William Watts

William Watts

How It All Began
by William Watt, Georgia Rotary Student Program founder

As president of the Thomasville Rotary Club in 1939, it was my privilege and pleasure to attend the International Convention of Rotary in Cleveland, Ohio. At the time, clouds were gathering and the speeches on that occasion centered around the part Rotary should play if war should come. Carlos P. Romulos of the Philippines, later to become famous as a member of General McArthur’s staff and then the Philippines representative to the United Nations, spoke on “Rotary in a World Afraid.” But the speech that appealed most to me was one by Darrell Brady, graduate of the University of Wisconsin the year before, who had gone on a bicycle tour of Europe during the year 1939. He had access to both the Siegfried and Maginot lines. He said the young soldiers especially wanted to know what the soldiers facing the enemy thought of them. They couldn’t see why they could not, and should not, be friends. It was not long before they became enemies, in spite of their expressed desire for friendship.

During my visits to the 55 Rotary Clubs in Georgia, as District Governor in 1943-44, many of them wanted to know if there was not something they might do in the future to help establish peace and make wars less possible. After the war, as word came from reliable sources of the disrupted, damaged, and sometimes destroyed conditions of the colleges and universities of Europe and the overcrowded conditions of the ones attempting to keep going, Darrell Brady’s story came back to me. It seemed here was an answer to the question so often asked me.

I determined to at least make a beginning.Putting the matter before our club in 1946, the Spring before the conference in Atlanta, the club adopted a resolution to submit to that conference, suggesting that each Rotarian in Georgia give voluntarily one dollar a year to start this plan. It was unanimously adopted, and later the clubs came in 100 percent. District Governor Gamble Cleveland appointed the first governing committee, consisting of past District Governor T.T. Molnar as chairman. Kendall Weisiger and I were the other two members.This is the story as I recall it.