District History

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THE HISTORY OF DISTRICT 5690
It all began right here in Wichita.  In the summer of 1911, Harry W. Stanley was attending a convention of the Equitable Life Insurance Company in Chicago where a fellow agent told him about a new organization that he had joined in Des Moines, Iowa.  The enthusiasm of that colleague and a chance meeting with Rotary’s founder, Paul P. Harris, with whom he visited, convinced Stanley that Rotary would be good for Wichita.
After returning to Wichita, Stanley called a meeting of eleven other businessmen on September 2, 1911.  These men organized a club and by late September, fifty-one additional members had been added to their number.  The club was admitted to The International Association of Rotary Clubs on November 18, 1911 and received its charter as the 30th club in the world and Number One in Kansas on June 2, 1913.  Their charter was signed by Glenn C. Mead, the second President of Rotary and Chesley R. Perry, the first General Secretary of Rotary, who served in that position for thirty-two years.  Mr. Perry was often referred to as “The Builder of Rotary.”  Mr. Harry W. Stanley served the Wichita Club as President for two terms and during his second term (year) as club president he was also a Vice-President of Rotary International.  “Rotary had come to Kansas.”
At the time the Wichita Rotary Club was born it was part of what was then called the “Western District.”  Over the years, what is now Rotary District 5690 has been part of nine different districts.  Our district, as it is today, was established in 1957 when we became District 569.  The additional “0” was added in 1990 making it 5690 with our boundaries remained unchanged.
For the next four years, Wichita was the only place you could find a Rotary Club in Kansas.  Then in 1915 The Rotary Club of Kansas City, Kansas and The Rotary Club of Wichita co-sponsored the second Rotary Club in Kansas in Hutchinson.  The next year brought us a new club in Dodge City. As I was making my Governor’s visit to The Rotary Club of Dodge City in 1980, I remember well a story that an elderly member of the club told me.  It seems that Dodge City had a Rotary Club before it was a Rotary Club.  Several of the local businessmen had been visitors at some Rotary Clubs or at least had heard about them and thought it would be a good thing for Dodge City – so…..they formed their own Rotary Club and started to have regular meetings.  They didn’t bother to petition Rotary International for a charter, either out of ignorance or they didn’t want to be bothered by a national organization.  You must remember this was Dodge City not too many years removed from being the cow town where anything went. 
Somehow RI Headquarters found out that there was a Rotary Club in Dodge City they knew nothing about.  So they sent someone from RI to check this out and sure enough he found a Rotary Club meeting regularly there.
He suggested that if they wanted to call themselves a “Rotary Club,” perhaps they should petition The International Association of Rotary Clubs for membership.  They did with the aid of The Rotary Club of Topeka as their sponsor and were admitted in 1916 as the third club in our district.
1917 brought us clubs in Arkansas City and Newton.  Then Augusta and Winfield came on board in 1918.  We missed a year during 1919, but the El Dorado and Wellington Clubs were chartered during 1920 and Liberal joined our ranks in 1921.  1922 brought us clubs in Larned, Garden City, and Pratt.
Until 1922 each Rotary Club could write their own Constitution and By-Laws.  After 1922, all new clubs admitted were required to abide by the Standard Club Constitution and By-Laws as prescribed by RI.  Those clubs admitted before 1923 could elect to use their own or the standard version recommended by RI.  Our district happens to hold the dubious distinction of having the most clubs in the Rotary World that do not use Rotary’s Standard Constitution and By-laws.
We had a dry spell from 1922 until The Rotary Club of Garden City sponsored a new club in Syracuse in 1928.  1929 brought us The Rotary Club of Kingman and in 1930 a new club in Stafford.  Unfortunately, after 41 years The Rotary Club of Stafford surrendered its charter in 1971.  The Rotary Club of Stafford did produce an outstanding Governor in Ben Evans in 1939-40 and was the sponsoring club of Kinsley in 1937.  After The Rotary Club of Stafford folded PDG Ben Evans joined The Rotary Club of Hutchinson and drove to Hutchinson from Stafford to attend meetings for many years.
The Great Depression must have had an effect as we did not have a new club for six years until Cimarron and Greensburg were admitted in 1936.  However, we had a great year in 1937 with new clubs in Kinsley, Hugoton, and Florence.  The Rotary Club of Florence produced a District Governor in Cecil E. Rotz in1966-67 but regretfully surrendered its charter in 1974.  PDG Cecil E. Rotz moved to Topeka where he continued his Rotary membership and made an appearance at our district conference for a number of years.
New clubs were not forthcoming for the next eight years.  In 1945 Rotary came to southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle with new clubs in Ulysses, Boise City, Beaver, Johnson, and Lakin.  The Rotary Club of Lakin started to have problems in the 1970s and Governor Bob Hodges along with several other district leaders made a trip to Lakin in 1977 to help get it reorganized but the effort failed.  It is always painful for a District Governor to have to ask a club to surrender its charter, but that became an unpleasant task in 1981 when RI informed District Governor Ray Gaskill they had not received any reports from The Rotary Club of Lakin for three years so their charter was surrendered.
