Due to tremendous Rotary club growth in Corvallis during the early 1970s, Sharon Eichelberger, District 511 governor, suggested that a second Rotary club be formed. Robert Holcomb, a Rotarian from the Thursday Corvallis club agreed to chair the committee that would recruit and mentor the new club. Weekly meetings began in July 1976 at the Big O Restaurant located on Fourth Street. Soon a constitution and by-laws were drafted, and on October 29, 1976, Rotary Club of Greater Corvallis received the official charter from Rotary International.
To celebrate, the hosting Corvallis club held a charter dinner on January 8, 1977, at Nendel’s Inn. About 300 people were on hand to hear dignitaries such as Chief Justice Arno Deneke of the Oregon Supreme Court and District 511 GovernorBill Berg welcome the newly chartered club.
Charter members included: Alan Christensen, Lawrence Clark, David Crockatt, John Davis, John Dennis, Phillip Doud, James Eickelberg, Scott Fewel, Gerry Inman, Patrick Lafferty, Lawrence Lahm, Henry Langhaim, William Lloyd, Tom McCullough, L.L. Nelson, Wilmer Post, Donald Powell, Dale Ramsay, Ralph Risley, Franklin Rosumny, Dale Schrock, Nicolai Shur, David Smith, Jack Stowaser, John Swensen, and William Wick.
John Swensen was elected as the first president of the newly formed Rotary Club of Greater Corvallis, and he quickly organized committees and set the first year’s goals. A notable accomplishment was a food booth at the Corvallis Fall Festival with proceeds donated to the Good Samaritan Hospital. So successful was the project that the club continues it as an annual event. The club found uniqueness by initiating a “3-NOs” philosophy that is still practiced today: no fining, no smoking, and no singing. Under such early leaders as Pat Lafferty, president in 1977-78, membership was strong and weekly meetings were enjoyed with a good mixture of humor, fellowship, altruistic functions, and quality programs. There was little membership growth during the early years. Members believed there was a fellowship advantage in having a smaller number of highly committed members. This philosophy, however, began to change during the mid-1980s as a new leadership began to emerge.
The last half of the 1980s and early 1990s saw a series of unusually strong leaders at the helm. These individuals brought change and a number of successes to the Rotary Club of Greater Corvallis. Starting in 1987 under the leadership of Gary Campbell, who went on to become District 5110 Governor in 1994-95, the club grew significantly in organization, membership, and achievement. Gary Campbell’s high level of success spanned the full Rotary spectrum, bringing a new international perspective to the club, expanding the committee structure, and revising the bylaws and policies.
One notable accomplishment involved Rotary International’s Polio Plus, a program intended to stamp out polio worldwide. Mike Sheets chaired the program, and the club surpassed its initial fundraising goal of $16,000 by raising $25,000. In addition during Mike’s presidency in 1989-90, the club proved it could be successful in another major fundraising project called the Miata Ball—a black tie event in which a Miata sports car was auctioned. Steve Fuller, president in 1990-91, expanded the club’s community service projects. His roll-up-your-sleeves attitude put Rotarians face-to-face, hand-in-hand with those in need, and strengthened our club’s hands-on involvement in the community. Fuller’s programs increased community visibility and included such service projects as the Special Needs Picnic, Senior Citizens Barbecue, and the Communitywide Garage Sale programs. Excellent leadership and programs continued with the Sports Book program, a fundraiser for the local high schools introduced by Steve Uerlings, who was president in 1997-98. Scott Zimbrick held the presidency in 2001-02 and received the District 5110 Rotarian of the Year award for his leadership and club growth.
Although it’s not possible to include a complete listing of individual Rotarian contributions here, it is important to note one more significant contribution during this era. Rotary International admitted women into Rotary in 1987. Joanne Kersey, president in 1994-95, came into the Rotary Club in 1988 immediately following the rule change. Her abilities in committee and organizational management allowed her to work well in what was then an all-male club. As president, Joanne had an active and successful year. She served not only as our club’s first woman president but blazed the way as the first area woman president. She set the stage in establishing Rotarian women as strong, effective leaders of Rotary.
From its inception in 1976, the Rotary Club of Greater Corvallis has been a supporter of BCF. This fund, established through membership contributions, supports a variety of charitable programs through BCF’s annual community grants cycle.