Published by Penny Hankins on

Hotel Seneca

The year was 1919.

Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States.

Automobiles had appeared on the scene.

Standard Optical Company was a big business in Geneva.

And some folks got interested in starting a Rotary Club in Geneva. They felt the time was right for a local service club.

Leading the formation of the club was Geneva attorney Eddie John Cook. Cook linked up with the Elmira Rotary Club, which became Geneva’s sponsoring club. Twenty-five Genevans became charter members at the organizational meeting on May 12, 1919, at the Hotel Seneca. Altogether, 92 Rotarians from Elmira, Auburn and Canandaigua watched the installation of the first officers of the Geneva club: Edward Dean, president; John Farwell, vice president, and William Gracey, secretary.

One hundred years later, the Geneva Rotary Club is getting ready to celebrate this big milestone with a Gala 100th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, April 27, at Club 86.

“This will be a fun and memorable evening,” said Gala Co-Chair Lisa Ventura, “and we invite the entire community to join in the celebration.”

For a reservation for the dinner, contact Karen Luttrell at The ticket price is $100. Corporate and Business sponsorships are also available and interested persons should contact Tara Rago at 315-781-5000. Information on the dinner also is available on the Geneva Rotary Club Facebook page and the club website at

Gala Co-Chair Jim Dickson noted that the evening will include historical tributes to Geneva Rotary over 100 years as well as the presentation of several awards and attendees will enjoy a special menu created for the gala occasion.

The Rotary International motto is Service Above Self and Geneva Rotary has embodied that principle over 100 years of raising money and supporting community service projects.

Some noteworthy fund-raising projects and the year they started have included: Rotary Review (1935); Public Lectures (1938); Travelogues (1958-1973); Pancake Suppers (1967); Radio Days (1969); Lobster Raffle (1989); Annual Community Dinner (1994); Annual Rotary (then Rotary/Kiwanis) Golf Day/Steak Roast to support DARE (1980); Poinsettia Sale (1989); Santa Train Express (2001); Fall Festival Express (2003); Radio Auction (2004) and the Service Above Self Dinner (2010).

Among the projects supported by Geneva Rotary are: Salvation Army Red Kettles (1940); support of Geneva General Hospital (1929); Student Loan Fund (1923), Learn to Swim Campaign (1929); Sea-Scout Ship sponsored (1936); Supported development of Boy Scout Camp Babcock-Hovey (1939) and its pool (1966); Boy Scout Troop 9 at Prospect Avenue School (1966); After-school basketball program at Prospect Avenue School (1975); Rheumatic Fever Clinics (1946); Orthopedic Children’s Clinics (1929); Established birthday fund to support Geneva Public Library (1962); Minority Youth Support (1973); Junior Rotarian Program (1973); Handicapped Children’s Olympics (1970); Athenian Youth Movement (1947); Hi-Y Delegate to New York Assembly (1939); Community Chest/United Way (1935); Student Honor Awards (1982); Support of DARE (1980); Annual Red Cross Blood Drive (1985); Adopt-A-Highway Program (1997); Community Dinner Program (1994); Support of local Community Lunch and Food Pantry programs (1994); Interact Club organized (1995); providing school-recess lunches and suppers at the Boys and Girls Clubs (1997); Rotaract Club organized at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (2004); Contribution to Happiness House capital campaign (2006); Establishment of an annual special-grant program to support local tax-exempt organizations and their activities (2007); Establishment of a club foundation so that contributions to club benevolent and philanthropic programs would be tax deductible (2009); and the School Backpack program (2017).

Rotarians also are active volunteers and the local club played a lead role in starting Rotary Camp Onseyawa on Seneca Lake in 1956. The camp offers a true summer camp experience for children with special needs and is supported by Rotary clubs throughout the region.

Shad Cook now serves as President of Geneva Rotary. “I believe the first president in 1919, Edward Dean, would be proud how the club has continued to offer a fun experience for members and contributed to the betterment of the Geneva community,” said Cook.

Geneva Rotary currently meets every Wednesday at noon at Geneva Country Club, but over time the club also met at the Hotel Seneca on Exchange Street, the Home Dairy on Seneca Street, the Lafayette Inn on Bean’s Hill, Seneca Lake Country Club, the American Legion, the Lionstone Restaurant on Route 14, Pronti’s Restaurant on Avenue E, the Belhurst Castle and the Ramada Inn. More than 80 men and women belong to the club today.

Part of the 100th anniversary celebration will be the presentation of the annual Springstead Award and the honoring of 24 Paul Harris Fellows. The Club established the Springstead Award nine years ago. The award is named for the late Ralph Springstead, who was a long-time Geneva banker and a member of Geneva Rotary. Springstead supported community service in a quiet and sometimes anonymous way. Past recipients of the award are the late Carl Fribolin, the Rev. James Gerling, the late Rosa Blue, David and Brenda Rickey, Mark and Mary Gearan, Judge Walter Gage, Ken and Eva Steadman, Nozomi Williams and Jim DeVaney.

The Paul Harris Fellow award recognizes Rotarians and community members for their achievements. The awarding of 24 in one year is unusual and commemorates the 100th anniversary of the club. For the 75th anniversary, 19 Paul Harris awards were presented.

Rotary International is composed of 1.2 million men and women around the world who donate their expertise, time and funds to support local and international projects that help people in need and promote understanding amongst cultures.  If you are interested in serving your community in a new way and are interested in becoming a Geneva Rotarian, please contact for more information or visit us on our website at Geneva Rotary meets every Wednesday at noon at Geneva Country Club.

Categories: Fundraisers