On 23 February 1905, Paul Percy Harris (Attorney) and 3 of his friends from different vocations, gathered at an office in Room 711 of the Unity Building in downtown Chicago. This was the first Rotary club meeting. They decided to call the new club “Rotary” after the practice of rotating meeting locations.

Within five years, other rotary clubs had formed across the country, from San Francisco to New York and in August 1910, Rotarians held their first convention in Chicago. 16 clubs that existed at that time united to form the National Association of Rotary Clubs. In 1912, the name changed to International Association of Rotary Clubs to reflect the addition of other countries’ Rotary Clubs. The name Rotary International was adopted in 1922. By July 1925, Rotary had grown to more than 2,000 clubs and an estimated 108,000 members on six continents.

Rotary's reputation attracted presidents, prime ministers, and a host of other luminaries to its ranks. As Rotary grew, members pooled their resources and used their talents to serve their communities. The organization's dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: Service Above Self.





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A man of unique ideas, Rotary's founder Paul P Harris was a small town boy who moved to Chicago to pursue his legal career. He longed to bring to the big city life, the warmth of friendship and camaraderie that is taken for granted in small towns. He was always on the move, to explore and learn more about societies and people. For instance, instead of attaching himself to one congregation, he would attend services in different churches. He was a mischievous child who was expelled from school, went on to study under private tutors and then attended Princeton College. He felt that there must be other young men such as himself from farm towns who have come to make a life in the city, who may be longing for fellowship. The birth of Rotary happe ned because of this idea.



O God, Creator all things,

Father of Mankind

We thank Thee for inspiring our Founder

With the Principles of Rotary

Based on the high ideals of morality

We implore Thee to help us Rotarians

To imbibe deeply the true Rotary Spirit And

to Labour incessantly for the

Establishment of Peace and

goodwill Among all people

For the elimination of all bars of

colour, creed and clime

For the removal of economic

and social barriers

And for the proper understanding

of the sanctity of human personality

And the dignity of labour

So that all individuals, all families and all nations

May live in amity and fellowship

And unite around thy Holy feet….

And hail thee as Thou really art

– Our One, True, Eternal

And all Loving Father.



The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

  • The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service
  • High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian's occupation as an opportunity to serve society
  • The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian's personal, business, and community life;
  • The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service



The Four-Way Test is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships. The test has been translated into more than 100 languages, and Rotarians recite it at club meetings:

Of the things we think, say or do

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?