Lesson from an Old Memory

Lesson from an Old Memory
The following article, which appeared in The Rotarian in January of 1935, continues the series of informal essays from the men who have been at the helm of the movement that has become Rotary International.
Arch C. Klumph, the sixth Rotary President and the “Father of The Rotary Foundation”,
presents this overview on the Foundation, its prospects, and its future.
In his presentation, President Klumph refers to a “certain member of the editorial staff of THE ROTARIAN who finally “cornered” him to get him to write this article. While we don’t have a document stating that he was responsible, it appears that the editorial staff member referred to was Leland Case, the magazine’s editor. A few years later, an attempt to oust Case was made, and language similar to Klumph’s was used as one of the reasons.

The series, called a Past President's Page, ran in The Rotarian in the mid 1930s. Those submitting Past President's Pages included Paul Harris, Glenn Mead, Russell Greiner, Frank Mulholland, Allen Albert and Arch Klumph.

Lesson from an Old Memory

By Arch C. Klumph
President of Rotary International (1916-17)

DURING the forty-five years of my business life I have encountered many expert and superb salesmen, but never one more capable than a certain member of the editorial staff of THE ROTARIAN; his method is persistence and determination with "numerous repetitions." He started on me in April. I countered with postponements. He attacked again in July. I sidestepped with excuses. In September I dodged him on numerous occasions, but recently he got me cornered in a room, a very small room, at headquarters. He stood between me and the door (he will not deny the truth of this scene) and began his sales talk on an article for the magazine. So in desperation I replied with much emphasis: "All right, all right, all right." Thus when I have finished this task what a relief to feel that he will no longer be dogging my footsteps and disturbing my peace of mind.

I was not allowed to choose my topic­­–this fellow prescribed it for me: "The Rotary Foundation." And so now to the subject:

After many years of discussion and thought, President "Don" Adams in 1925 took the first step toward final plans for acquiring a Rotary endowment fund. Each subsequent administration has given ~support to the movement. The conventions of 1927 and 1928 by unanimous vote provided the necessary constitutional and by-law provisions.

The foundation is merely an instrument or department established by Rotary International to administer the endowment fund under the jurisdiction of five trustees appointed by the president and Board of Directors, each trustee serving a term of five years, one only retiring each year. It is possible that in the years to come this fund may reach into the millions. Thus the necessity of trustees serving a long term. Experience and business prudence have proven that philanthropists will not bequeath large sums to institutions where the management of the funds is changed every twelve months, whether it be officers, directors, trustees, boards of control, or any other group.

It was intended that the Board of Directors in appointing these trustees would select men of long and well-known experience in Rotary, men capable of investing the funds and upon whose judgment the income or corpus would be wisely directed. An amendment to the by-laws has recently been recommended, which will provide that the Board of Trustees shall automatically consist of the five immediate past presidents. Here you will have experience by the "men of the hour," and as the individual Rotarians throughout the world (through their club representatives) elect Rotary International's presidents, so they will, at the same time, be selecting the future foundation trustees.

But perhaps you ask: Now that Rotary has gone through the depression without serious financial loss, why do we need to worry about the future? Why a foundation?

Well, my answer is that if any individual will write me a letter stating that we are through with this depression, I will pack up my few belongings and migrate at once to his town.

Other capable thinkers say: "We are just entering the depression." I choose a middle-of-the-road prophecy: "We are slowly licking the mightiest economic famine in the world's history but probably four more years will be needed to finish the job. But whenever it is finished, we shall not come out through the door, which we entered. We will come out to a much changed social and economic order one in which there will be fewer great wealths and more modest but better distributed incomes."

| ANALYZE Rotary's future growth and success as comparable to the science of airplane motivity. The plane must keep going at a rapid speed to stay up. If it marks time, it falls. Just so with Rotary.

In 1914, Rotary kept going on two activities—Club Service and Community Service. The total expense of operation that year was less than $20,000. Now supposing we had stopped there, would we be alive today? Would our membership have increased from less than 20,000 to 152,000, from 120 clubs to 3,700 clubs, and would Rotary be established in some 70 nations and/or geographical divisions? But we went ahead rapidly, adding Vocational Service, Boys' Work, Crippled Children Work, International Service, and many other worthy undertakings, all of which has resulted in an annual expense in 1934-35 of approximately $646,000.