Another four years went by until our next new club was chartered in Sublette in 1949.  However, the next year in 1950 we added Texhoma and Guymon to our numbers.  In 1952 we acquired a new club in Caldwell, but it was short-lived as it ceased to function and surrendered its charter in 1961.
Then came the long drought.  For the next 28 years there were no new clubs organized in our district.  In those days when a club was organized RI gave it a particular area from which to draw its members.  Some of those early clubs were given quite large areas.  If a new club was to be formed in an area already owned by an existing club, the club that owned the area had to relinquish some of its territory to the new club.  This was sometimes difficult to accomplish.  At any rate, during the late 1970s, some of our district leaders though that a new club could be organized in Derby, but the territory was owned by The Rotary Club of Wichita.  A deal was finally worked out with The Rotary Club of Wichita for some of its territory and we set about organizing The Rotary Club of Derby.  The Rotary Club of Derby received its charter in 1980 which happened during the year of service of District Governor Ray Gaskill.  This was an exciting time – THE FIRST NEW CLUB IN 28 YEARS!!  RI sent Governor Ray Gaskill a long list of things that a governor should inform the new club about during their charter celebration.  He spent a lot of time preparing his remarks and when the time came he delivered the longest and most complex and detailed account in the history of Rotary, about Rotary Clubs and Rotary International.  He told all the new Rotarians and their guests about The Rotary Foundation and any thing else he could think of about Rotary.  Afterward he realized he may have over done it when a good friend and mentor, the late PDG Bob Storbeck did not compliment him on his remarks, but simply told him, “I think you covered everything.”  Thank goodness the occasion was salvaged by the featured speaker, Past Rotary International Director Gene Conklin, who gave a magnificent but short welcome to the new Rotary Club of Derby into the world of Rotary.
With the success of The Rotary Club of Derby this opened the door for 4 more outstanding clubs in the Wichita area The Rotary Club of East Wichita in 1982, The Rotary Club of West Wichita in 1987, The Rotary Club of West Sedgwick County Sunrise in 2000, and The Rotary Club of Andover in 2003.  It was six years later when, in 2010, our most recent new club, Wichita Old Town was chartered.
Several other events are worthy of notice.  In 1989 we had a joint District Conference with District 5670 with The Rotary Club of Larned and The Rotary Club of Great Bend as the host clubs.
In 1997, along with Districts 5670 (north of us) and 5710 (east of us) we held a joint President-Elect/Secretary-Elect Training Seminar for all the clubs in the three districts.  In 2005 District 5650 (Nebraska/Iowa) joined the PETS/SETS organization making our training seminars the best and rewarding for all the clubs of the four districts.
District Governors holding the first multi-PETS/SETS were DG 5690 Ralph Hight, DG 5710 Bill Kromer and DG 5670 Ed Pogue.
During District Governor Ron Kincannon’s term (2001-02) our district successfully held the first ever district conference outside our district in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Geri Appel made history in 2002-03 as she became our first woman governor of District 5690 and we hope she will not be the last.  During her term working with the theme “Sow the Seeds of Love” District 5690 under her expert leadership chartered The Rotary Club of Andover, formed five new Interact Clubs (total of six in District 5690), held the first ever Interact District Conference, funded a $49,900 Rotary Foundation Matching Grant to establish a sun oven assembly plant and distribute 500 sun ovens in Haiti and raised $100,000 of more than $220,000 committed toward the Polio Eradication Fundraising Campaign.
Kent Converse (2004-05) had a wonderful fun packed District Conference and was the District Governor during our Centennial Year of Rotary – One Hundred Years of Service to the World.
District Governor Curtis Dick (2005-06) broadened the district’s international service during his year as District Governor by establishing a relationship with D3250 in India.  The first two matching grant projects provided clean drinking water for 48 schools through rainwater harvesting techniques.
John Kempf of Arkansas City came out of retirement and took over as District Governor a second time (2006-07) when the assigned DG had to resign.  He is the only Rotarian in our district to serve twice as a District Governor. (1989-90 & 2006-07.)
Rod Kreie (2007-08) made history during his term as DG by raising the most money in support of The Rotary Foundation - $172,000 and he spearheaded the drive to raise dollars for Greensburg, Kansas after the town was nearly wiped out by a tornado in 2007.  Rotarians and friends raised $226,071 which was used to help rebuild the town.  Some major disbursements were used for playground equipment, ranger caps, Santa House, new water tower, community bulletin board, Habitat for Humanity Homes, Kiowa County Media Trailer, and the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital. 
