A trip down memory lane: Beginnings

Are you curious about how the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor was started? Ever wondered about our great club’s past? Here begins a trip down memory lane, where we’ll be exploring some moments from our club’s past.


The year was 1916. World War I was beginning its third year. Ford’s Model T had been in production for eight years. For seventy-nine years The University of Michigan had occupied 40 acres in what is now known as central campus. Fielding H. Yost had been Michigan’s football coach for fifteen years. And Joe Parker’s College Saloon (the “Joe’s” that figures so prominently in that famous college song “I Want To Go Back To Michigan”) had moved three years prior to the old Greek Revival building on the corner of Fourth and Ann. Known then as the Catalpa Inn, the building had been erected around 1840 to house the Washtenaw Bank. It provided a home for its president and his family, and was the first meeting place for Ann Arbor Rotary’s fifteen charter members.

The Catalpa Inn

Early in 1916 Ann Arbor physician Dr. Theron S. Langford returned from a trip to Toledo. While visiting an acquaintance he noticed a strange gadget on his desk. It was the emblem for Rotary International. He was much impressed and determined to organize a Club in Ann Arbor.

Theron S. Langford

Origins of Ann Arbor Rotary Charter…
Upon his return from Toledo impressed with the aims of Rotary, in 1916 Dr. Theron S. Langford began corresponding with C. F. Laughlin, Rotary’s District Governor.
Dr. Langford also began discussions about forming a Rotary Club in Ann Arbor with personal friends: the Rev. Lloyd C. Douglas, pastor of the First Congregational Church; Harlan H. Johnson, editor of the Ann Arbor Times News Company; Charles A. Sink, Secretary of the University of Michigan’s School of Music; Shirley W. Smith, Secretary of the University of Michigan.
After a few informal meetings with the aforementioned and others, application was made to Rotary International to secure the official papers needed for recognition.
By July 7th, 1916, the original five enthusiasts had grown to fifteen and would become the fully organized charter for Ann Arbor Rotary on July 21st.


By Tom Millard