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Histories of Clubs of RI Presidents


Ron D. Burton

Norman Rotary Club History

The charter for the Norman Rotary Club was granted May 1, 1919. Twenty-two charter members met with classifications well diversified including then University of Oklahoma President Stratton D. Brooks. The new club was sponsored by Oklahoma City Rotary Club No. 29.

The Norman club started its activities that year in high gear. Thirty-five delegates--spouses included--to the district conference in Joplin, MO. Members wore red jackets, white trousers, and sailor hats. Ten students from the OU School of Music provided vocal entrainment for the conference.

From the beginning, Norman Rotarians took an active part in the community as a club and as individuals. Minutes of the first meeting record the appointment of a Boy Scout committee. During the twenties, the club treated children to an annual Christmas movie, bought a shelf-full of boys’ books for the then-fledgling city library, and equipped a playground on the Santa Fe right of way where Andrews Park is now located.

In the late 1920’s the club located and transported patients to the hospital for the Oklahoma Society of Crippled Children and registered one hundred percent membership in the Society for years. The club collected clothes for Near East Relief in 1921, and shoes for relief in the 1930’s. The contribution to the “Bundles for Britain Fund” in 1941 came from funds raised from the “Rotary Revue” at the Sooner Theatre. In the 1950’s the club supplied funds for a swimming pool and other furnishings for a new Norman facility known today as the J.D. McCarty Center for Handicapped Children.

The longtime tradition of recognizing high school students each month for their exceptional academics and activities has brought student leaders and Rotarians together at the weekly meetings. Each year two students have been selected to receive college scholarships. The club has sent students and counselors to the week-long RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership) camp.

Norman Rotarians have co-sponsored immunization clinics, supplied bike helmets for Safety Town, and helped build Kidspace at Reeves Park. Members have sponsored students to Boys State and Girls State, organized the first Norman safety council, promoted safety education in the schools, assisted FFA and 4-H clubs, and established Rotaract and Interact clubs.

A $25,000 contribution helped build the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. The Four Way Test speech contest has granted financial awards to high school speakers and sent many contestants on to win district competition. Unsung heroes in the community have been recognized with the Four Way Test Citizenship Award.

Since 1965 the club has helped District 5770 send and host twenty-two Group Study Exchange teams from all over the world. The countries have included South Africa, England, Australia, India, Brazil, Finland, France, Philippines, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway. High school students from Belgium, Hungary, Argentina, Germany, Peru, Russia, France, Chile, Mexico, and Italy have experienced Norman life in the homes of Rotarians. Outbound students have been sponsored to Peru, France, Belgium, Argentina, Switzerland, Chile, German, Turkey, and Switzerland. Outstanding international students at the University of Oklahoma have been recognized by the club each month. In recent years the club has participated in international projects in Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, and South Africa.

Two international directors, vice chair of The Rotary Foundation, and ten district governors have been Norman Rotarians. The club has continually supplied hardworking officers and committee chairs. Over the years, the Norman Club has been in eight different Rotary districts--numbers 11, 17, 124, 125,181,182, 577, and currently 5770. Members have met for lunch at fifteen different locations. The club sponsored the organization of the Sooner, Purcell, Cross Timbers, and Moore clubs. The financial contributions to the Rotary Foundation have grown over the years.

During the RI centennial celebration the club worked with the Sooner and Cross Timbers clubs to construct a new building for ILSY (Independent Living Services for Youth, now Bridges), participation in the United Way One Day of Sharing, and annual contributions to community services organizations. The club’s financial support of for the Rotary Foundation Scholars and International Service Projects has contributed to building international understanding and better lives worldwide.

The award of an RI grant for public relations provided funds for highway billboards and “I am a Rotarian because” information kiosks at Sooner Mall.

Working with the Sooner and Cross Timbers clubs, the club raised funds by participation in Le Tour de Vin, a fine wine and food event. Proceeds have benefited the Red Cross and an addition to Mary Abbott Children’s House. Resources have been committed to the Norman Parks and Recreation for refurbishing and enhancing the facilities of Rotary Park at Boyd and Wylie Road.

Over the years the projects have changed but the purpose of the Norman Rotary Club has remained the same, “Service Above Self.”

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