Close to 170 people are expected to attend, including past members and others who have been touched by the local club.

Terre Haute’s Rotary Club helped spawn clubs in other communities over the years, including in Evansville, Brazil, Vincennes, West Terre Haute and the Terre Haute South Rotary Club, noted Craig McKee, a long-time member and past president.

At its weekly meetings in the Holiday Inn, the Rotary Club always features a guest speaker. The 100th anniversary celebration is no exception. The guest speaker for the event is Eric L. Motley, a former top official in the George W. Bush administration with a remarkable life story that began in his home state of Alabama. Motley, who was featured in a profile piece in a 2006 edition of The Washington Post, was the winner of a Rotary International scholarship that helped him to earn his master’s and Ph.D. in international relations from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

While membership in the Rotary Club of Terre Haute may be down slightly from 20 years ago, its membership is getting younger, a significant achievement for any service club today. About 20 percent of members are younger than 40, said Santhana Naidu, who is chairman of Rotary’s New Generation Program for the southern district of Indiana. Naidu, whose father was a Rotary member in India, also works to make the club more appealing to young people in Terre Haute.

“The good news is, the number [of young people in the club] is definitely growing,” Naidu said.

One way to make Rotary membership more appealing to younger people is to show the tangible contributions the organization makes in the community, Naidu said. That’s important to younger people, he said.

“Today’s 30-year-olds want to see hands-on experience before associating,” Naidu said.

The Rotary Club of Terre Haute is busy with service projects each year, Rogers said. Those include ringing bells for the Salvation Army, raising donations for Goodwill Industries, landscaping the Max Ehrmann sculpture area at Seventh and Wabash and providing free dictionaries to all Vigo County third-graders. The club’s motto is “service above self.”

Rotary’s commitment to Goodwill Industries has existed since 1947, said Bill Tennis, executive director of Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries. The club’s annual donation drive is a “shot in the arm” just before holiday season for Goodwill, he said.

“That helps going into the Christmas season,” said Tennis, himself a Rotarian. “I hope they do it again for another 66 years.”

Rotary also provides an opportunity for members to meet other members and their guests, Rogers said. That is clearly a key benefit, she and other members said.

Typically, to become part of the club, a person is nominated by an existing member, McKee said. Membership dues are $225 annually and Rotarians are expected to attend no fewer than 60 percent of the club’s meetings.

For more information, visit the club’s website at

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or