What can we see ahead of us in the way of further extension? Today there are certain nations with populations of approximately 45,000,000; one has fourteen Rotary clubs, another twenty-nine. There is a possibility that each of these countries may eventually have 700 clubs. So it is not an idle dream to prophesy Rotary in 1950 with 10,000 clubs.

Rotary will constantly find it necessary to seek new fields of service. Think of the possibilities of helpful service in developments in science, education, art, health protection. When we mention the possibility of unusual emergencies or catastrophes in the future, some scoff at the idea, but let me suggest that they take down from the shelf that musty and aged book entitled "History," wipe off the dust, and read the experiences of the past thousand years­–then think.

Rotary has a surplus of $634,000–just about the amount required to cover one year's operation, if its income were interrupted–and this is not beyond the; bounds of possibility at all. So you see, while we are very proud of our present financial condition, yet our future is nevertheless deserving of thought.

Are we restricted to certain specific uses of the income?

The by-laws of Rotary International very wisely provide for the necessary flexibility. Permanent endowments, where income only is to be used, are restricted by the statutes of many states to charity and education. Court decisions, however, have so interpreted the term "charity and education" that it would apply to almost all of Rotary's activities. The Trustees of the Foundation, with the approval of the Board of Directors of Rotary International, may determine from time to time the most essential needs. However, any donor may specify a purpose for his gift, which the trustees may accept or reject. ~ The Sixth Object of Rotary provides unlimited opportunities for the use of an endowment fund of large proportions. There is a strong belief at the present time that Rotary could render a service of immeasurable value by sending from nation to nation men of outstanding ability to carry the message not only of the Sixth Object but of the whole spirit of Rotary–the ideal of service.

The recent Rotary tour of immediate Past President John Nelson brought great credit not only to himself, but, more particularly to the organization. Word comes from every country he visited testifying to the good seed, which he planted.

How should we build the Foundation?

It is to be done by voluntary participation only. It is neither to be an assessment nor a tax, nor are participating members or dubs expected to take upon themselves the slightest burden. It is believed, however, that there are tens of thousands of Rotarians who will look upon this opportunity as a real privilege, men who feel that Rotary has done much for them, who sincerely believe in its purposes and objects. Then there are other men who are seeking ways and means of leaving some part of their wealth where it may do the greatest good for humanity. What better equipped organization or institution than Rotary International can be found to be entrusted with such funds?

Contributions may be made by outright gifts of cash or property of any kind, or through the channel of life insurance. Also by bequests made in wills. In addition to this, the Rotary Foundation provides pledge certificates of three denominations–$100, $500, $1,000–payable in ten years in annual installments.

What greater satisfaction could a Rotarian have than to realize that the income from a $100 pledge certificate would pay his per capita tax each year in perpetuity? As one member recently said, "I now can feel that I will be playing a part in Rotary's development and success for centuries to come and long after I am gone."


MANY years ago when a boy of twelve, I went to visit my grandparents who lived on a farm. On Sunday they took me to the Meetin' House (as they called it) for divine worship, a lovely little white frame church of old New England architecture. The grounds surrounding the edifice were jammed with horses and buggies, two and three seated rigs, and farm wagons. The church was filled.

I was at once awed by the figure of a tall old man with flowing hair and beard of white, who took charge of everything but the sermon (he allowed the preacher to do that). He passed the hymn books, then sat in the pulpit; he sang the loudest, prayed the longest, and during the sermon kept shouting "Amen!"

Forty years later in a reminiscent mood I drove by the old farm and by the old church, but the sight was a sad one–doors and windows gone, openings boarded up, front steps decayed and broken, the roof caved in.

Five years later I again passed this same way. The old church was gone, nothing left to mark the spot. An old farmer, leaning on his hoe, came hobbling along.

"Stranger, can you tell me what happened to the old church?" said I.

Looking up and wiping his eyes to see who was speaking, he cleared his throat and then replied, "Yes sir, my friend, I know all about it. You see, the old church was a purty lively place for many years, two services on Sunday and Sunday school, Christmas trees, summer picnics, and all that sort of thing—it was the life of this whole section. But in late years we come to have too many deacons, sittin' in the front rows, coin' all the speakin' and shoutin', and too few reg'lar folks in the back pews who occasionally put a nickel in the plate. The old preacher died, some said of starvation. Wasn't enough money to hire a new one, so the old church had to close up and now it's gone, all–(here he choked up but finally continued) gone."

Pulling himself together and leaning heavily on his hoe, the old farmer wearily continued on his way.

I am often reminded of the lesson contained in the old man's words.

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