A club with an 83-year legacy kicked off a new leadership year with the installation of a new president and a celebration with past presidents who participated in passing the gavel to formalize the occasion.
Twenty-two past presidents of the Rotary Club of Carrollton participated in the gavel ceremony with one also representing the first president of the club, Dr. I.S. Ingram. Ingram, who was president of what was then West Georgia College, initiated the formation of the club with the help of other Rotary clubs around the area. The first meeting was held at WGC in June 1939. Sunset Hills Country Club, where most club meetings have been held since, did not exist at the time.
Past President George Lenaeus, who served as club president in 1994-95, and a self-described “Smithfield Ham,” played this ghost of Rotary past to lead the passing of the gavel and presented Ingram’s original Rotary president lapel pin to turn over to Dr. Anna Clifton, the incoming president.
The next in line scheduled was the oldest living past president, Theron Jennings. Jennings, who will be 89 years old in August, unfortunately had to cancel his commitment at the last minute. His wife Sherry said he was really looking forward to seeing some old friends and being a part of a special tradition.
Rotary District 6900 Assistant Gov. Ryan Swertfager, who is a member of the Carrollton Dawnbreakers Rotary Club, presided over the installation of officers before the gavel ceremony. Another past president in attendance, Dr. John T. Lewis, who served in 1988-89, is the one who led efforts of the home club to sponsor the creation of the Dawnbreakers club.
Julianne Foster, outgoing president, noted that while the practice of including past presidents in the installation is a tradition other Rotary clubs have done before, it was one that had not been a regular one for this club in recent memory.
“After three years of some dysfunction for civic clubs in general during the pandemic, my goal this year was to bring back structure to get our well-oiled machine serviced a little bit,” said Foster. “Incoming President Anna Clifton learned about this gavel tradition practiced by other clubs during Rotary president’s training earlier this year. It was a no-brainer to adopt and I am so glad we did. It was a great day!”
Foster said the past president lined up across the front to pass the gavel was a visual display that demonstrates the club’s impressive 83-year-old history. Just the past presidents alone who were present represent a half a century of Rotary service.
“All of us feel great pride in being associated with the Rotary Club of Carrollton,” she said.
Charles Willis, who is no longer active in the club, served as the club’s president in 1992-93. He accepted the invitation to attend the meeting and participate in the gavel ceremony.
After the meeting, Foster thanked him again for joining his fellow past presidents and said she appreciated the fact that he thought it was something that was still important to him.
“Oh,” he said. “Rotary will always be important to me.”