Winchester Rotary Club History (1935-1945)


The middle years found the activities of the individual Rotarian holding the spotlight and the active participation of the club, as a group, in civic projects was held to a minimum. Occasionally the club, as a group, did undertake the sponsorship of a certain worthwhile project and perhaps one of the most worthwhile endeavors of the club was its contribution to the support of the Shenandoah Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America during the depression years. During these years each Rotarian was assessed twenty-five cents weekly for the support of the Boy Scout Council and it was largely through this effort that the Boy Scout movement remained alive in Winchester and was able to carry on its fine program of youth training.

Many of the projects dedicated to the social advancement and education of our youth that are being carried on by the Rotary Club today had their beginning during the middle years. It was during this period that the practice of sending delegates, selected from the student body at Handley High School, to Boy’s State and Girl’s State at Blacksburg, Virginia was begun. This program is designed to further the students knowledge of the governmental functions by allowing the delegates to perform the duties of government administration exactly as they are carried on by our elected representatives in the State Capitol.

The members of the Winchester Rotary Club, realizing the value of Rotary to this community, embarked upon a campaign of selling it to their neighboring communities. It was under the guidance and sponsorship of the Winchester Rotary Club that Rotary Clubs were formed in Front Royal, Virginia, on March 30, 1926 and in Strasburg on April 21, 1933. Both clubs still flourish and a strong bond of affection exists between these and the parent club.

The Winchester Rotary Club furthered the cause of Rotary still more when the Winchester Club served as host city to the District Assembly of the 56th District on July 17-18, 1930 and to the District Conference of the 186th District on April 22, 1941. The success of both events was due largely to the preparation for and the services rendered by the Winchester Rotary Club and the citizens of Winchester.

Of the activities begun during the middle years the work in establishing and administering the Student Loan Fund is the one likely to have the most lasting effect. The Student Loan Fund is a trust fund made possible through the generosity of the late Henry Howard Cortenay who became associated with the work of Rotary International and the Winchester Rotary Club through his nephew, Dowell J. Howard, a member of the Winchester Rotary Club. Mr. Cortenay being duly impressed with the organization, did by the terms of his will, leave to Rotary International, funds to be held in trust by that organization for use at the direction of the Board of Directors of the Winchester Rotary Club.

The Winchester Rotary Club was subsequently incorporated and after due legal process the fund was transferred to this club and the Student Loan Fund was established. This fund was established for the purpose of providing the financial assistance in the form of a loan to worthy students desiring to gain a higher education. Loans are made to students while in school and are repaid after graduation. The fund has operated independently of contributions from the members of the Rotary Club and the income from the original grant has provided the funds necessary for its operation. The Student Loan Fund Committee, composed of members of the Winchester Rotary Club, administers the fund and they are charged with its exclusive supervision, without responsibility to or direction from the Rotary Club. This fund, in existence since 1942, has provided the financial means by which eleven students, products of local schools, have received or are receiving higher education. It is a tribute to the Student Loan Fund Committee to be able to state that all loans made have been successful as to risk and through wise lending and shrewd investment the original grant has nearly doubled in size.

This history has purposely avoided the singling out of individual Rotarians and their accomplishments, but it is only proper to depart from that theme and mention two Rotarians from the Winchester Club who served Rotary International as District Governor. These men contributed mightily to the success of Rotary in Winchester during the middle years and the Winchester Rotary Club is justly proud of Dowell J. Howard, District Governor, 186th District of Rotary International, 1940-41, and of Rev. Ronald S. Wilson, District Governor, 275th District of Rotary International, 1951-52. Both men were able Governors and the Winchester Rotary Club is pleased to have had the privilege of counting them among its members.