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Histories of Clubs of RI Presidents

Rotary Club of Blacksburg, Virginia

Rotary International District 7570



Home of RI President

William E. Skelton, 1983-1984 convention site


President's home page


In October of 1978 a group of business and professional men began meeting on Fridays at noon at the Red Lion Inn in Blacksburg for the purpose of forming a Rotary Club. These men were residents of Blacksburg and Christiansburg and the surrounding areas. Some were members of the Rotary Club of Christiansburg-Blacksburg and some were prospective members of the proposed new club. The meetings were held with the support and sponsorship of the Christiansburg-Blacksburg Club.

The discussion and planning for these meetings at the Red Lion Inn had begun almost a year earlier and were triggered by at least two important factors. The size of the “Evening Club” was outgrowing the available facilities for meetings and there was a belief that a club meeting during the lunch hour would attract many good potential Rotarians for whom an evening meeting was inappropriate.

There was some disagreement, initially, in the Evening Club, but, after full discussion, the club concluded that the most desirable decision for the community and for Rotary International would be to sponsor a new club and this was the action taken. The late Andy Reynolds served as the liaison member from the sponsor club to the proposed club. Andy’s leadership, recruiting and planning were vital to the beginnings of the new club. The club historian is in possession of a videotape in which the founders discuss the birth of our club.

Under the leadership of its Charter President and his immediate successor the club began almost at once to experience a healthy growth and to make its mark among the clubs of District 7570.

We Remember the Charter Members

Under the sponsorship of the Evening Club, a charter was granted to the new group by Rotary International on January 25, 1979. Charter night was held on February 15, 1979 at the Continuing Education center on the Virginia Tech campus. The club had 51 initial members and its official name was the Rotary Club of Blacksburg-Christiansburg Noon. The first officers and board of directors were Bane Atkinson, President; Bob Sullins, Vice President; Ken Martin, Secretary; Gordon Winbery, Treasurer; and Lew Shelor, Sergeant at Arms.

The initial members of the new club as listed in its first bulletin were:

* These members marked with an asterisk were (are) “Charter Members” of the club meaning their names are listed on the Charter by R.I.

W Earl Acuff* Bill Craft Jr.* Jeff Marlowe* Tom Puckett Fred Troutt
Bob Albertson* Ken Dawson Ken Martin* Hank Radford* Guy Wall
Bill Aldridge* Bill Flowers Jr. Frank Mays* Jack Robinson Jr.* Dave Widder
Bane Atkinson* Dave Ford Mike Michael* Bob Rogers* Coyt Wilson*
Brian Beck Bill Greenman* Melvin Miller* Lew Shelor* Gordon Winbery
Stuart Beville Gene Haugh Bill Mitchell Ed Simpson Jr.* Lance Woodruff
Al Bowman* Bob Hennessee* Don Moore John Skelton* Wayne Worner
Wayne Brockenbrough* Harry Hunt III Bob Oliver* Leo Southern  
John Brown* Jim Johnson* Mark Oyler Bob Sullins*  
Roger Comley* Ned Lester* Tom Parkinson Dick Talbot  
Homer Cox Dick Levy Bob Poff* Heth Thomas  


A Decade Later

Ten Years after being chartered, two significant events took place. In 1988 the club voted to accept women into full membership and In February of 1988, Joyce Hoerner was elected as the first woman member of the club. Many women have accepted membership since then. Also, just a decade after the birth of the club, the club officially changed its name to the Rotary Club of Blacksburg.

Community Support

The earliest community support project aided by the club acting as an organization may have been the YMCA Garden Project for senior citizens. The seniors have small garden plots for themselves in various locations, which are seeded and worked by other people except for those who want to do this themselves. The club began early putting $300.00 each year into this program.

Two other programs, which began early in the club’s existence, were the Christmas Store and the Club’s Fine Arts Awards to high school students. The Christmas Store, which had its start in Montgomery County in 1982, received significant support from the club and its members from its very beginning. One “Noon” member, Dan Guin, played a substantial role in its origin and development. Today the Christmas store is continuing to thrive and grow. They served over 1,400 families during recent holiday seasons.

The Fine Arts Awards are a purely “noon” phenomenon and are due largely to two members, Dan Schneck, with his spouse, Judi, and to Dave Widder. Recognition and cash awards are given each year to the outstanding high school students in the Visual Arts, Instrumental and Vocal Music, and Dramatic Arts. The awards are now recognized as playing an important part in improvement in these studies in the county’s schools. Also in the high school award area the club recognizes an Outstanding Senior from each county high school each year and has these students speak to the club as part of a program. A worthwhile side effect of this activity is having club members see and hear some very promising future citizens.

