—PAUL P. HARRIS

Our 1.2 million-member organization started with the vision of one man—Paul P. Harris. The Chicago attorney formed one of the world’s first service organizations, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on 23 February 1905 as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s
early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member.


The Rotary Club of York Origin

The dream of a Rotary Club for York came to Morgan Gipe at a Harrisburg Rotary luncheon in November, 1915.  The courteous and friendly treatment given him by the members of the Harrisburg club impressed him with the conviction that such fine fellowship and enthusiasm must have back of it ideals helpful to the professional and business leaders of a community.  Morgan commended the club on its splendid spirit and voiced a desire for a similar club in York.

York Rotary Club History


In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson won re-election to remain in the White House, Pancho Villa and the United States Government were involved in armed skirmishes along the Mexican border, D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" was packing them in at movie theaters, storm clouds were gathering over Europe, a young poet named Carl Sandburg published "Chicago Poems" and -- on April 17 of that year -- the Rotary Club of York was born.

Chicago lawyer Paul P. Harris had organized the first Rotary Club only 11 years earlier. Harris came up with the concept for a club that would bring representatives from business and the professions together in friendship and understanding. Since the first meetings rotated among the members places of business, the name became known as "The Rotary Club."


In 1911, a Rotary Club was established in Harrisburg. York businessman Morgan E. Gipe attended a Harrisburg Club meeting as a guest in 1915, was impressed by what he experienced and decided to bring Rotary to York. An organizational meeting was held in York on March 31, 1916 and the charter meeting, with 27 members present, was held on April 17. Gipe was elected the first president and dues that first year were $10 a member. The club originally met at the Colonial Hotel on the Square in York. When the Yorktowne Hotel opened in 1925, it became the permanent meeting place for the club.

The Rotary Club of York is the oldest, continuous service organization in York County. Through its 83 years, The Rotary Club of York has developed a proud tradition of living up to the Rotary motto: "Service Above Self."


Far and away, the Rotary Club of York's major emphasis over the years has been children. As early as 1923, Rotary chartered a Boy Scout Troop.

An Educational Loan Fund was established in 1921 with individual Rotarians making themselves responsible for the bank loans. Across the years, more than half a million dollars in loans have been made available for students.

In 1924, the Rotary Club of York created a clinic for crippled children. That original clinic has now grown into the Growth and Development Clinic for Children through the York Hospital.

One of the Rotary Club's most visible programs has been International Youth Exchange. Both full year and short term (summer) programs are available. The York Rotary Club's Exchange Program is one of the most active in the Rotary District.

Since 1980, 99 York County full year student-ambassadors have been sent to countries ranging the alphabet from Argentina to Venezuela. In return, the Rotary Club of York has hosted 84 students from 28 countries - Australia to Zimbabwe. From 1987 to 1997, 75 students have participated in the summer exchanges.

Each month, the Rotary Club presents Youth Achievement awards to students selected by one of the highs schools in the Rotary service area. In addition, young musicians are invited to perform before the Rotary Club membership.

The club supports a successful Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program at York City's William Penn Senior High School.


On the recreational side, the Rotary Club developed a tract of wooded land on Rathton Road known as Baumgartner's Woods. After the improvements were made to the area, it was renamed Rotary Woods.

In addition to service, Rotary means education and information. At its weekly meetings in the Ballroom of the Yorktowne Hotel, the Rotary Club of York presents speakers and programs on important issues.

Speakers have included composer and conductor John Philip Sousa in 1926, columnist Drew Pearson in 1932, actor and later President Ronald Reagan in 1957. Business and civic leaders, Senators and Congressmen, Governors and Secretaries, Generals and GIs have all spoken from the Rotary dais.

Through war and peace, the Rotary Club of York has endured. One especially emotional moment took place in 1943 when the club was informed that fellow Rotarian Rabbi Alexander D. Goode was missing in action after the ship he was aboard was torpedoed in the North Atlantic. He was the first Rotary Club of York member to die in World War II. He has gone down in history as one of the famous Four Chaplains who gave up their own lives aboard that sinking ship by handing their life jackets to other soldiers so they could survive.

The club is actively involved in the welfare of our fellow citizen. A separate committee promotes adult literacy in York. The Preserve Planet Earth committee is concerned about making residents aware of the need to respect our ecology. The newest committee, The Career Network, assists York Countians in locating meaningful jobs.

The Rotary Club of York's Charitable Endowment Fund provides funding for programs that directly and positively impact the lives of children in York and York County.


Along with its Youth Exchange and Ambassadorial Scholarship programs, the Rotary Club of York has been active on the international scene, reflecting Rotary's goals of World Understanding. In 1987-88, the Rotary club of York raised more than $320,000 to help eradicate polio around the world during Rotary's Polio Plus campaign.

The local Rotary Foundation helps fund Rotary's work on an international scale and the club has been an active participant in Group Study Exchanges, which send local business people overseas and brings foreign business people to our area.


In 1988 a major change took place in the Rotary Club of York when the first women were admitted to the previously all male membership. The Rotary Club of York does not discriminate against any one because of race, religion or sex. The fellowship that takes place during the luncheon meal is a driving force of the Rotary Club of York and harkens back to the origins of the organization.

A separate Rotarians Networking program allows members of the Rotary Club of York to visit the businesses of other Rotarians and to get to know them on a one-on-one basis.

Now the largest Rotary Club in Pennsylvania, the membership is made up of 331 top business people and community leaders in York. As success breeds success, in the last decade the club has sponsored two other clubs: York-North and York-East.

Ready to make history with us? Get involved.