Our Centennial

history_bookIn recognition of the founding of Rotary in Colorado in 1911, the Rotary Club of Denver published its Centennial History Book, The First 100 Years. Below are excerpts from a book review by fellow Rotarian and author John Stewart.

 While I could name some movers and shakers in current club membership, I was still impressed by the prominent Denverites who were Rotarians, and who in turn used Rotary connections to point the city toward greatness. Mayor (and early Rotarian) Robert Speer pushed Denver’s City Beautiful projects, introducing impressive buildings, parks, and boulevards. Another long-term mayor and Rotarian, Ben Stapleton, oversaw the creation of Denver Civic Center, Stapleton Airport, and the Denver Mountain Parks, an expansion of a Speer project. The Good Roads movement was one of Rotary’s first projects, and the theme continued. Louis F. Eppich, a club president in the 1930s, was instrumental in securing $50,000 in federal funding for construction of the Valley Highway (now I-25) through the heart of the city. Eppich was also the “father of zoning” for his role in creating the Denver Planning Department.

 By mid-century, Denver Rotarians could boast of a face on the U.S. Supreme Court in Justice Byron White. Attorney Stephen Hart, a pillar of the Colorado Historical Society, was a moving force behind historic preservation, a long-term interest of Denver Rotary. Elrey B. Jeppesen helped pioneer aviation, his name memorialized in the main terminal at DIA. Another Rotarian mayor, Quigg Newton, revitalized downtown Denver in the 1950s. Denver has always been a sports-minded city, and two Rotarians brought us top-level professional teams. In 1959 owner Bob Howsam secured the American Football League charter franchise for his Broncos. Three decades later, Roger Kinney, director of the Colorado Baseball Commission, duplicated this feat in baseball with the Colorado Rockies.

 Rotarians through the years were interesting and colorful, but so were their guest speakers. Ken Burns regaled the group on how to make fine documentary films, while General Alexander Haig talked of foreign policy. Bill Daniels spoke on his pioneering work in cable television. Back in 1919, Russian leader Leon Trotsky told the Denver members about the development of the new Rotary Club of Petrograd (although both the leader and the club would soon be ousted by Communists).

 Denver Rotary has always practiced philanthropy, especially looking to the needs of children. After World War II, Rotarians founded Denver Boys, Inc., to look after boys who had lost fathers in the war. Other civic groups started Denver Girls, and Rotary lent its support. Later the two merged, forming Denver Kids, Inc.

 Those of us who were children in the 1950s can well remember our worst nightmare, contracting polio. Rotarians stepped into the fight. Led locally by Grant Wilkins, a polio survivor, Rotary established Polio Plus, which raised millions for research and immunizations. Rotarians are still at it, dispelling the myth that the disease has been eradicated. It still exists in nations such as Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

 The fight against polio awakened Rotary to other health and humanitarian needs around the globe. Denver Rotary’s World Community Service Committee, founded in 1987, can now boast a variety of projects encompassing six continents. The causes include education, clean drinking water, sanitation, medical and dental treatment, and the empowerment of women. Funding from Denver Rotary also trains and rewards young scholars in many fields, and sends them worldwide.

Click here to order a copy of our Centennial book online.