In the past the club had a program of cooperation with high school guidance departments through which a Vocational Service Directory was available to each school and in which some 65 club members volunteered to share vocational experience / expertise in career development activities with students and faculty.

For many years the Excellence in Vocational Education has been awarded annually by our club. Several $500 vocational scholarships are given to high school students for the college of their choice. Another award, the Stuart Beville Memorial Rotary Scholarship Fund at the New River Community College started in 1994. Each year $1,000 is awarded to a qualifying student. Stuart was a member of this club and the club has funded the entire scholarship. Our club gives support also to the Montgomery County 4-H Clubs.

The University Office of International Programs at Virginia Tech has established a scholarship fund for Tech students wishing to participate in study abroad programs. Our participation in this project will be one of our most recent contributions to the community.

The Four-Way Test /Vocation Service Award is presented each year to a citizen of the Montgomery County area who through his or here business practices, character, and lifestyle, best exemplifies Rotary International’s Four-Way Test. The award has now become the Citizen of the Year Award. 1998’s award recipient was Ben Crawford, a full time volunteer, Boy Scout, 4-H member, beekeeper, and leader in our community.

This list alone would be considered worthy by any club. But we are not done yet. Planning for the Talbot Memorial Park on the Huckleberry Trail is now almost complete. It will be a fitting tribute to a past president that served our club well. Broomin and Bloomin, an event held citywide has become an annual event for our group with cooperation from so many of us. The Prices Fork/Route 460 By-Pass Exchange Cleanup has been conducted since 1991 with many of us taking part several time a year.

As the years have gone by, other support activities have been added as needs have appeared and interest developed. Sponsorship of the Bloodmobile visits several times each year; sponsoring high school students’ attendance at Rotary Youth Foundation Leadership Conferences are some of these activities. The club’s financial needs for these activities are supported by such things as its yard sale in early autumn, the aluminum-recycling project, as well as by individual giving where necessary.

Our club’s history would not be complete without mentioning our involvement in sponsoring other clubs. In 1985 the Blacksburg Rotary Club joined with the Christiansburg-Blacksburg Rotary Club in sponsoring the new Rotary Club of Montgomery County which meets as a breakfast club. Our sponsorship of the Giles County Rotary Club came in 1997 and Don Clements agreed to take on the leadership role.

Our former President, Dick Talbot, in 1993 said it best and it is our truth still today. “Our primary objective will be to focus on local community service. Our strategy for this is to provide as many noon programs as possible on community issues and to design one project aimed at better communication and more community pride.”

We no longer participate in all of the above mentioned programs. The truth is that some programs have worked and some have not. But our club continues to blaze new trails in community service, searching for ways we can best serve those in our society. We constantly keep watch for those in need of support or recognition, with the further intention of grooming our future leaders. We know our community needs any help, our help, and our service.

Support for Rotary International

Our club’s support for Rotary International can be summed up in two words: The Foundation. This does not mean that there has been nothing else because there have been many other things. A number of activities to which the club has regularly lent it aid are: District Conferences, District meetings for a variety of purposes wherever they may have been held, and report submissions in full and on time which takes the unsung but dedicated time and energy of hard-working members. The club has given freely of its money and time from members to District Programs like “Reach Out to Haiti”. We contributed to the project for creating wells in Bangladesh in 1997. The “Polio Plus” campaign was another successful campaign for us with our specific target being Nigeria in 1998.

Project R.E.A.D. SA (Rotary Educational Aid Donation South Africa) was initiated to provide needed educational books to the public schools in Rotary District 9320 South Africa. We as caring Rotarians have a dream that all children of the world should have an adequate educational experience to enable them to have useful, productive, and happy lives. In striving to achieve this dream we responded by collecting textbooks. In 1998 we shipped 140 sizable cartons of books to South Africa.

The club has from its very beginning and under the dedicated leadership of its First President, Bane Atkinson, led the district in club-wide giving to the Foundation and in proportion of its members who are Paul Harris Fellows. The membership has come to believe strongly in the programs of the Foundation. In 1982 it began its Foundation Month Raffle for raising money. This tradition continues today with success proven by the consistently increasing giving of its members.

As the club is ending it’s 25th year of existence it can count 190 names of members, other family members or friends who have been named Paul Harris Fellows. This club is a leader in District 7570. This record of support demonstrates the club’s commitment to Rotary International and the worthy causes they have selected.

Rotary International updates our club monthly on projects worthy of our attention and efforts. One of the latest announcements involves youth programs and matching funds with Rotary International to offer up support. It is only natural that Rotary would look for ways to start with our young people of the world. To develop a sense of concern and caring in their hearts would mean insuring a future of service for the world.

