Rotary International Conventions

Since 1910, the Rotary convention has combined fellowship with Rotary business and inspired attendees with notable guest speakers and entertainers, workshops, and messages from Rotary leaders.

On 15 August 1910, Paul Harris convened the first Rotary convention. At the time, there were sixteen clubs in the United States. They shared the Rotary name and had similar objectives, but no central office or constitution.

In Rotary’s early years, the convention delegates debated and voted on changes to Rotary’s Constitution and Bylaws. As membership and convention attendance grew, this process evolved, and in 1977, the Council on Legislation became Rotary’s legislative body. The convention remained the main event for meeting friends, celebrating accomplishments, and discussing the future of Rotary.

Rotary milestones and memorable moments associated with a convention:

1917: At the convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, outgoing President Arch C. Klumph inspired the creation of The Rotary Foundation when he gave a speech proposing “endowments for the purpose of doing good in the world.” Convention delegates changed the constitution to allow for an endowment fund — the precursor to The Rotary Foundation. To celebrate the Foundation’s centennial, the convention returned to Atlanta in 2017.

1921: Delegates added the promotion of peace and goodwill to Rotary’s Constitution at the convention in Edinburgh, Scotland, the first held outside the United States.

1931: Austria created the first commemorative postage stamp honoring Rotary on the occasion of the convention in Vienna. Many other countries have since issued commemorative stamps to coincide with Rotary conventions, including Brazil, Japan, and Germany.

1945: In January, the U.S. government issued a directive limiting the size of meetings that involved travel from communities outside the meeting location. Rather than request an exemption, Rotary held the 1945 convention in Chicago as four separate meetings from 31 May to 19 June. Total attendance was 141 — the second smallest in convention history.

1978: Rotary President Clem Renouf announced a new grant program to improve health, alleviate hunger, and enhance human and social development at the convention in Tokyo. Members would use the Health, Hunger and Humanity grants to create access to clean drinking water, support literacy programs, provide medical care, and more — setting the stage for today’s global grants.