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Histories of Clubs of RI Presidents

Rotary Club of Columbia, Missouri

Rotary International District 6080



Home of RI President

Robert E, Lee Hill, 1934-1935


President Hill's Biography


President Hill's home page


President Hill's Program of Work

Rotary Club No. 11 was formed in St. Louis in 1910. During the next 20 years, the members of the St. Louis club sponsored eight additional Missouri clubs, including the Rotary Club of Columbia. Twenty-five Columbians attended a luncheon organizational meeting hosted by Club No. 11 on January 26, 1922 at the Daniel Boone Hotel and Tavern, now the seat of city government. On February 10, 1922, another meeting was held at which Hi Martin of the St. Louis Club acted as toastmaster and Rotarians from Mexico, Moberly, Sedalia, and St. Louis "entertained and informed" the Columbia group.

Three additional prospects had joined the initial group by the time the Columbia club's charter as the 1,114th club of Rotary International became effective on April 1, 1922. Charter Night was conducted on April 14, 1922.

The Rotary Club of Columbia grew steadily and had 42 members by 1926. On April 14 and 15 that year the club hosted the first, the largest and the most colorful District Conference. The 14th District, of which Columbia was a part at that time, was composed of 27 clubs ranging from Lexington and Richmond to the west, Trenton to the northwest, Hannibal and St. Louis to the east, and Cape Girardeau to the south. Of the 1,260 Rotarians in the district, more than 700 attended and were accompanied by 247 Rotary Anns. It was reported that clubs from Boonville, Centralia, Fulton, Mexico, Moberly, and Slater had 100% membership attendance. A Rotary Parade nearly a mile long marched down Broadway, accompanied by the University of Missouri marching band as well as bands provided by the Boon­ville, Cape Girardeau, Jefferson City, and Mexico Rotary Clubs. Columbia has been the site of a number of additional District Conferences over the years.

The Rotary Club of Columbia has the distinction of being one of only two clubs in Missouri to provide a Rotary International President. After serving as Club Secretary, charter member Robert E. Lee Hill served as Club President in 1925-26, as District Governor in 1927-28, and as Rotary International President in 1934-­35. Hill went on to serve as a trustee of the Rotary Foundation 1935-1940. In addition to Hill, club members Frank Rollins, Lewis Shelburn, John Rufi, Patterson Bain and Charles Proctor have served as District Governors.

None of the original charter members are still in the club, but the current membership includes a son and grandson of charter member C.W. Digges, all three of whom have served as Club President at intervals of about 30 years since 1926. For years Sidney B. Neate, now deceased, was the longest serving member, having joined in 1934. Stanley Ginn, who joined in 1935, is now the member with the longest service.

Until his death on March 1, 1999 at age 94, Tom Botts was the club's oldest member. "Coach," as he was affectionately called because of his tenure as MU track coach from 1946 to 1972, served as Club Secretary for 13 years during the 1970s and 1980s, succeeding Patterson Bain. In recognition of Coach's many years of outstanding service to the club, the community, and the University, he was given a special award by the Board of Directors in 1985, and the Tom Botts Award was created. Since that time outstanding service by club members has been recognized by this award.

After the Constitution of Rotary International was amended to allow women members, the Rotary Club of Columbia was among the first to admit women. In 1987, Patsy Sampson, at that time President of Stephens College, was the first woman member, and she has been joined by many others since. Seventy-nine men have served as Club President, but 1999-2000 marked the tenure of the club's first woman President, Dee Corn, Head of the Columbia Independent School and former Principal of Hickman High School.

In 1917 the Rotary Foundation was established as the philanthropic arm of Rotary to provide worldwide humanitarian grants for needy people and worthy projects and to make educational awards for international exchanges of scholars, teachers, and businessmen, thus promoting international understanding and peace. The first contribution to the fund was made by the Rotary Club of Kansas City. After Paul Harris died in 1947, the Paul Harris Fellowship program was created to encourage Rotarians to contribute at least $1,000 to the Foundation. The Rotary Club of Columbia's support for the program blossomed in the 1970s. At the 1972 Christmas Luncheon, $1,025 was collected to honor Patterson Bain as a Paul Harris Fellow.

When Hermann Meyer became a club member in 1975, he enthusiastically supported the Rotary Foundation and in the same year became a Paul Harris Fellow. The next year at the District Conference in St. Louis, he arranged for Robert E. Lee Hill to be posthumously named a Paul Harris Fellow. Harlan Jensen and Charles J. Proctor followed his example, and by December 1984 there were 12 Paul Harris Fellows in the club. As of July 1, 1995, the club's $100 admission fee was designated as each new member's first contribution toward a Paul Harris Sustaining Fellowship. The Club is now proud to count more than 160 Paul Harris Fellows who are listed in the club's weekly newsletter.

The club has always met on Thursdays at noon. The original meeting place was the Daniel Boone Hotel and Tavern, where the club met through February 1975 when the facility was closed to be remodeled for local government offices. The club then met in the ballroom of the Tiger Hotel until 1990. Boone Tavern served as the next meeting place; however, the membership outgrew the meeting room, making it necessary to find new quarters. Dulany Hall at Columbia College has been the regular meeting place since June 1992.

The club has been very active in extending Rotary through the formation of new clubs. The club sponsored the Fulton club in 1923, the Boonville club in 1934, and the Columbia-Northwest club in 1970. It co-sponsored the Slater (1926), Fayette (1937), Columbia-South (1989) and Columbia-Metro (1992) clubs.

Dee Corn, the first female president of RC of Columbia, representing district 6080 will be Missouri's first female district governor in 2004-05, appropriately for the 100th anniversary of Rotary.


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