History of District 5190

A History of Rotary District 5190

1915 - 2019

In 1915 officers of Rotary International recognized the need for more efficient administration of the rapidly growing, geographically widespread number of clubs being chartered.  A worldwide division into Rotary Districts resulted. District 13 was comprised of clubs from California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii. Henry Brunnier of the Rotary Club of San Francisco was elected District Governor of District 13 for the Rotary year 1915-1916. Brunnier was followed in 1916-1917 by Homer Sumption of the Rotary Club of San Diego. The Rotary Club of Reno, the oldest club in present-day District 5190, was chartered under Sumption’s governorship. Then, in 1918 the designation of District 13 was changed to District 23. Chartering of new clubs was relatively slow in these early years because the central office believed a service area population of at least 30,000 was necessary for a club to exist and function successfully. Eventually, when RI removed this requirement, growth accelerated. In 1922 the designation changed again, from District 23 to District 2. This district was now made up of clubs from California, Nevada, Hawaii and Mexico. Now the chartering of new clubs exceeded all expectations, and as a result District 2 was split into five districts in 1937. Northern California and Nevada became District 105. Growth continued, and many new clubs were chartered in Northern California as well as three more in Nevada.

After 10 years, in 1947, it was time for another division of the district. District 109 was split from District 105 and boundaries were reduced. Although the District 109 designation lasted only two years, six new clubs were chartered, including two in Nevada, during this period. Rotary International again changed designations in 1949 and former District 109 became District 164.  We remained 164 until 1957, when continued growth of the district necessitated division once more. The district was split with Northern California being divided. The new district, number 519, now included the northeastern part of California from Walnut Grove on the south to the Oregon border and all of Nevada except for the southern tip (Las Vegas).  In 1957 District 519 was comprised of 51 clubs with a total of 3315 members. During the ensuing years, the chartering of new clubs in District 519 continued at a moderate pace. Also, a minor boundary change on the western edge of the district brought in two existing clubs, Gridley and West Sacramento.

By 1987 the district had grown to 64 Rotary Clubs, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for District Governors to perform their required duties in the time frame prescribed by Rotary International. Throughout the United States the proliferation of clubs had resulted in more and smaller districts. District 519 was now geographically one of the largest in the United States. A proposal to divide into two districts with 33 clubs in one and 31 clubs in the other was approved by the RI Board of Directors in 1988. However, a campaign by dissenting clubs was successful, and a poll of all clubs in the district resulted in a rejection of the split. Additional new clubs were chartered, and in 1990 a new proposal for splitting was put before the clubs of District 519 which now numbered 69 clubs with 4,456 members. This proposal divided the district along the ridge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but this was also rejected by the club members. In early 1991, the RI Board of Directors changed the district numbering system from three-digit designations to four.  District 519 became District 5190 in July 1991. Club extension committees continued to be successful, and new clubs were chartered throughout the district.

Finally, a division meeting the approval of all clubs was proposed. On March 29, 1994, the Rotary International Board of Directors approved the split of District 5190 with a condition that a new club be formed in the new District 5180. A new club was formed prior to July 1, 1995 and met the condition imposed by the RI Board of Directors. The new District 5180, comprised of 34 clubs in the Sacramento, Marysville/Yuba City and Oroville areas, was split off from 5190. Now, District 5190 was reduced to 46 clubs (45 after Lake Tahoe Southeast was disbanded).  The district included most of Nevada, as before, and the foothill and mountain areas of Northeastern California. This division was effective July 1, 1995.  Although the number of clubs in District 5190 was reduced, the geographical size remains the largest in the 48 contiguous states.

Because of Rotary International’s Board of Directors’ decision in 2011 to eliminate District 5260 in Southern California (a district representing just over 900 Rotarians, which is far less than the required 1200 minimum per RI bylaws), three surrounding districts welcomed those 33 clubs formerly part of D5260 into their districts effective July 1, 2012. District 5190 was pleased to welcome over 130 hard working Rotarians from the Bishop, Bishop Sunrise, Mammoth Lakes Noon and Mammoth Lakes Sunrise clubs. The Areas of District 5190 were expanded from 12 to 13 Areas because of these four additional clubs.

