Wilmington Rotary celebrates 100 years

RotaryPresidentBy Kathy Canavan
DBT Senior Reporter

The Gold Ballroom of the Hotel Du Pont was packed for K.R. Ravindran’s speech to the Rotary Club of Wilmington on Oct. 9. About 250 members – more than twice the usual  attendance – came to hear the Rotary’s international president kick off the club’s centennial year.

The 100-year-old Rotary, Delaware’s oldest, spun off all 40 clubs in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. To celebrate its centennial, the Wilmington Rotary invited Ravindran to Wilmington, scheduled a series of celebratory events and commissioned a history, which will be available in December.

The Rotary Club of Wilmington is a “singing Rotary” that customarily opens meetings with song. The anniversary year kickoff began with a centennial song written by Evelyn D. Swensson. She led the group in singing her lyrics to the tune of “Give My Regards to Broadway.”

Ravindran lauded the Wilmington members for meeting without lapse for a century.

“Wilmington, in 100 years, has done so much,” he said. “Look at your membership – a former chief justice, a few state governors, CEOs and corporate honchos…and the most beautiful singer I have ever heard.”

He joked that he’s very impressed with the Hotel Du Pont for being the long-time venue for the Rotarians. “Rotarians always want the best food at the cheapest price,” he said, adding that he’s impressed with anyone who negotiates with club members.

“This is where the magic of Rotary is grown,” he said, looking around the ballroom at members from around Delaware and the Eastern Shore. “This is what builds our brand across the world.”

Ravindran told the Rotarians the public isn’t interested in how much money they raise or how many members gather for meetings, but they do care about clubs’ efforts to help their communities. “The public is interested in the good we do,” he said. “I ask you, in the next 100 years, to work with this kind of simple-minded commitment to advance the causes of Rotary. We can do projects of great magnitude. We have the capacity to give solace to many.”

“Are you ready to move with the times,” Ravindran asked. “I think the answer lies within you.”

“Anytime you have the international leader come in, it’s an inspiration,” said Jen Reider, district governor for the Delaware-Eastern Shore clubs, “The sacrifices he makes in his business life and personal life is inspirational.”

Kai Lassen, one of the meeting organizers, said it was inspiring to have an international president visit Wilmington: “When you think that he is the leader of 34,000 clubs, there are only so many minutes in the day.”

As part of the centennial effort, the Wilmington club will break ground next spring on Rotary Centennial Park, a project that will improve existing H. Fletcher Brown Park, bordered by Hercules Plaza and Brandywine Park. The park’s namesake, a Dupont chemist turned company vice-president, was an honorary Rotarian.

The park will include a memorial to Civil War veterans, a multi-use recreation area, an environmental education area, and an amphitheater designed to fit the contour of the land. 

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