The club has sponsored students and young adults to go to many different nations. The members have regularly received, thoroughly enjoyed and learned, too, from exchange visitors from such diverse places, as England, Holland, Sweden, South Africa, and Australia. In the fall of 1994 we had student visitors from Tamworth, Australia, Amy Louise McLean, Sarah Louise Bissett, and Kelly-Anne Tait. We sent three students, Nathan Kyle, Elizabeth Newcomb, and Matt Belay there in exchange during the summer of 1995. Then again from Australia during the fall of 1995 we had Robyn Byrnes, Kate Lollback, and Hayley Whitten. And we last sent during the summer of 1996 John Davis, Corinne Brown, and Brent Powell. The club then had the opportunity to learn from each of these delightful young people. This has been repeated many times because the members believe in the abundant educational exchange created by the experience.

This focus on Rotary International’s Exchange Programs with Americans visiting other countries and other nationals coming here has given the membership a motivation they might not otherwise have had. It allows our club to bring even more new and innovative ways to benefit our community while keeping ever mindful of Rotary International’s motto - Service Above Self.

Memorable Programs

All of us enjoy the visits with the coaches from Virginia Tech including football, basketball, wrestling as well as the “Voice of the Hokies,”  Bill Roth.

Offsite visits include Corning, Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority and Wong Park.

Our club’s own members have given us excellent programs to remember. Buzz Shaw and his demonstration on Virtual Reality was a chance to show our club the newest and latest in computer technology and engineering. Tamara Stinson discussed with us what being a Junior Achievement volunteer is all about. Terri Walker’s program featured a puppet show and told us about the Summer Reading Program.

We held a reverse raffle to raise money for the PolioPlus Program. We raffled off a new car that we bought from Holiday Ford for the dealer’s price. That year we raised over $26,000 for the program. Actually the raffle programs were so popular we started holding them twice a year. In the spring money raised at the raffle goes toward the benefit of community programs. Our fall raffle always benefits a project sponsored by Rotary International.

All our awards programs were notable. Dan Schneck came up with the idea of the Fine arts Awards for our high school students for music, painting, and drama. Achievements in academics and sports receive wide recognition but little attention was ever given to those students who excelled in the Arts. So our club decided to do something about that. Carl McDaniels came up with the idea of the Vocational Awards. And the Stuart Beville Scholarship Award was established at the New River Community College to honor a former member. Half the fun from these awards is the opportunity to listen to what they have meant to the recipients.

Sponsorship of the Breakfast Club and the Giles County Club were notable programs, too. We recognized the need to share Rotary and saw an opportunity to expand its influence in the community by starting two new clubs.

Exchange visitors always entertain us Russia, Korea, Australia and more.

The club continues to grow and benefit in its view of young people and the world. Hearing its youth report their trips abroad on Rotary Exchanges contribute to our wealth of knowledge and stimulate our desire to provide service.

Characters and Characteristics

No matter who the speaker, no matter what the topic, each member present can honestly say that some point of relevance was revealed that day. More than that, you can always count on one thing. If you visit our club you will hear voices raised in unison to welcome each and every person. Saying “Hi!” really makes visitors and guests feel warmly welcomed. Dan Schneck started the tradition of saying “Hi, (Name)” to our visitors and guests. The welcome that we have extended to speakers and visitors has always been and will continue to be a spirited one.

It seems that the “Rowdy Table” (what a tradition) started just about the time that Page Warner joined the club. Every guest speaker is dually warned prior to their engagement that we harbor a table of critics. Constructive criticism is the term we like to use to describe what this group brings to the club. But you must arrive early to secure a seat in this coveted section.

Sometime during the presidency of Dick Bohlin or Dave Reemsnyder the tradition of gift giving started. Specifically, a Rotary Cup was presented to guest lecturers. That gave way to giving the Jefferson Cup. And this led to the present day practice until 2004 when began giving brick pavers, in the name of our speakers, that will be put in the walkway along Wong Park--- Blacksburg Rotary’s Centennial project. We offer this token of appreciation to each speaker for having shared with us.

In 1987 under the leadership of President Jim Moore and his Board the club voted to accept ladies into full membership. Federal Courts had mandated that Civic clubs could no longer exclude females and Rotary did not choose to contest the decision. In February 1988 Joyce Hoerner was voted into full membership as the first female of this club and several others have since joined. Mary Miller became our first woman president in 2002.

In 1991 Rotary International changed our designation from District 757 to 7570. They did so to accommodate the ever-increasing number of clubs. Surely this speaks well of Rotary in general. Our membership count now stands at 125 give or take a few. This is a pretty outstanding number for a lunch club. Meeting attendance goals are always an issue. But we are doing great. We can boast of a level of 81 to 82%, which for our District is very good.


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