Our Club History

Founded in 1905, Rotary International had spread widely across North America by World War I, and as a “networking” organization, Rotary had established sizable clubs in most of America’s major cities.  San Diego was no exception, and its club—the 33d Rotary Club to be chartered—counted many of the local “movers-and-shakers among its members when chartered in 1911.  At the time, a fundamental premise of Rotary was territorial exclusivity, and one club per community was the norm.  So it was in San Diego for the next several decades.
Gordon Gray was a prominent San Diego attorney who had been a founder and an early President of Club 33.  He also had served as a Director of Rotary International in 1915.  Gray’s law firm had opened an office in La Jolla in 1941, and perhaps motivated by his residence in La Jolla, Gray saw the role a Rotary Club in La Jolla could play.  He prevailed upon Club 33 to relinquish its right of exclusivity and help charter two new clubs in the San Diego region. One was in La Jolla, the 6585th club in Rotary International. Chartered on April 14, 1947, Rotary in the village of La Jolla began with 20 members, six of whom served as the first six presidents for The Rotary Club of La Jolla.
In its early days, membership in La Jolla Rotary was restricted to businessmen who lived in La Jolla or ran businesses within the village boundaries.  Shortly after being chartered, Rotary in La Jolla could claim that most of the village’s prominent civic and business leaders where members.  And for decades to come, shops along Girard Street bore the names of notable La Jolla Rotarians.  John Thiele, Fred Scott, Wyn Warwick, the Meanleys, and Ev Stunz were a few names of merchants whose businesses carried on over the years.
Community Service always has been a hallmark of La Jolla Rotary, and as might have been expected from the influential members of the Club, Rotarians were instrumental in organizing the La Jolla Planning Council, the precursor of the La Jolla Town Council. The club provided a double room in a new wing of Scripps Hospital and began a scholarship fund to aid college-bound students from La Jolla High School. At the same time, local Rotarians formed “sister-club” relationships with Rotary Clubs in Tijuana; Seville, Spain, and Sasebo, Japan.   
In the 1980s, Rotary International launched a global campaign to raise the funds needed to eradicate polio around the world.  Called “Polio Plus,” each Rotary District was challenged to raise money supporting the project.  San Diego area Rotarians rose to the occasion and gathered over $600,000 in pledges, La Jolla Rotary leading the way in 1988 with gifts of $178,700.  The success of that effort resulted from leadership by Jim Triolo, a one-time cheerleader at Stanford, a Past President of the Club, and a fundraising executive with Scripps Clinic.
In 1990, under the leadership of Dr. John Vaughn, La Jolla Rotary teamed with the La Mesa Club of Tijuana and applied for a grant from the Rotary International Foundation to match funds raised from local Rotarians.  Those funds enabled the expansion of a one-room school in Tijuana’s Colonia Esperanza, and with the imaginative design of a celebrated local architect, James Hubbell, a full elementary school sprang to life amidst an impoverished hillside settlement.  That school carries on today, offering hope to a new generation of children in Tijuana.
In 1982, a local benefactor, Florence Riford, generously made a 1982 gift of $500,000 to the Club’s already growing scholarship fund.  Over the years, club members had made significant gifts to that fund, often in memory of other long-time Rotarians.  And for many years, annual fund raising events were held to augment the endowment.  Today, the scholarship endowment enables La Jolla Rotary to fund many educational grants:  ”Strive Scholars” at Garfield High School are selected yearly from among students showing promise that would be assisted by further education or vocational training.  A Scholars Lab in Tijuana provides stipends to disadvantage students who otherwise would drop out of school in order find work and support their families.  Those students receive weekly English language education and computer training.  And graduating students as La Jolla’s four high schools are eligible for college scholarships amounting to more than $250,000 per year.
Youth Service is an important part of the Club’s work in La Jolla.  An Interact Club at La Jolla High School is sponsored by the La Jolla Rotary and is one of the more popular extracurricular activities at the school.  Interactors annually build homes in Tijuana and participate in a variety of other service projects. 
In 1986, a fundraising dinner was held to honor Florence Riford with the creation of The Florence Riford La Jolla Community Fund.  Mrs. Riford reciprocated with many more gifts that helped produce a sizable advised-fund at the San Diego Community Foundation.  La Jolla Rotary leadership works with the La Jolla Town Council and the San Diego Community Foundation to approve an annual grants for an array of local community activities.
In 1987, litigation started by the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, resulted in a Supreme Court decision holding Rotary’s “male-only” bylaw unlawful.  Florence Riford had been made an Honorary Member of La Jolla Rotary, but with the doors opened to women in Rotary, Barbara Brown was inducted as the first female member of the Club.  A prominent Family Law attorney in her own right, Barbara was married to a fellow Rotarian, John Brown, and as the years rolled on, both Barbara and John Brown became Presidents of La Jolla Rotary.  A special measure of energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to service has prompted many women in the community to become Rotarians, and today the number of men and women in the Club is roughly in parity.
La Jolla Rotary celebrated its 75th birthday after the Covid-19 pandemic slowed down in 2022, and today, the Club continues its weekly gathering at La Valencia Hotel—the regular meeting venue for most of the Club’s history.  The ambiance and views from La Valencia have made La Jolla Rotary a favorite destination for visiting Rotarians from all around the world.
In the late 1980s, a La Jolla Rotarian, Homer Torrey, created a Rotary Welcome Song that for years was sung as a greeting to visitors:
Welcome Rotarians as we greet you, Thanks for stopping by our door.
We are pleased to meet you, right here at La Jolla’s shore.
We want you to feel our friendship is real, we are glad you’re here today.
So, take home a bit of cheer, regards from all the members here.
And when once more, you’re near our door,
Come on, Rotarians, Come Again.
The Rotary Club of La Jolla remains committed to making a difference in the quality of life for all who call La Jolla home, as well as those who visit to enjoy the charms of our village.  We also strive to have a positive impact on the world by supporting the goals of Rotary International.  To those ends, we are committed to serving others, promoting integrity, and advancing world understanding, goodwill, and peace. ( Chuck Dick author, 2023).