Chula Vista Rotary Clubs Continue to Lead

(Chula Vista Rotary Club meeting, 1951.)
(Chula Vista Rotary Club meeting, 1951.)

Think of any service-based group in Chula Vista, and chances are the first one to come
to mind is the Rotary Club. According to their website, The Rotary Club is a community
organization which “promotes integrity, through our fellowship of business,
professional, and community leaders’. Rotary is an international organization with more
than 46,000 individual clubs, 1.4 million members worldwide and representation in 200
countries. In Chula Vista, there are three clubs. They are often known by when they meet. For example, there is the “sunrise” that meets for breakfast, the “noon” club that
meets for lunch, and the “sunset” aka Eastlake club that meets for dinner. Membership
into Rotary is done on an invite basis and through a sponsor. The Rotary Club of Chula
Vista “noon” is also credited for sponsoring the first club in Tijuana in the 1930’s.

Each club has its own executive board, directors, and committees. Examples of different
committees include community service projects, membership, fundraising, and
scholarships. With three Rotary clubs in Chula Vista, there are many members ready to
embrace the “Service above Self” motto through community projects. However, the urge
to serve is nothing new for Chula Vista Rotarians.

The first Rotary club in Chula Vista was founded in 1926, known today as the “noon”
club. Rotary already had a presence in San Diego County since 1911 and was quickly
growing in popularity through service projects and donations to those in need.

The first Chula Vista Rotary club meeting took place in an office belonging to Ed
Melville, located at the corner of Third avenue and F Street. The first attendees of this
meeting were Chula Vista businessmen and community leaders.

There are many Chula Vista Rotarians who have participated and added to the positive
development of the city, and many club members have been notable city officials. These
include the current city manager, Maria Kachadoorian, previous city attorney Glen
Googins and previous mayors Cheryl and Greg Cox, to name a few. It is worth noting

that Rotary is not a political organization, therefore members who become elected city
officials become honorary members while in office.

A notable Rotarian from past decades is aerostructure engineer Fred H. Rohr, who was
named “Mr. San Diego” by the San Diego Rotary club in 1956. This title was given to a
Rotarian who “…has contributed outstanding community betterment to the San Diego
region in a variety of ways, through his/her efforts over a long period of time”. Rohr had
many contributions to the city, so many that he has a park and elementary school
named in his honor. Most notably, Rohr pioneered the concept of a “feeder”
subcontractor to supply airplane components to factories where planes were assembled.
This helped pioneer a new age of aerospace engineering and further advance the field as
a whole.

One of the most memorable moments in the Rotary Club of Chula Vista’s history took
place on October 21, 1960. It was a day to remember. Schools were closed so students
could see the President of the United States in Chula Vista. President Dwight
Eisenhower accepted the Rotary Club’s invitation to speak to delegates of the Inter-
American Municipal Congress meeting in San Diego. Air Force One landed at North
Island in the morning. Following a twenty-one-gun salute at the Naval Air Station, Navy
boats took the President across the bay to San Diego for a parade down Broadway. At
noon, he flew to Chula Vista in a Marine helicopter, landing at the San Diego Country
Club before a crown of 25,000. Chula Vista Congressman Bob Wilson arranged the visit, and his brother Dick Wilson drove the golf cart that brought Ike through the crowd. The combined bands of Chula Vista and Hilltop High School played the national anthem. A luncheon followed the invocation given in English and Spanish. Eisenhower wanted to speak to a foreign audience, so Rotarians and dignitaries from Tijuana joined the Inter-American Congress delegates in the audience that stretched across the fairway. Ike faced south towards Mexico as he praised the work of the municipal delegates as an example of people-to-people diplomacy. Today this historic event is remembered by a tree and plaque that
stands in the courtyard in front of Chula Vista City Hall. It was dedicated on February
19, 2009, to commemorate the event.

After a May 4, 1987 Supreme Court Ruling, Sylvia Whitlock became the first female to
be inducted to the Rotary Club of Marin Sunrise California. In 1989 Rotary’s Council on
Legislation voted to admit women into Rotary. After that clubs grew in both size and
functionality. Many leaders in the Rotary today are women; 2023-24 “noon” club
president Mora Keller de Murguia, and “sunrise” Bonita club president Gina Woodard
are two shining examples of Rotary leadership. Woodard is an excellent ambassador of
the Rotary club’s core efforts towards health advancements worldwide; as a biology
teacher at Hilltop High School, she is passionate about engaging her students in
research, service learning and community-based learning opportunities.

On the international level, Rotary is on the forefront in the efforts to eliminate the
Poliomyelitis (polio) virus. In collaboration with the World Health Organization and the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, local Rotary clubs and Rotary International has
donated a substantial amount toward research efforts. While the outcome of these
efforts may not be apparent tomorrow, the impact of local Rotary service projects has

continued to change lives. The service projects and scholarships depend on the
membership of each club. The “noon” Rotary club in Chula Vista specifically does a vast
amount of work with veterans and students. Each December, members decorate
Christmas trees at Veterans Park. The club also donates gift cards to veterans around
the same time, making sure that those who served our country can feel secure in basic
needs during the holiday season. During the academic school year, the clubs sponsor a
speech contest through the Chula Vista Elementary School District. The winning
students come and give their speeches to members. A larger project the clubs look
forward to each year is traveling to Tijuana to build a home for a family in need each

The newly installed Rotary Club of Chula Vista Presidents for 2023-2024 are:
Rotary Club of Chula Vista “sunrise”: Gina Woodward
Rotary Club of Chula Vista “noon”: Mora Keller de Murguia
Rotary Club of Chula Vista “sunset, aka Eastlake”: Miguel Hernandez

While Rotary club service projects may change as leadership grows, the core values of
“Service above Self” will stay strong.

Special thanks to Jerry May for Rotary’s historical content, and Steven Schoenherr
author of the Chula Vista Centennial book whose Eisenhower story can be found on
page 113.