Club History

In the fall of 1959, Dr. Walt Sargent and Eugene Dumont were talking following groundbreaking of the Vine Street underpass. They discovered they both had Rotary backgrounds. Walt Sargent had joined Kent Rotary Club and Gene Dumont was a member of the Heights of Greater Cleveland Rotary.

When the two men decided to establish a Rotary Club in Willoughby, they contacted Tom Card who was District Governor at the time. Tom met with them and made it abundantly clear that this attempt had been made before with no success. Sargent and Dumont were not discouraged and pressed on.

Gene Dumont secured the necessary sponsorship from the Heights Club Committee chairman, Howard Ensign, who oversaw the process. Howard was in the insurance business with an associate, Herbert Moore, in the Willoughby area. Herb agreed to be Secretary of the charter group.

In the ensuing months, the fledging group was advised by Rotary International to meet with the leading business and professional people of the Willoughby-Eastlake, Mentor and Kirtland school districts. The numbers of men who agreed to meet each week began to increase and the charter group began to take shape. They met at the Intorcio Restaurant until the required number to obtain a charter was reached.

On March 13, 1961, the first official charter night was held. The charter members are documented by copies of that first program, and they remain in the files of some of the members. Regarding the charter members, the story of Joe Tulley and Mel Andrews emerges. Each man (Tulley and Andrews) was nominated, but the classification aspect of Rotary by-laws loomed large enough to create a snag. Both men were attorneys, albeit Tulley’s specialty was trial law and Andrews was civil. Permission was granted by Rotary International to install both men, one as a charter member and the other as the first non-charter member. At this point, a lively discussion ensued regarding who had been the first contacted for membership, the concept being that the first who was called would be the charter member. After much discussion, the final solution was reached with a toss of a coin. Mel Andres was installed as charter member and Joe Tulley as non-charter member. This process was a Willoughby Rotary “first.” Both men were faithful members for more than 40 years!




Download the complete history w photos, updated in 2011 (Adobe Acrobat file).

International History


Our 1.2 million-member organization started with the vision of one man—Paul P. Harris. The Chicago attorney formed one of the world’s first service organizations, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on 23 February 1905 as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member.


Rotarians have not only been present for major events in history—we’ve been a part of them. From the beginning, three key traits have remained strong throughout Rotary:
We’re truly international. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Today we’re working together from around the globe both digitally and in-person to solve some of our world’s most challenging problems.
We persevere in tough times. During WWII, Rotary clubs in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Japan were forced to disband. Despite the risks, many continued to meet informally and following the war’s end, Rotary members joined together to rebuild their clubs and their countries.
Our commitment to service is ongoing. We began our fight against polio in 1979 with a project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. By 2012, only three countries remain polio-endemic—down from 125 in 1988.



Rotarians are your neighbors, your community leaders and some of the world’s greatest history-makers: 
  • Warren G. Harding, U.S. president
  • Jean Sibelius, Finnish composer
  • Dr. Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of Mayo Clinic
  • Guglielmo Marconi, Italian inventor of the wireless radio and Nobel laureate
  • Thomas Mann, German novelist and Nobel laureate
  • Friedrich Bergius, German chemist and Nobel laureate
  • Admiral Richard E. Byrd, American explorer
  • Jan Masaryk, foreign minister of Czechoslovakia
  • H.E. Soleiman Frangieh, president of Lebanon
  • Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator
  • Manny Pacquaio, Filipino world-champion boxer and congressman
  • Richard Lugar, U.S. senator
  • Frank Borman, American astronaut
  • Edgar A. Guest, American poet and journalist
  • Sir Harry Lauder, Scottish entertainer
  • Franz Lehar, Austrian composer
  • Lennart Nilsson, Swedish photographer
  • James Cash Penney, founder of JC Penney Co.
  • Carlos Romulo, UN General Assembly president
  • Sigmund Sternberg, English businessman and philanthropist
Ready to make history with us? Get involved.