History of the Paul Harris Fellow Recognition

History of the Paul Harris Fellow Recognition
by RGHF member Lloyd T. Navarro, Jr.
A few TRF medals, from the Ziegler Collection
Memorabilia of Rotary International

Ziegler Memorabilia Collection - Harris Collection - Other Organizations - Perry - Rotary - Rotary Stamp -
Diplomats Don't Make Wars - Where Money is at Home
The Paul Harris Fellow (PHF) recognition program honors Rotary founder, Paul Harris, and expresses appreciation and recognition for contributions to The Rotary Foundation (TRF). Currently, the Paul Harris Fellow recognition acknowledges individuals who contribute, or who have contributions made in their name, of US$1,000 to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. (continued)
The most important step to promote voluntary giving to The Rotary Foundation occurred in January, 1957, when the Paul Harris Fellow recognition was established and bestowed to those who showed appreciation for and encourage substantial contributions to what was then the Foundation's only program, Rotary Foundation Fellowships for Advanced Study, the precursor to Ambassadorial Scholarships. Early Paul Harris Fellows received a certificate of recognition with three categories of distinction based on cumulative giving: Individual PHF ($1000), Honorary Fellow ($500-1000), Memorial Contributor, ($100-300). The first Paul Harris Fellows include 1937-38 RI Director Allison G. Brush and longtime RI Treasurer Rufus F. Chapin, both for donations they made in 1946. Mrs. Adan Vargas was the first woman to receive the recognition, for a gift made in 1953. Mrs. Harry L. Jones was the second, and one of only five people recognized for contributions made in 1957. In January 1958, a new form of recognition of Sustaining Contributor for minimum annual contributions of $100 was authorized. The Sustaining Contributor recognition was in the form of a pocket card.

Under the direction of then-past Foundation Trustee Kyozo Yuasa, the noted metal artist, Fiju Tsuda, of Japan was commissioned to create the PHF recognition medallion in 1968. The medallion was designed, sculpted and struck in Ginza, Tokyo and unveiled at the 1969 Rotary International Convention in Honolulu. At a special Foundation Trustee Convention breakfast, the bronze medallion suspended from a triangular blue and gold ribbon was presented to 46 attendees of the then existing 300 Paul Harris Fellows, including Mrs. Coyles Collins who was the first woman recipient of a Paul Harris Fellow medallion. At an unknown later date, this first version of the Medallion was accompanied by a blue velvet lapel pin adorned with a small gold likeness of Paul Harris, a specially-commissioned, blue-colored folding keepsake box designed and manufactured by Wako Company of Ginza, Japan, and a certificate.

In a near simultaneous effort to promote charitable giving to The Rotary Foundation in 1968, the Paul Harris Sustaining Member (PHSM) replaced the Sustaining Contributor distinction. More than just a nomenclature change, PHSM was earned by donating a minimum of $100 with the stated intention of becoming a Paul Harris Fellow by accumulating a donation total of $1,000. In November 1998, The Foundations' Trustees clarified the definition of Sustaining Members and renamed them Rotary Foundation Sustaining Members (RFSM). Beginning in 2004-2005, Rotarians who give $100 or more to the Annual Programs Fund automatically become Rotary Foundation Sustaining Members.

The original triangular-shaped ribbon with suspended medallion was succeeded by a second version - a traditionally-shaped medal ribbon that was provided in a blue velvet presentation box along with a new blue enamel and bronze lapel pin. At an unknown date, a blue and gold neckwear ribbon was attached to this second version so that the medallion could either be worn pinned to the individual or freely adorned around the neck.

The neckwear ribbon came in two variants; one in which the ribbon gathered at one point by a small metal ring to be attached to the medallion and the other which was pre-sewn at the point of medallion attachment so that the metal ring did not move and made a preformed v-shape to lie flat on the chest. At an unknown point in time, the traditionally-shaped medal ribbon was discontinued leaving the medallion to be suspended by the neckwear ribbon only.

The blue enamel and bronze lapel pin and blue velvet presentation case continued to be part of this neckwear only version of recognition along with a certificate. Several variants of ribbon color and width exist: a one or two inch wide ribbon of blue/gold, solid blue, blue/yellow colors. Rotarians have a tradition of supporting the Foundation by honoring others. Ida LeTulle Taylor became a Paul Harris Fellow in 1978 when her husband, then-District Governor Vann Taylor, made a donation in her name in honor of their 34th wedding anniversary.

The gift also made her the 25,000th Paul Harris Fellow. Additionally, At the International Assembly in 1979, then-RI President-elect James Bomar challenged each Rotary club to make one non-Rotarian a Paul Harris Fellow. Although women were not admitted to Rotary International membership until 1987, they were permitted to attend meetings, give speeches and presentation, and receive awards. Women relatives of Rotary members could form their own associations and were authorized to wear the Rotary lapel pin.

At sometime before 1983, a women's version of the Paul Harris Fellow recognition was authorized and produced. Both non-Rotarian women and women accepted into Rotary International Membership in 1987 received this woman's version. The medallion was suspended on a faux gold 22-inch chain and a new women's lapel pin resembling a shiny gold brooch that was much larger than the men's version was presented in a maroon velvet presentation case. Thus, for a period of time until 1997, two gender-specific Paul Harris Fellow recognitions coexisted.

Introduced in 1984, the blue-stone Multiple Paul Harris Fellow pin recognizes additional donations by existing Paul Harris Fellows. Each stone represents an additional US$1,000 donation, up to $5,000. Red-stone Multiple Paul Harris Fellow pins were introduced in 1988 to bridge the gap between the blue five-stone pin for Multiple Paul Harris Fellows and Major Donor recognition.

In 1997, the Foundation Trustees standardized the designs of the medallion and lapel pin and unveiled as the fourth version a new unisex version of the Paul Harris Fellow. The large Paul Harris Fellow medallion originally designed by Fiju Tsuda was replaced by a smaller design of Paul Harris's likeness surrounded by a blue enamel circle and an outer ring of faux gold emblazoned with wheat design.

The new medallion was suspended by a one-inch blue/yellow neckwear ribbon. Additionally, a new lapel pin that was identical to the multiple Paul Harris pin developed in 1984 accompanied this unisex version when presented in the blue velvet presentation case along with a certificate. This version continues to today, except for the 2009 Foundation Trustees decision to only provide the lapel pin and certificate as the Paul Harris Fellow recognition, discontinue the blue velvet presentation case, and allow the blue/yellow neckwear ribbon and medallion to be purchased directly from the Rotary Foundation at the option of the recipient.

The number of Paul Harris Fellows reached the one million mark in 2006 when thirty-four individuals (one per RI Zone) were recognized with special plaque and certificate as the one-millionth Paul Harris Fellow. RGHF member Lloyd T. Navarro, Jr., Rotary Club of the Sandhills, District 7960, Zone 33, North Carolina, USA.

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