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.


The Rotary Club of Jersey City, New Jersey, was organized on June 28, 1916 with 19 charter members, all of whom were associated with businesses in Jersey City.  On August 1, 1916 it was recognized as the 249th Rotary Club in the world by the International Association of Rotary Clubs (now Rotary International). As Jersey City was then the home of nearly 300,000 people, 500 manufacturing plants and 125 retail stores, it was evident to the club’s founders that the club had the potential to attract many new members.  Elected President was Thomas Sheehan, who was affiliated with the Durham Razor Company.  Tom served as President until 1918, planning and refining the beginnings of a club that would continue to grow throughout the century.  President Tom’s outstanding club service and leadership abilities did not go unrecognized by his fellow Rotarians.  The following year (1919-1920) he was elected district governor, another first, serving Rotary International District 3, which encompassed all of New Jersey north of Trenton.
Personifying the Rotary International motto of “Service Above Self,” Jersey City Rotarians have continuously supported the efforts of many Jersey City civic, community and philanthropic groups.  During the 50-year period from 1916 to 1966, 5 members were elected chairman of the board of trustees of the Jersey City Chapter of the American Red Cross and 42 members were chosen to serve on the board.  The club was instrumental in the establishment of the Jersey City Boys Club in the early part of the century, its later expansion in the 1970’s into the Jersey City Boys and Girls Club, and its recent erection of a new and modern facility. 
In the 1950’s Rotarian Adam Black built and maintained a “swim mobile,” a steel container filled with water mounted on a large vehicle which traveled through the city’s neighborhoods on sultry summer days to give residents a chance to cool off.  In 1959 another member, Dr. Conrad Bahnson, organized the Visiting Homemaker Service of Hudson County with 10 health aides; presently more than 700 certified health aides care for over 5,000 patients each year.  In the 1960’s club President Dr. Frederick (“Chick”) Chiccone initiated a medical and dental program to assist immigrants who could not afford needed health care.  When club President William Martin instituted the city’s “Meals on Wheels Program” a few years later, elderly homebound Jersey City Residents began enjoying nutritious lunches in their homes each day because every member took his turn delivering these meals.  In 1978 under President Gerard Claps club members constructed a lounge for the clients of the Occupational Center of Hudson County, donating the necessary labor and building materials as well as furniture and carpeting. 
Perhaps most importantly, however, the Rotary Club of Jersey City has never wavered in its commitment to the development of the city’s youth.  In addition to a vigorous college scholarship program, for the past 40 years the club has awarded to an outstanding 8th grade student in each of Jersey City’s 28 public grammar schools its coveted “Davy Jones Rotary Youth Citizenship Award” in memory of 1928-1929 Past President Dave Jones.  Also in Dave’s memory, the club established a fund at the Jersey City Medical Center to furnish the Children’s Ward.
In 1952 former President Tommy Williams started the club’s first campership program with the Boy Scouts, as well as leading a group of fellow Rotarians in purchasing property in Pike County, Pennsylvania which would become Rock Hill Scout Reservation; today the “William and Catherine Miller Memorial Campership Fund” is continuing that fine tradition.  Individual club members participate in high school cooperative education programs in which they provide students with paid internships in their businesses.  They speak at high school career days about their professions and often volunteer as mentors at neighborhood schools and at their workplaces.  Many have also supported the Hudson County Science Fair by serving as judges and donating cash prizes.
Nationally and internationally, the Rotary Club of Jersey City supports the Rotary Foundation and was actively involved in Polio Plus, an international initiative dedicated to eradicating polio. It has made substantial contributions to the foundation, naming past President William Martin as its first Paul Harris Fellow in 1978, and recognizing many other members as additional fellows for their distinguished service in subsequent years.  Club members were instrumental in forming the Jersey City Daybreak Rotary Club and the two clubs co-sponsored a children’s literacy program for Jersey City’s first grade pupils.  The club has also participated in Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange Program, hosting business professionals from many foreign countries including the Philippines, Germany, Egypt, Brazil, France and Switzerland.
The club is actively involved in many Rotary International District 7490 projects such as the Gift of Life, providing for impoverished children from abroad to be flown to New York to receive life-saving heart surgery, the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Program, and the Walter Head Foundation, again underwriting scholarships by naming exemplary members Walter Head Fellows.
On a social note, the club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1966 at a formal dinner dance at Mayfair Farms in West Orange, featuring popular band leader Lester Lanin and his Orchestra, and its 75th anniversary at another formal event cruising the Hudson River on a private yacht.  When construction of the Twin Towers in downtown Manhattan was completed in 1978, Henry Jaszewski and Gerard Claps organized a gala luncheon at its 107th floor restaurant, Windows on the World, at which Peter Goldmark, Executive Director of the Port Authority of NY and NJ unveiled his plans for the area’s future development.  The affair was so well attended by the business community that was held annually as a highlight of each club year until the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001.
In the 21st Century, the club has managed to adapt to a changing city and population. Club leaders have established partnerships with other organizations and charities to meet the needs of a modern city, and created more opportunities for membership and attendance to meet the needs of a modern workforce. Regularly scheduled opportunities for hands-on community service are a big part of the club calendar. Membership in the club has reached its greatest number in decades.
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Chartering of the Rotary Club of Jersey City is being done through our largest ever Rotary Foundation international service project bringing distance learning equipment to rural schools in India, a gala black tie affair at Casino in the Park in Jersey City, strengthening our own Foundation’s endowment fund, and continuing to engage with our community on meaningful service projects.
Finally, the Rotary Club of Jersey City is proud to be the home club of five district governors: Thomas Sheehan in 1919-1920, Harry Everett in 1932-1933, Robert Cary in 1941-1942, Ken Ruskin in 1999-2000, and Adele Miller in 2010-2011.


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.