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2007/ Board, Secretary 07/13,
New Zealand History
Norman R. Winterbottom "1905 Society" 2010
The Origins of Group Study Exchange
RGHF History Committee
In 1950 a group of six young men from Great Britain under Dr Geoff Morton and financed by some Rotary clubs in the County of Yorkshire, travelled to New Zealand. They were billeted and hosted by Rotarians as they travelled through the country.
In 1955, when New Zealand was divided into only two Districts, Dr Ralph Vernon of the Auckland club, recalling that visit, proposed as a Rotary Jubilee project, the establishment of a Rotary Overseas Travel Award, whereby groups of six young men could travel overseas under the leadership of a Rotarian. While Rotary Foundation Fellowships provided for university graduates, this programme provided for non-graduates. The scheme was enthusiastically embraced by all clubs in the northern District, (No.39) and was financed by donations of $2.00 per member.
In September, 1956 a team under John Ledgerwood left New Zealand and spent nineteen weeks touring 15 Rotary Districts in Great Britain and one member, Mel Cooper of Kaitaia subsequently became District Governor of District 292 in 1981-82. Initially the programme was intended for one year only, but it proved so successful that it was continued annually by District 39. The list of exchanges with the names of the leaders is as follows:-
1956: To Great Britain - Sept to Dec (John Ledgerwood)
1957: To USA Pacific States - August ((Vic Butler)
1958-59 From USA Pacific States - (Dr Lyman Partridge)
1960 From India - Mar to May -(Janshid Italia)
1960 To India & Sri Lanka – Nov - (Les Colgan)
1962 From India & West Pakistan – Feb to Apr - (Dr Nagori)
To Japan via Australia & Indonesia – June to Sep - (Gordon Parker)
1963 From Japan – Mar to May - (Tamotau Murayama)
1964 To Malaysia & Thailand – Dec ’63 to Feb ’64 – (Bert Dreaver)
In 1959-60 Harold T. Thomas of the Auckland club became RI president and resulting from many favourable comments regarding the value of ROTA, the Board of RI became conscious of the value of the programme. At this time, more funds were becoming available through the Rotary Foundation. Ralph Vernon was invited to visit Chicago and discuss the programme with the result that RI assumed control of the programme through the Rotary Foundation under the name of Group Study Exchange, with the first exchanges taking place in 1965. Because of United States taxation laws, close family members of Rotarians are precluded from participation in GSE
“G r o u p S t u d y E x c h a n g e”
Rotary Foundation Presentation
by Rotarian Frank Deaver
Group Study Exchange
Provided by RGHF History Committee Member Norm Winterbottom, New Zealand, 27 March 2007
A USA-Mexico Group Study Exchange team stands on the edge of the Barranca Sinforosa during a break from their Group Study Exchange scientific exploration.
The Group Study Exchange (GSE) program of The Rotary Foundation is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for young business and professional men and women between the ages of 25 and 40 and in the early years of their professional lives. The program provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits between paired areas in different countries. For four to six weeks, team members experience the host country's institutions and ways of life, observe their own vocations as practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.
For each team member, The Rotary Foundation provides the most economical round-trip air ticket between the home and host countries. Local Rotarians in the host area provide for meals, lodging, and group travel within their district. (From the website of Rotary International)
Historic Moments: Origins of Group Study Exchange
By Susan Hanf and Lauren Kalal
Rotary International News -- 16 March 2011 (Susan Hanf is an honorary member of RGHF)
Group Study Exchange team members visit a nuclear research project near Geneva, circa 1967. From the November 1967 issue of The Rotarian.
In January 1964, the RI Board of Directors and The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees approved Group Study Exchange as an official Rotary program. Thirty-four teams from 17 pairs of districts participated in the first round of exchanges during the 1965-66 and 1966-67 Rotary years.
But young people had been traveling the globe with support from Rotary clubs well before this decision. In 1950, six young men from England went to New Zealand, led by English Rotarian Geoff Morton and financed by clubs in Yorkshire. They traveled the country, staying with Rotarians along the way.
Rotarian Ralph Vernon proposed a similar endeavor in 1955 to clubs in northern New Zealand, who wanted to commemorate Rotary’s golden anniversary with a district wide effort. District 39 (now districts 9910, 9920, 9930, and 9940) created the Rotary Overseas Travel Award program, and John Ledgerwood, of the Rotary Club of Hamilton, led the first team on a trip to Great Britain.
The program was so successful that district leaders in New Zealand decided to continue it after the anniversary celebrations had ended. Over the next few years, teams from New Zealand traveled to Canada, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, and the United States. New Zealand Rotarians welcomed visitors from these countries as well as from Pakistan.
In the early 1960s, the Trustees began considering programs for non-Rotarians that would promote international goodwill and understanding. One plan was for small groups of young business and professional men to travel from one Rotary district to a district in another country.
Harold T. Thomas, a New Zealand Rotarian who served as RI president in 1959-60, shared information about the Rotary Overseas Travel Award with the Trustees. Soon after the Board and Trustees approved Group Study Exchange, Vernon and other Rotarians with experience in group exchanges and vocational training were invited to finalize the details of the new Foundation program.
