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History and Heritage
The Rotary Club of Waukegan

Just eleven years after Paul Harris gathered a group of four friends in Chicago to found the first Rotary Club, a similar group inspired and assembled by Garfield A. Bowden, a high school science teacher, met in Waukegan to discuss the formation of a Rotary Club in Waukegan. They met on April 16, 1916 at the home of W.I. Lyon on North Sheridan Road.

The idea of a Rotary Club in Waukegan had first been discussed several months earlier as Bowden and Lyon hiked along the Dead River. Bowden had seen and admired the civic work of a Rotary Club in Manikato, MN and thought their conservation efforts would interest Lyon, a well known real estate professional and internationally known ornithologist.

At a second planning meeting held on September 10, 1916 eight men joined Franklin R. Muller, president of Muller Manufacturing Co., in issuing charter membership invitations to many of the prominent men of the community. By the time the charter for the club was granted by Rotary International on November 1, 1916 eighteen men had agreed to be active members.

On November 15, 1916, a week after an organization meeting, the charter was presented to the club at the Hotel Washburn on Water Street. The presentation was made by Herbert Angster, Lake Bluff resident and member of the Chicago Rotary Club.

The officers elected at the organization meeting were Louis J. Yeoman, president; Elam L. Clarke, vice-president; Garfield A. Bowden, secretary; Franklin R. Muller, treasurer; and Paul Willis, Al F. Carney, Charles T. Ford, directors.

Fellowship drew the Rotary Club of Waukegan together, even as it had drawn men to Rotary the world over. This fellowship created a greater sense of responsibility to the community and to their fellow man. The club sponsored many civic and community activities - several related to youth groups.

Over the years, members of the Rotary of Waukegan have assumed responsibilities as Rotary District Officers and three were District Governors: Casper Apeland, 1952 - 1953; Frank C Potter, 1974 - 1975; and Edgar Pigg, 1985 - 1986. The District Conference was held in Waukegan in 1953 and boasted a record attendance of over 600!

Since 1967, the Rotary Club of Waukegan has been involved in youth exchange activities, hosting students from Argentina, Austria, Germany, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Equador, Finland, and India. Other youth activities have included recognition luncheons honoring academic and athletic achievers from area high schools.

In 1988 the Rotary of Waukegan sponsored a new Rotary breakfast club in Gurnee.

[Thanks to Douglas Stiles for his research and contributions as current club historian. If you'd like more information on the History and Heritage of the Rotary Club of Waukegan, please contact Doug - he's more than happy to share facts about our Club!]