Club Overview 1967-2017

It is often said our Club is the oldest, largest, and highest achieving service organization in our Island’s history. As evidenced by the lists elsewhere in this publication, our Club has played a major role in the development of our Town.

The Club received its charter at a banquet held at the Planters Hall of the old William Hilton Inn on the evening of April 13, 1967. About 220 people attended the banquet to greet 32 charter members and their wives. The sponsoring Club was the Rotary Club of Beaufort.

The Reverend Edwin T. Williams of Dillon, District Governor of District 7770, presented the Charter to the Club’s first President, Zack Van Landingham and Secretary Ed Crosby. Other Officers present were Bill Cork, Vice President; Directors Larry Rogers, Fred Sartin and Frank Royce; and Sergeant-at-Arms Charles Bates.

Maynard Barker was not on the original charter but was inducted on charter night and as a result, is our oldest active member in years of service.

Always on Thursdays and always at the lunch hour, our Club began our meetings at the old Adventure Inn and remained there until 1975. This was followed by brief tenures at the Holiday Inn, Hyatt and the Plantation Club. As tourism popularized the Island’s resort properties, it became increasingly difficult to find a permanent luncheon location for our growing Club. After the Plantation Club, we met briefly at the old Hilton Head Inn, Hudson’s Landing, back to Holiday Inn, then Hudson’s again. We moved to the Overlook at the Port Royal Club in 1984 and then to the Sea Pines Country Club in 2005 where we have remained, uninterrupted, since.

Weekly Club programs have featured many distinguished guest speakers. They have included then sitting Rotary International Presidents Bill Skelton and D.K. Lee, past United States Senators Thurmond, Hollings, Gramm and current U.S. Senator Graham. Ted Turner spoke at the largest single meeting the Club has ever had, with over 600 in attendance at the old Hilton Head Inn.

Club membership increased regularly from its beginning in 1967 to a high of 185 in 1995-96. There have been two exceptions when economic downturns in the mid-70s and late 80s resulted in a drop in membership when many business persons left the Island. Our numbers have remained at approximately 155 for the past 15 years.

Rotary International has long taught when a Club becomes large and its classifications are blocked, it is in the best interest of Rotary to form another Club. Our Club was slow in approving the frequent proposals for a second Club, believing it would dilute our influence on the Island.

Then in 1982, five past Club Presidents made another appeal to the Board. Although rejected again, the Board did agree to put the issue in front of the membership for a vote. At a regular luncheon meeting, a spirited debate was held with Past District Governor Jim Warren leading the second Club cause and (soon to be District Governor) Walt Leonard defending the status quo. By a narrow margin, our Club voted in favor of  sponsoring the second Club. Walt Leonard moved to make it unanimous, and the Van Landingham Rotary Club received their charter on July 20, 1983. All of the five past Presidents became charter members of the new Club.

No further divisiveness occurred with our sponsorship of additional area Clubs; Bluffton (1988), Jasper County (1994), and Sunset (1997).

In 1989, following a Supreme Court ruling, the Rotary International Legislation Council changed their by-laws to permit women to be invited for membership. Our first woman member was Aileen Lau-Dickenson, inducted that same year. In 1990 four more women were inducted, including Beryl Lamotte, our longest serving active woman member.

Our Club Bulletin, ‘The Soundings’ was so named in 1977. Prior to this, it was called ‘Island Tidings’ and was a brief, one sheet flier. It has always been updated for each meeting and wins the most outstanding bulletin nearly every year at the District Conference.

Our first office computer was set up by computer “genius” members Charley Pettis and Ed Dowachinski in space provided by (the now) Wells Fargo Bank in 1984. In 1985, member John Guggenheim staffed the office part time as a Club project. This grew into a paid position and the Board created, and then named John Executive Director, a Board position. Judy Haupt served in the position from 1999-2003. Linda Neff took over on December 3, 2003. The office moved from the bank to Carolina Office Park in 2005, then briefly into the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra offices in the Courtyard Buildings on Office Park Road, then again with the HHSO to its present location in 2012 on Park Lane.

Our Board of Directors was originally 4 Officers and 4 Directors. This has changed over the years to its current level of 6 Officers and 9 Directors, each with specific committees and chairpersons.

The Club’s projects, awards, and achievements are summarily listed elsewhere in this publication.

No listing has been provided for Rotary projects common to most large Clubs. With the outstanding leadership our Club has always maintained, we have regularly  participated in hosting Group Study Exchange Teams (GSE), sponsoring both incoming and outgoing youth exchange students and Global scholars and annually recognizing outstanding students, teachers, and law enforcement officers.

Club Historian and PDG Bob Selton served the first 25 years and created the hard-cover printing of the first 25 year history of our Club, ‘Silver Service’. A copy of the book is in the Rotary office or owned by 25 year members. It has been my privilege to have served as Historian for the past 25 years.

Mike Jukofsky, Historian 1992-2017

Take a look at the gallery from this year’s Gala celebrating 50 years of service by the Rotary Club of Hilton Head Island.