RI President Calls on Rotarians to Preserve Paul Harris Home, “Comely Bank”

Burton_Ron_D-150x200By Ron Burton, President, Rotary International

One winter day, Rotary founder Paul Harris took a walk down a well-kept street just outside Chicago. Watching children sledding down a hillside, he recalled his own boyhood in New England. At that moment, he decided that if he ever were to own a home, it would be on top of that hill on Longwood Drive.

In 1912, Harris and his wife, Jean, made that dream a reality. They named their new home Comely Bank, after the street where Jean grew up in Scotland.

Over the years, the Harrises hosted Rotary meetings and entertained visiting dignitaries, surrounded by objects they had collected on their travels throughout the world. The trees they planted in their friendship garden still grace the yard. In 1947, Harris died there; Jean sold the home not long afterward and returned to Scotland.

Comely Bank

Comely Bank

The property changed hands twice more before the Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation purchased it in 2005. Through the efforts of that group, and with the help of the Rotary clubs of Chicago and Naperville, the Harris home has been saved from demolition. Now, it is up to us to protect the home for posterity, as a place for Rotarians to gather in the spirit of friendship and service.

The RI Board has agreed to loan $500,000 to the Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation to assist with the restoration of this irreplaceable piece of Rotary history. A goal of $5 million has been set for the project, to complete the necessary renovations and to provide an endowment fund to allow the property to operate as a museum and historic site.

I am committed to the restoration of the Paul and Jean Harris Home and hope you agree that this project is worthy of your support. My wife, Jetta, and I have made a contribution to our Rotary Foundation to establish a donor advised fund to accept contributions from anyone who shares our love of Rotary history, and our desire to preserve Rotary’s past.

If you would like to join us, please go to www.rotary.org/daf and click on “How to Contribute.” Include the account name, “Paul Harris Home Preservation,” and number, 474. A gift of any size is welcome, and naming opportunities are available in the home and garden for those who are considering a larger gift.

We are excited to have the opportunity to celebrate the spirit of Paul Harris in this special way. Together, we can save his home for generations of Rotarians to come.

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About John Borst

John Borst’s career in education spans the years 1960 to 1996. During those 36 years, he spent an equal amount of time working int he English language, Public and Catholic school boards. Borst taught in both elementary and high school environments. Positions of responsibilities held included department head in Geography, curriculum coordinator of Social and Environmental Studies, Principal, Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Student Services. Borst retired in 1996 as Director of Education for the legacy Dryden Board of Education. During this time, Borst has lived in the Ontario communities of Brampton, Toronto, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Aurora and Dryden. Currently, Borst splits his time between Dryden and Toronto. Since retirement, Borst has served as a Supervisory Officer with a remote School Authority; been a freelance writer of articles on education in particular for Education Today, the magazine of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA); founded and edited from 2006 - 2010 the Education blog Tomorrow’s Trust: A Review of Catholic Education; and from 2003-2010 was a trustee of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
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