The Rotary Foundation Centennial Rotary District 6630

Father of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International


Arch C. Klumph
1913-1914 President of the Rotary Club of Cleveland
1916-1917 President of Rotary International
Founder of The Rotary Foundation

A Rotarian had a dream. A Rotarian from the Rotary Club of Cleveland. A dream that he followed for 30 years, telling Rotarians what an endowment fund could do for Rotary and the communities of the world. Arch C. Klumph was a charter member and past president of the Rotary Club of Cleveland. He was Rotary International’s sixth president, creator of the district system for Rotary Clubs and the Father of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

Arch was born in Conneautville, Pennsylvania on the 6th of June 1869, and he is a direct descendent on the maternal side of James Fenimore Cooper, the American novelist. Ancestry on his father’s side has been traced back to Thomas Klumph, who settled at Lake Oswego, New York, in 1771. Arch’s parents, Morton J. and Emma Cooper Klumph, had two other sons.

The family moved to Cleveland when Arch was small. Like many young people of his time, Arch was forced to leave school at age 12 to go to work to help with family expenses. Despite this serious responsibility, however, he found time to be a “real boy”, as he wrote, “graduating from the devilment class with high honors and received a diploma of two broken legs for trying two daredevil tricks that the other boys wouldn’t tackle”.

At age 16, Arch resumed his education by attending night school at a social settlement house. Lacking carfare, he usually walked four miles each way. Also that year, Arch and a friend produced a variety show. That friend’s father, a proprietor of a lumber company, overheard Arch planning a budget. Impressed, he inquired about Arch and hired him as office boy at a wage of U. S. $1.00 per day. In time, Arch became president, general manager and finally, owner of the firm, the Cuyahoga Lumber Company. During his career, he also was an executive with other businesses: president of the Buckeye Box Company, president of the Security Savings and Loan Company, president of Industrial Fabricators, Inc. and vice-president of The Lake Steamship Company.

Arch had a great love of music. At age 18 he began to study the flute, and three years later he received a chair in the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. He played with the orchestra for 14 years and was a lifelong sponsor of it. He also was a member of the Hermits, a Cleveland club for talented men, and he enjoyed the friendship of many leading musicians and actors. He once confided to a reporter that he would trade his business success for a career in music. “My heart is in music and my head is in business,” he said. “I wish my heart could have controlled my life”. Yet, he never let his interest in things artistic interfere with business.

Arch was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and served many trade associations as an elected leader. As admirable as his business and civic activities were, it was in service to Rotary and The Rotary Foundation that Arch’s true talents, energy and vision were most fully realized and expressed.

In 1911, at the age of 42, he became one of the founding members of the Rotary Club of Cleveland. Two years later he served as its President. In 1914 he was elected a director of the International Association of Rotary Clubs and served on the Constitution and By-laws Committee and the Executive Committee. He was elected international president of Rotary in 1916-1917, only five years after becoming a Rotarian.

On June 18, 1917, while the world was engaged in war, Arch stepped to the podium at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and proposed the creation of an "endowment fund for Rotary . . . for the purpose of doing good in the world in charitable, educational, and other avenues of community service." At this meeting the Rotary Endowment Fund was born. A few months later, the endowment received its first contribution of $26.50 from the Rotary Club of Kansas City, Missouri, USA. The next donation came several days later from a past president of the Rotary Club of San Francisco.

In 1928, when the endowment fund had grown to more than US$5,000, the fund was renamed The Rotary Foundation, and it became a distinct entity within Rotary International. Five Trustees, including Klumph, were appointed to "hold, invest, manage, and administer all of its property. . . as a single trust, for the furtherance of the purposes of RI." Two years later, the Foundation made its first grant of US$500 to the International Society for Crippled Children. The ISCC — created by Rotarian Edgar F. "Daddy" Allen — later grew into the Easter Seals organization.

The Great Depression and World War II both impeded significant growth for the Foundation, but the need for promoting a lasting world peace generated great post-war interest in developing the Foundation. After Rotary founder Paul P. Harris died in 1947, contributions began pouring into Rotary International, and the Paul Harris Memorial Fund was created for the purpose of building the Foundation.

That same year, the first Foundation program was established — Fellowships for Advanced Study, which was the forerunner of the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships program. Then in 1965-66, three new programs were launched — Group Study Exchange, Awards for Technical Training, and Grants for Activities in Keeping with the Objective of The Rotary Foundation, which was later called Matching Grants.

The Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) program was launched in 1978, with the Rotary Volunteers program being created as a part of 3-H in 1980. The PolioPlus program was announced in 1984-85, and the following year saw the introduction of Rotary Grants for University Teachers. The first Peace Forums were held in 1987-88, leading to the establishment of Rotary Peace Programs. Then in 1989, 1963-64 RI President Carl P. Miller and his wife, Ruth, donated US$1 million to establish the Discovery Grants program.

Since that first $26.50 donation in 1917, the Foundation has received contributions totaling more than US$3.5 billion (as of the end of Rotary year 30 June 2014). To date, over 1.3 million individuals have been recognized as Paul Harris Fellows — that is, someone who has contributed US$1,000 or has had that amount contributed in his or her name to the Annual Programs Fund. In 2004, the Trustees of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International formed the Arch C. Klumph Society to give special recognition to donors who have contributed a minimum of $250,000 and to pay tribute to Past President Arch’s many contributions. Such strong support and involvement of Rotarians worldwide ensures a secure future for The Rotary Foundation.

Among Arch’s contributions to Rotary International was the writing of the International Constitution in 1915, which, he asserted, “changed the foundation of Rotary from one of tissue paper to one of solid concrete.” He was also responsible for the standard club constitution, the formation of Rotary Districts and he took pride in the establishment of the attendance reports.

Throughout the last half of his life, Arch served Rotary International and The Rotary Club of Cleveland faithfully and with great vision. When he died in 1951, Arch Klumph had seen the latent giant that had been Rotary, grow into an organization of great potential, and one that would grow in response to the needs of a world seeking peace and understanding among peoples and nations.

The Rotary Foundation Centennial