In the nearly five decades since, more than 70,000 young men and women have traveled the globe as part of Group Study Exchange teams. Posted March 2011 by Paul McLain.
Tracing the Roots of GSE, now VTT . . .
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” is a quote attributed to the famous humanitarian, Mother Teresa. No other statement could so aptly describe the impact that Rotary Group Study Exchange (G.S.E.) experience has had on one’s self, family, friends, and colleagues.
In fact, the over 60 year ‘ripple effect’ of Rotary’s G.S.E. program has resulted in a tidal wave of loving and ongoing friendships, resulting in goodwill, improved world understanding and peace. One does not have to travel far in any community to find examples of someone touched by Rotary through this area of International Service. Many participants have personally grown and developed into industry, community and political leaders.
My personal introduction to Rotary came in 1977 when a local Rotarian from Galt, Ontario, Robert Lovett, invited me to apply for a G.S.E. As a result of his simple phone call and a successful application, I traveled as a team member to Western Australia, where District 945 (Now 9455) Rotarians helped make the Rotary spark come alive. Little did that member know back then that he was casting a stone across the water to create a ripple effect that would replicate and grow over the next 3O years.
Few Rotarians are aware that seeds for the original G.S.E. concept were sown as far back as 1950 in Auckland, New Zealand. The idea of an exchange for business and professional people was first born during February and March of that year when Rotarians in the area hosted a group of six young men from Yorkshire (England), led by Dr. Geoff Morton. Eventually this exchange became a pattern for a similar one in 1956, which became a pilot program known as
ROTA (Rotary Overseas Travel Award).
One Rotarian who has followed the development and growth of G.S.E. through the years is PDG Ronald Thomas (95/96) of D9920 in Auckland, (With RGHF member PDG Doug Vincent) NZ, who, along with his father and uncles, were involved right from the start. In fact, Ron is the sixth District Governor to come from his family tree and it was a special pleasure to visit him and his wife, Denise at a dinner in their home, tracing the roots of this great program.
While reviewing the early stages of what would eventually become G.S.E., it was interesting to read the history and hear how, as a young boy, Thomas would overhear the Rotary committee meetings hosted by his father in their home. The ROTA idea was originally put forward in 1955 by Dr. Ralph Vernon as the District (39) project for Rotary’s (50th) Golden Anniversary year.
The exchange idea was patterned along the lines of the previous one in 1950 and actually took place in September of 1956 when six team members, lead by John Ledgerwood, traveled to Great Britain for a two-month excursion.
Rotarians liked and supported the program because it brought Rotary into contact with younger groups of people, including the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Young Farmers’ Clubs and Senior Secondary School students. Each member in the district contributed $2. that year to fund the project.
Following this second successful exchange experience, the District continued with the project over the next few years with the same financial arrangements. Exchanges were made with USA, Canada, India, Ceylon, Malaysia, Thailand Japan and Pakistan. Since then, the district has been involved pioneering special exchanges such as an all female team from the U.S. and the first District to have a G.S.E. with Korea, lead by PDG David Oakley.
Rotarian John Craig was part of the committee that created ROTA in 1955 and he worked on developing the exchange guidelines and details. He was District Governor in 1959/1960 when Harold Thomas, Ron’s uncle, was Rotary International President. Presumably through this connection, word of the successful ROTA project reached the headquarters office and other Rotary districts around the world.
By 1963 the program was submitted to Rotary Foundation for consideration to conduct worldwide exchanges. It was supported by the Rotary Foundation Trustees and Past R.I. President Harold Thomas from N.Z. Subsequently, Rotarians John Craig and Ralph Vernon, prime architects of the program in Auckland, assisted Evanston staff to design the “Exchanges of Study Groups” program which received final approval from the Foundation Trustees and R.I. Board of Directors in January 1964.
Since then, the name was streamlined to G.S.E. (Group Study Exchange) and the program has had various policy and procedure refinements through the years. One thing that has not changed, however, is the overall purpose of helping improve world understanding through exchange visits of outstanding business professionals to develop good will and peace for the benefit of all mankind. This ripple effect grows and improves the world, one friendship at a time.
Like those above, many Rotarians have unknowingly cast stones upon the water through the years, causing ripples. And, like many G.S.E. participants, I became a Rotarian and got involved in club activities and district committees. Eventually, several years later, I had more good fortune and participated in a second G.S.E., as Team Leader to the Philippines.
Little did those few Rotarians know, back in 1950, that many lives would be changed and improved around the world as a result of their activities then. Once again, evidence that one person or one idea, really can make a difference.
And . . . what about you? Have you cast a stone. . . . or felt the ripple?
Submitted 23 May 2014 by RGHF member PDG Doug Vincent
New Zealand History
The First Two Clubs of New Zealand
History of District 9910
History of District 9930
Rotary Club of Norfolk Island, the First Club of Norfolk Island
The History of Group Study Exchanges
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