joined in a discussion about the importance of the dignity in
the presentation of a Paul Harris Fellow.
is why The Rotary Foundation has the beautiful medallion on a
blue and gold ribbon, in order that it can actually be presented
around the neck of the individual, along with the certificate
and lapel pin to show that it is an event of special
When someone commented that the
presentation itself "gives a PHF its true value as a recognition
of exceptional service," I felt that a little more explaining
should be made. Certainly, to recognize a person as a Paul
Harris Fellow should always be an honor to the individual,
because it demonstrates significant support for the wonderful
work of The Rotary Foundation.. But, just as a Paul Harris
Fellow can be a "recognition of exceptional service," it can
also be many other things, as well.
To describe a PHF only in terms
of "exceptional service" is far too limiting for the entire
Rotary world, and totally disregards the historical background
of the expression of appreciation for a very generous
contribution to The Rotary Foundation. If we did not think much
broader in describing a Paul Harris Fellow, and realize it is
primarily a magnificent way to raise money for The Foundation, I
assure you that The
Rotary Foundation would
not be one of the great humanitarian and educational foundations
of the world. What is the historical fact?
A few years ago, when I was a
Trustee of The Rotary Foundation, I went back and read all of
the minutes of the Trustees during the year l956-57. In the year
l956, the total contributions to The Rotary Foundation were a
little less than $500,000 US dollars ( $493,722 to be exact).
The Trustees began to think about how they could raise more
money for the Foundation. What would be a good way to encourage
Rotarians to give "big money"?
finally came up with the idea of trying to get some Rotarians to
give $1000 in one major gift, by giving them a special form of
public recognition. So, it was suggested that we call them "Paul
There were three conditions: the
contribution must be at least $1000; it must be from one
individual; and it must be given within a single year. A very
attractive pin and medallion were designed as a means to
identify this type of generous donor. As you recognize, in l957,
a monetary gift of $1000 was a very substantial amount of money.
So, there weren't too many gifts, and thus, very few Paul Harris
Fellows. As time went by, it was decided that The Foundation
could collect more money if the gift could be collected and
given over several years, and after there was a total
accumulation of $1000, the Trustees would designate the person
as a Paul Harris Fellow.
Later, it was suggested, that if
a club did not have just one person who could give a $1000 in a
personal contribution, maybe several persons could go together
and make the $1000 gift. Then the question was raised, "Who will
be the person who is named the Paul Harris Fellow?" Gradually,
the answer was for the donors or the Rotary club to pick one
person who had long service, or some distinguishing
characteristics, and name him or her as the PHF. Thus, in some
clubs, the concept developed that a Paul Harris Fellow was just
an award for exceptional service. The result was, that in those
clubs a Paul Harris Fellow took on a totally different meaning
(a reward for exceptional service) from its original purpose --
to encourage individual Rotarians to give larger contributions
to The Rotary Foundation.
Ironically, in those clubs which
chose to limit the Paul Harris Fellow recognition to a form of
an "award for exceptional service," many Rotarians were
discouraged from making large personal gifts to The Rotary
Foundation since it might be interpreted as giving merely
seeking or buying an "award." So, the per capita giving in those
areas of the world is much lower than those areas where the
concept of a Paul Harris Fellow is the original expression of
appreciation by The Rotary Foundation Trustees for an
individual, or in whose name, a gift of $1000 is given to
conduct the work of The Foundation. Has the Paul Harris Fellow
recognition by the Trustees been successful as a fund raising
scheme? Absolutely! As I mentioned above, in l956, less than
$500,000 was raised annually by The Foundation.
Today, nearly $70,000,000 is
raised per year -- and about 80% of those funds come from
individuals being named Paul Harris Fellows, or are naming other
persons Paul Harris Fellows. The last time I checked, there were
about 700,000 Paul Harris Fellows, and multi-Fellows in the
world. They are the backbone of the annual support to The Rotary
Foundation, and those donations are the only reason that enables
Rotarians to carry on a world-wide program of educational and
So, what is a Paul Harris Fellow?
Think for a moment of this statement: "A Paul Harris Fellow
means whatever you want it to mean." Should The Rotary
Foundation accept a $1000 contribution as a way to honor a
person for exceptional service? Certainly.
Should The Rotary Foundation
accept a gift of $1000 as an expression of happiness for 20
years of marriage, or a new grandchild, or success in one's
vocation or family life? Of course.
Should The Rotary Foundation
accept a $1000 contribution in memory of a friend, relative or
associate who has been an important asset to your life?
Should The Rotary Foundation
accept $1000 if you really believe in the tremendous value of
the humanitarian work of TRF in developing parts of the world
and thereby express appreciation for your gift by naming you a
Paul Harris Fellow or multi-PHF? Absolutely.
So, I suggest that a Paul Harris
Fellow can mean whatever you wish it to mean. The Rotary
Foundation benefits from your contribution and demonstrates this
appreciation through the mechanism of a Paul Harris Fellow. That
is the way I see it."
Cliff Dochterman RI President, l992-93
Read the history of The
Rotary Foundation of Rotary International
Read the history of Paul