Rotary celebrates milestone

Iola Rotarians will celebrate their 100th anniversary with a festive event Sunday evening at the Allen County Country Club.

The club was organized on Dec. 27, 1917, and chartered, under auspices of Chanute Rotarians, on May 1, 1918.

Following Sunday evening’s obligatory introductions and recognitions, Judy Brigham, District 6110 governor, will discuss the impact Iola’s Rotary Club has had through its many avenues of service.

Brigham is the third district governor spawned by the Iola club, following in the footsteps of Dr. A.R. (Baldy) Chambers in 1946-47 and Dr. C. Ellis Potter, in 2007-08.

She also was president of Iola Rotary in 2003-04, and her spouse, Tom Brigham, will take the reins for 2018-19. Making her Rotary role even more of a family affair, Judy’s great uncle by marriage, Newton J. Brigham, was president in 1928-29.

She is well-known to Iolans for her several years as city clerk and city administrator.

IOLA ROTARY has a rich history, both in its members’ collective efforts in fulfilling the Rotary pledge to put “service above self” in helping to make Iola and the area, as well as the world, a better place. Members individually also have had notable impacts, including Thomas H. Bowlus, whose generosity made possible construction of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, a feature of undisputed import.

Rotary was founded in Chicago on Feb. 23, 1905, by Paul P. Harris, a young lawyer who gathered in a spirit of fellowship and understanding a group of men, each engaged in a different form of service to the public.

During the 1987-88 year, women were given membership privileges, which provided the club a broader vista of service opportunities. Of the Iola club’s 49 members, 20 are women.

One of the longest-tenured public commitments of Iola Rotarians has been to award a watch to the graduating male of Iola High School — sometimes several — who had the best scholastic record throughout high school. That started in 1925 and next month several more will be awarded.

“Other popular projects in the period before World War II included the Rotary Boys Band, amalgamated with the Iola High band to become the nucleus for the present Marching Mustangs, of which Iola is justly proud,” wrote longtime Rotarian Clyde Toland in a comprehensive history of the club.

“After the war, the Iola club helped to spark a citywide improvement plan, which included construction of unit added to the municipal power plant, modernization of the water plant, new street lights and an extensive street repaving program,” Toland wrote.


years Rotarians, here and worldwide, have worked to virtually eliminate polio. That began in 1985 and to date more than $500 million has been raised to immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries.

In 1989, the club raised enough money to erect the “Welcome to Iola” sign along U.S. 54 at the east entrance of town. That sign was updated in 2013 to note Iola was founded in 1859.

In 1995, at the behest of Emerson Lynn, a Rotarian and editor and publisher of the Register, Rotary began more than two decades — a continuing project — to recycle newspapers and magazines through an insulation company in Wellsville.

A Rotary committee is working toward more ambitious recycling efforts. Allen County commissioners have given the committee an opportunity to create a recycling center on land near the county’s emergency response center on North State Street.

Iola Rotarians have traveled to several countries to provide made-on-the-quick eyeglasses that have given the wonder of sight to people who previously were severely handicapped. Club members also have made water purification devices available to people who didn’t have the advantage.

All these things and many others give a full range of meaning to Rotarians’ dedication to the simple slogan, “service above self.”

The Iola Register

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Iola, KS 66749
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