Facts of the Matter -- The Secretariat
1600 Ridge Avenue (RI Headquarters 1954-87)
Secretariat comes from the French secrétariat , meaning “office of the secretary.” The term was used by the League of Nations and later the United Nations. As early as the 1920s, it was used to describe the staff supporting Rotary.
- At the first Rotary convention, in 1910, the newly formed National Association of Rotary Clubs appointed Chesley R. Perry as its first secretary. The former librarian, insurance broker, machinery salesman, and soldier originally agreed to take on the position part-time for a few months. He ended up staying until 1942, when he retired. After his retirement, he declined a nomination for RI president and the title of secretary emeritus, preferring the role of ordinary Rotarian.
- Rotary’s first full-time employee was Mildred Trosin Vandervelde, who became Perry’s secretary in 1912. She outlasted him at the Secretariat by a full decade, retiring in November 1952.
- When John Hewko starts on 1 July, he will be the 12th person to serve as RI general secretary. At 32 years, Perry’s term was the longest, and at six months, Hugh M. Archer’s was the shortest (he served as interim general secretary in addition to his duties as RI president). Herbert A. Pigman, a former editor of The Rotarian , served two terms, 1979-86 and 1993-95. For his work with Rotary, both while he was general secretary and after, Pigman was recognized in 2003 by his home state of Indiana as a Sagamore of the Wabash, the state’s highest civilian honor at the time.
- Rotary International rented office space in Chicago until 1955, when it moved into its new, 50,000-square-foot building in the suburb of Evanston, Ill. By 1987, the Secretariat had outgrown the space, and Rotary purchased its current home a few blocks away. Rotary occupies six full floors and three partial floors of the 18-story building and rents out the rest of the space.
- RI also maintains international offices around the world. The Zurich branch opened 7 February 1925, serving Europe and North Africa. Today, RI has offices in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, Korea, and Switzerland. Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland has an office in England, serving clubs and districts in that region.
- In 1970, 253 people worked at RI’s Evanston headquarters, 55 of whom had been born outside the United States; another 17 worked in Zurich. At that time, the headquarters received an average of 1,700 pieces of mail each day and sent out 4,300. Today, the Secretariat has 670 staff members worldwide. The headquarters receives an average of 13,200 e-mails each day and sends 26,000.