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Geneseo Rotary Club History
Provided by Club Historian
PP David Parish
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You may also like to read about Rotary's History
  86 Years of Club History - 1925-2011
      Eighty-six years of service with our Geneseo Rotary Club meetings, agendas filled with Club projects,
Rotary International business, fellowship and education. We forget we have made and continue to make Geneseo
history, not to mention our small part in making a better world.
    He retired from the Chatauqua Summer Circuit to marry a Village girl. He became a Dramatic's teacher
at the Normal School and owner of Emerson Hall, a large building for generations of co-ed housing. He was
Bert Foland, the Club's first President.
    The Geneseo Rotary Club was chartered on April 20, 1925 with Dansville as our sponsor. President
Foland was also known as "Dad" by his Normal Students.
    Twenty-five years after the Club's formation, there were still six of the original charter members
participating: M. Reed Scott, Carrol S. Rector, Austin W. Erwin, Sr., James Fraser, William A. Dwyer and
Bert Foland. By the 1950's sons followed fathers into membership.
    Wives, known as Rotary Anns were faithful in helping with fundraisers. They were noted for their
fundraising raffles featuring home-made quilts. Geneseo sponsored the Pavilion, NY Club but they did not survive.
    Men from varied backgrounds learned to work together. For example, in 1939 the Geneseo Rotary Club
sponsored a minstrel show to benefit the rebuilding fund. The church had burned almost to the ground the previous
year. Central Presbyterian members were grateful for Rotary's effort. This was only one of several fundraising
minstrel shows. The Conesus Lake Fresh Air Camp became an important project. Members took "bonding" trips to
the Ontario northlands for fishing trips.
    Profiling Rotary in 1935, Edgar Barnes wrote that the Club emphasized membership to be maintained
at a high standard included what he called a "fetish" that usually meant 90% attendance. A student loan
fund was successful, very important in Depression days. An initiative was taken on prosecuting safety plans
for local highways. The Club maintained a musical heritage that included gifted singers and Miss Burkhardt at
the piano weekly. She was paid. Barnes called Geneseo "the singing club".
    In 1937 James Donohoe from the "other side of the River", became Geneseo's President. Jimmy was
an executive with the Gas and Electronic Company. He emphasized the Club's self-assumed responsibility to
the community. He became known as "Mr. Rotary", a popular speaker. At his death he was proud of 53 years
of perfect attendance. In 2011 Donald "Dick" Thomas has 41 years of perfect attendance.
    In 1950 extra funding was needed for a projected 25th Anniversary Program. Normal School drama
Professor Alice Austin asked Rotary to sponsor a Community Player's group. The first play was "The Royal
Family", a project for which the Club was awarded a District Community Service Award. The 25th Anniversary
dinner was attended by many State dignitaries with Dr. Paul Neureiter as M.C. Dr. Neureiter had served in the
Austrian Army during World War I, then as a volunteer militia member from Geneseo as his part in the American
war effort during World War II. Extra money raised was donated to community projects.
    Worldwide travel was normalized following World War II by the mid-1950's. In 1959 the Club sponsored
four couples from Balbarn, England becoming a treasured memory by members for years thereafter. Members
and their guests were photographed around the Bronze Bear fountain. They arrived by train. The Club received
an International Service Award for this project.
    From the late 1950's to the 1970's growth was slow but sure as foreign students were hosted from
Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa. A total of 12 foreign students had been hosted
by 1990 more to come from Brazil, Japan, South America and Australia.
    Geneseo Rotary found competition for membership in the early 1970's when a Kiwanis Club began.
    The Club took on a more modern spirit from 1985 onward. The Geneseo Main Street Festival was
failing. Rotary took over sponsorship, expanding the entertainment and adding a craft show. Dennis Dawson
was a leader. By 2011 this event continues as a Geneseo mainstay under the most recent Chairmanship of
Richard Gallivan and the outstanding fundraising efforts of Sally Gallivan. A Teddy Bear Parade and the
Rochester Symphony are popular features. Hot air balloons were featured in the early 1990's before being
removed from the events.
    A contemporary spirit of service came in 1988 when President Charles Vitale recognized the worldwide
importance of the PolioPlus Campaign. Members originally pledged $16,000, a figure that passed $50,000
within a few years.
    The Club reached a record 74 members in 1990 during the Presidency of David W. Parish.
1988 was an historic year when women joined the Club after a Supreme Court ruling. Sarah "Sally" Heitzman
was our first female President in 1991. At the beginning of 1998 membership was 40% female, the figure
increased to 46% in 2011.
    Outreach to the needy includes ongoing programs as Holiday Food baskets benefitting approximately
400 needy. Monthly meeting collections benefit the local Food Bank. The Good Neighbor's Committee,
consisting of both Rotarians and community volunteers, annually sponsor at least three recreational events
for low income housing children and their parents: also a popular Keyboard Kamp with a closing recital
bringing the community together.
    The Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2000 at the College , an elegant affair complete with
special wine glasses.
    Youth work always has been important to the Club in varied ways with a Rotaract Club and Central
School Interact Club, one of the few clubs in our region to sponsor both Rotaract and Intact. Local youth
are encouraged to participate in Rotary District oratorical and music competitions.
    A new era in programs, at one time U.S. Senator / Congressman James W. Wadsworth Jr. was a highlighted
annual speaker. The speaker scope has widened as the Club wishes to learn of new projects that we often fund.
The Fatherhood Connection as only one recent example. An object of these programs is to find how Rotary
can help. Geneseo Rotary is proud of 71 Paul Harris Fellows Awards over the years, of some 600 members since
1925, of ten sponsored RYLA students, of Club leaders and potential leaders attending training sessions, of
an outstanding Internet web site that continues to grow in importance, of 26 Quad-Cities award recipients,
of the Ray C. Sherman Community Awards and the Sherman Christmas-Sing, of co-sponsoring the Halloween
Parade and even helping flood-ravaged communities to recover. The Club is involved in a Central-American
economic development project with SUNY, Geneseo.
    Other community outreach includes working at the Genesee Valley Hunt Races each October and
staffing the Salvation Army contribution kettle during the Holiday Season. Under the leadership of 2011
President Howard Stewart and his Board, the Club By-Laws were revised and approved by the membership
in September 2011.
    Geneseo Rotarians can be assured that Elbert "Dad" Foland would be pleased with our history, pleased
with the Club transparency and member's desire to continue a proud history after 86 years.
D. W. Parish