Our History

A Brief History of The Rotary Club of Carbondale

The Rotary Club of Carbondale has had six District Governors from its membership. Current members Harvey Welch, Jr., J. C. Garavalia, and Sidney Matthews are shown above with District Governor Tom Ripperda (second from left) in 2012.

Rotary International was founded in 1905 in Chicago by Paul Harris, a lawyer desiring to meet people of other professions and businesses.  It soon became a service organization, under the motto, “Service Above Self.”  Rotary clubs spread rapidly, becoming international in 1912.  By 1920 there were 1,000 clubs, including clubs in Europe and Asia.  Currently there are around 29,000 Rotary clubs organized into 530 districts in 160 countries – about 1.2 million Rotarians.

Southern Illinois had twoRotary clubs in 1920 — East St. Louis and Harrisburg.  The Harrisburg club helped start the Carbondale club on May 1, 1920.  In 1922 the Carbondale club helped start Rotary clubs in Herrin and Murphysboro, and in 1988 the Rotary Club of Carbondale-Breakfast.  Also in 1988, the Rotary Club of Nakajo, Japan, became a sister club in the city where SIUC had had a branch campus.

There are now 48 clubs in District 6510, Southern Illinois.  The Carbondale clubs are rather unique in having about half of their members from different sections of Southern Illinois University.  Rotary seeks members from different businesses and professions, to obtain a cross-section of the community.  There are no distinctions to nationality, race, religion or gender.

The Rotary Club of Carbondale has been especially interested in education and international affairs, along with regular community and vocational services.  The Club supports the District in sending college Rotary Ambassadors for a year of study abroad, in exchanging groups of five non-Rotarian young business and professional persons to districts in other countries for six weeks through the Group Study Exchange program, and in bringing crippled children from Belize, Central America, for rehabilitation at Shriners Hospital in St. Louis.  High School students are exchanged with students in other countries through the International Youth Exchange program, and world community service projects help countries in need.  Rotary International has been participating since 1988 with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) in working toward the elimination of polio worldwide.

The Rotary Club of Carbondale was founded on May 1, 1920, as the third Rotary Club of Southern Illinois. It has been unique in District 6510 with about half of its members employed by Southern Illinois University, and the other half coming from business and professional leaders in the community. Special emphasis has been placed on educational and international contacts. The large number of international students at SIU, including some Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars, increases the Club’s international concern and opportunities. The first African-American member, John Q. Clark, joined the Club in 1957. The first woman member, Gayla Borgognoni, joined in 1988, after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that the exclusion of women constituted illegal discrimination.

The second Rotary Club in Carbondale, the Rotary Club of Carbondale-Breakfast, was established by the first Club in 1988. A committee of the Club assisted in the establishment of the new Rotary Club of Greater Carterville in 1998, with the Rotary Club of Carbondale – Breakfast taking the lead.  The Club’s 75th Anniversary was celebrated at a special banquet on May 17, 1995.  The District 6510 Conference was in Carbondale, May 4-6, 2001.  The year 2012 is the 92nd year of the Club, and the 107th year of Rotary International.