Among items to be auctioned (from top): a cast bronze statue of a girl holding a dove; a shirt from Nigeria adorned with the theme logo of native son Jonathan Majiyagbe, RI's first African president; and a copper bowl from Turkey.
Antique Indian Kangra paintings. A wristwatch commemorating Rotary International’s 75th anniversary. A shirt from Nigeria with the words “Lend a Hand” printed in four languages around the border.
“In many parts of the world, people don’t shake hands, they give a gift,” notes Chuck Keller, 1987-88 president of Rotary International. Even so, Keller wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming generosity of Rotarians during his year as president. “You can’t imagine the extent of it,” he says. “Art objects, handicrafts – there’s an unbelievable variety of things people would give.” Keller turned part of his home into a museum, complete with lighted shelves, to display the items.
Now, after moving to a smaller home, he is parting with some of his treasures. Two hundred lots from his collection will be sold through an online auction. Rotarians anywhere in the world can bid on items, with the proceeds going to the Rotary Centers for International Studies in peace and conflict resolution.
“I was a bomber pilot in World War II, and I’ve been shot at, and that makes an impression on you,” he says. “My passion is the search for world peace. The Rotary Centers program is the most direct effort that Rotary has ever made at peace-building, so that’s where I want my money to go. I’ve committed my gifts to the Foundation for that program, and the Foundation is in the process of raising US$95 million dollars to fully endow it.”
Rotarians can help reach that amount, says auctioneer Tripp Kline. “Somebody might bid $2,000 on a $5 coffee mug,” Kline says, “not because they think it’s worth $2,000, but because they want to support the Foundation.” A member of the Rotary Club of Washington, Pa., Kline’s firm, Three Rivers Auction Company, has volunteered to organize the auction.
Kline and Keller hope the auction will get Rotarians’ competitive juices flowing. Clubs in Arkansas might bid against each other for the framed “Arkansas Traveler” certificate signed on 1 October 1986 by Bill Clinton, who was then the governor of the state. Rotarians in India might try to see how high they can go on a decorative wooden plaque given to Keller by Anant Deshmukh, 1988-89 governor of District 3160.
Others might simply want to own a piece of Rotary history. “Some of the items have significant intrinsic value,” Keller says, “but all have the enduring value of warm friendships and happy memories from every corner of the world.”
The auction is open now and will close at midnight on 23 February. Go to www.3riversauction.com and click on “Auctions and Events” to view lots and place bids. Anyone interested in bidding must first register at the Web site; Visa and MasterCard are accepted, and payment must be made in U.S. dollars.