Tom Martin (2008-09) brought a strong business owner perspective to his duties.  He also shared the experiences his family had in visiting Rotary projects in Africa and other parts of the world—and how they increased his commitment to the ideals of Rotary.  He also hosted a highly successful District Conference highlighted by an address by World Trade Center rescuer and survivor NYC Fire Chief Richard Piciotto.
J. L. Mike Barnes (2009-10) had triumph and tragedy during his year as the first executive committee meeting by conference call was conducted, District Bylaws were updated and approved, monthly membership conference calls started, district’s international flag display (174 flags) were updated, and our District Conference in Oklahoma City was a huge success.  We lost Assistant Governor Rod O’Hara in a traffic accident going home from a Rotary meeting.  PDG Ralph Hight was gravely injured in an automobile accident and PDG Ray Gaskill passed away after a long illness.  For the first time, the District Governor admitted to having, and displaying to all clubs and RI officers, his Rotary tattoo!
"Heroes" is how David A. Nygaard (2010-2011) described Rotarians throughout his year as DG.  As a result of the dedicated effort of all District Rotarians, we met our Foundation & Polio goals with all 31 clubs giving, Youth Exchange was brought back to life, The Rotary Club of Old Town, The Rotaract Club of Wichita, and The Interact Club of Newton were chartered.  A record number of District Simplified Grants were awarded, and a record number of D5690 Rotarians attended the RI - New Orleans Convention.  RI President Ray Klinginsmith presented the Charter to the new Rotary Club of Old Town, and RI VP Tom Thorfinnson attended our district conference.
During Phil Michel’s year as DG (2011-2012), the district celebrated a number of important and memorable milestones Four clubs (Hugoton, Greensburg, Cimarron and Kinsley recorded their 75th anniversaries as Rotary Clubs.  Also, the first club to be organized in the area, The Downtown Wichita Club, commemorated 100 years of service.  During the District Conference in Wichita, the Downtown Club members joined the Conference for the closing luncheon which allowed the other clubs in the district to thank and acknowledge them for establishing Rotary in this area.  We concluded the year with another very special event as we presented PDG Geri Appel with Rotary’s highest honor.  The Service Above Self award, given annually to only 150 Rotarians worldwide, honored Geri for her many and varied contributions to Rotary over the years.
Larry Rumburg (2012-2013) celebrated a year of “Peace thru Service”.  It featured a District Conference that had several opportunities for service as well as featuring many current and former Youth Exchange participants.  A friend of many in the district, Diane Kessel Knight, was the President’s Representative and brought the World of Rotary to the Conference.  Rotary Club of Garden City celebrated their 90th anniversary, which was a high point following the tragic loss of their Club President, John Hogg.  “Future Vision” became reality and created change throughout Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.
Sue Pearce (2013-2014) reported that the highlight of her “Engage Rotary, Change Lives” year was discovering how old our Rotary clubs are.  As she researched the clubs before the year started, she discovered that 22 of our 31 clubs were over 75 years old.  It brought home the fact that Rotary has been helping in our communities and around the globe continuously for many, many years.  How did the word spread about Rotary from town to town, she thought, after Wichita was chartered in 1911?  For examples, Dodge City was founded in 1917, Garden City in 1923, and Liberal in 1921.  Once again, the power of Rotary.  Together, we make a difference in this world.
Martin Bauer (2014-2015) worked to "Light Up Rotary," the Rotary theme for his year.  He restarted the District Training Assembly after a few years’ hiatus and started Rotary Day at the Kansas State Fair in conjunction with District 5670.  It evolved into a Rotary booth at the State Fair with a shelter box, iron lung, and information about Polio Plus and club projects in our district.  RI President's Representative Joe Dino and Ms Reservist USA Amanda Wirtz highlighted the District Conference in Wichita.  Martin helped three Rotarians from our district get selected to the Rotary Zone Membership Cadre.  Jamie Anderson (West Wichita), Kaydee Johnson (Winfield), and Mike Andrusak (Ulysses) received training in Denver and Albuquerque and were featured at the Rotary Membership Summit in January.  The three led the membership training at DGE David Yoder’s District Training Assembly.  Martin also helped develop a plan that created and funded a permanent District Executive Secretary position during his year.  In a joint effort with PDG Sue Pearce, the district’s grant process was able to provide more than $80,000 in District Grants that was distributed to clubs for local projects.  Finally, Martin along with other PDGs and District Governors celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Hutchison Club with the dedication of the Rotary Park in downtown Hutchison.  Phil Silvers, chair of the Grants Cadre for RI was the key note speaker and then spoke to 7 other Clubs in the district to celebrate how our District has been able to “Light Up Rotary” in our district and throughout the world.
 
Written by PDG Ray Gaskill (1980-81)—Edited and Updated by Past District Governors
 
 

 

 
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