Rotary Club of Edina History
Related Pages
Photo Albums

Edina's origins can be traced through the mists of time back to the year 1888. Nearly 70 years passed before the Village, now the City of Edina, became the home of the Rotary Club of Edina. What meager records survived the ebb and flow of over 30 administrations of this venerable organization point to Sam Thorpe as the driving force behind the creation of the Rotary Club of Edina.

In 1957, Morningside was fully developed, and the residential and commercial areas of Edina were rapidly building beyond the dreams of the pioneers who first farmed these fertile fields and built the mill by the babbling brook. The St. Louis Park Rotary Club was authorized to sweep up potential members from Edina, while the Minneapolis Club absorbed all Morningside had to offer. It was time for change.

Sam Thorpe was amply blessed with the necessary qualities which create success: vision, energy, common sense and good character judgment. These led him to Fred Rogers. Sam and Fred conducted a survey of Edina Morningside to determine the need and interest in creating a new Rotary Club for the community. The methods and details of this survey, not to mention the records, are lost to the ravages of time. It was necessary for the St. Louis Park and Minneapolis Clubs to relinquish their jurisdictions over Edina and Morningside for the new club to be created. Since Fred Rogers was a member of the Minneapolis club and Sam Thorpe of the St. Louis Park club, the matter was expedited with grace and aplomb.

During the spring of 1957, a group of worthies met to craft a lasting entity. In addition to the two gentlemen already noted, the sparse chronicle lists Don Judkins, Ralph Nelson, Kermit Wilson, Robert Crabb and Bill Crear. They encouraged others to join this enterprise, and on July 8, 1957, 19 people voted to apply for a charter from Rotary International. The true founding date of the Rotary Club of Edina is July 18, 1957, the date that the first Board of Directors was elected.

The initial board consisted of Kermit Wilson, President; Mickey Lane, Vice President; Don Judkins, Treasurer; Robert Crabb, Secretary; and Ralph Nelson, Frank Tupa, Lew Russell, and Fred Rogers, Directors. The first meeting of the club was held July 25, 1957, at the former Biltmore Inn on Vernon Avenue. Seven visitors joined 18 members in launching this new venture.

Only one official act remained to be performed to complete the founding process: Charter Night. The date of Oct. 7, 1957, was selected for this high festive occasion to be held at the Biltmore. The joy of this event was drastically reduced by the sudden death of Lew Russell, one of the directors and the owner of the Biltmore, on the night before Charter Night was to be held. With uncompromising strength, Mrs. Russell and her staff went ahead with the planned banquet and served some 400 Rotarians and their wives representing 25 clubs from all over Minnesota. Appropriately, Sam Thorpe served as Master of Ceremonies, and Evald Bank, District 5950 Governor, gave the main address.

From such beginnings, the Rotary Club of Edina has continued to grow and mature in many ways. It has relocated several times since the demise of the Biltmore. It enjoyed the hospitality of the Interlachen Country Club and the Camelot Restaurant. Since 1989, the Edina Country Club has been home to the club. From less than two dozen members, the club has grown to an average membership of more than 150.

Over its nearly 50 years of existence, the club has hosted guest speakers of high quality, including the Governor of Minnesota, U.S. Senators and Representatives, Supreme Court Justices, and a wide variety of individuals who have brought illumination and enjoyment to the weekly fellowship. Chrysanne Manoles, a Rotary Exchange Student who remained active in Rotary during her college career, became the first woman member of the Rotary Club of Edina on May 28, 1988. She is now part of a new Rotary club in Orono.

The purpose of Rotary extends far beyond the pleasures of convivial meals as it reaches out with helpful hands to the community, country, and world. In the past few years, the membership has raised a yearly average of more than $50,000 for good works.

Further, led by T. P. Anderson, the club helped establish the Rotary Club of Edina Morningside in 1989. The vision and hope of Sam Thorpe and Fred Rogers and the other founding members have surely been realized during the passage of nearly 50 years.