Support of the Rotary Foundation has always placed us among the highest producing districts. In early 1987, in Concord, California, the final Sunday morning of PETS included a special meeting with the District Governor at that time, Paul Nielsen.  For the first time, PDG Nielsen disclosed to the Presidents-elect a new RI program that was to be initiated throughout the District for 1987-88.  The new PolioPlus program that had been created in the Philippines was to now go worldwide. It was announced at the meeting that RI’s goal was to raise $120 Million US. PDG Nielsen gave each club president a target amount for their specific club that included an amount based on past foundation giving for each respective club. Most of the clubs in the district met or exceeded their goal. During that year, the District was represented by 63 clubs that included the Rotary Club of Reno with 250 members and the Sacramento Club with nearly 500 members and raised $1.104 million US for the PolioPlus Program. 

The clubs in our district have continuously been involved in international programs through World Community Service and the Foundation.  We have participated with countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Fiji, Russia, Romania and the Philippines.

Activities and programs for youth have always generated great support from the District 5190 clubs.  Our district wide programs include Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE), where approximately 30 high school students from around the world come to live with host families and attend school in our local communities, learning about life and culture in the United States.  Another 30 students from our District go “out” each year to explore the world in a year-long cultural exchange while attending high school abroad.  Rotary Youth Exchange builds world peace and understanding, one student at a time. The District 5190 RYE program received the Gold NAYEN Achievement Award in 2013-2014 for commitment to excellence and dedication to continuous improvement.  This award is the highest level of recognition available and recognizes the RYE Committee and Counselors for their leadership in best practices and our youth exchange program as a role model for other Districts in North America.

Another district-wide youth program is Interact, with 29 active Interact clubs in various communities.  Interact is a Rotary sponsored club for 12 to 18-year olds. With the change in age to 12 years (from 14) in 2010, the opportunity for Interact clubs has now expanded to 7th and 8th graders, and we have several active Interact clubs in these grades, in addition to the more traditional high school Interact clubs. During the 2014-2015 year, two new Interact Clubs were established. The Rotary Club of Sparks Centennial Sunrise sponsored the Interact Club at the Excel Christian School and the Rotary Club of Alturas sponsored an Interact Club at the Modoc Middle School.

Rotaract, a Rotary sponsored club for ages 18-30, bridges the gap between high school and full Rotary membership with either college based or community-based clubs. The District currently has one active Rotaract Club. 

Rotary Youth Leadership Awakening (RYLA) is a premier leadership training opportunity for high school juniors in District 5190, with nearly 100% participation of our clubs in this valuable program.  Our District continues to participate in RYLA with neighboring District 5180, as the camp started in 1988 when the two districts were one.  Students come away from the week-long experience at Grizzly Creek Ranch, near Portola, saying that it was a “life changing experience”.  In the past, more than 100 high school juniors from our District typically participated in RYLA each year, which then expanded to two sessions to accommodate the demand from our Rotary clubs to train our future leaders. The 2012 RYLA had an enrollment of 150 students, validating the extraordinary impact the camp has on students and the tremendous support from the clubs around the District. 2013 saw RYLA expanding to three week long sessions to respond to the demand for this exceptional leadership training experience.

Like RYLA, the District started the Rotary Eighth Grade Leadership (REGL) program (also known as Rotary Middle School Leadership in the Reno/Sparks area), a four-day intensive leadership training seminar. The purpose of the project is to offer professional leadership training, with a strong emphasis on ethics, to selected 8th grade students as they prepare for their high school experience. Attendance is by scholarships sponsored by Rotary clubs and the students demonstrating leadership qualities are selected by their principal.  A 3-day residential program, piloted in 2012 to serve the more rural communities of our District, was fully subscribed and very successful.  Two Rotary Eighth Grade Leadership programs are currently provided in the district, with capacity to serve all the clubs in District 5190.

The Group Study Exchange Program has been another Foundation Program strongly supported by the District.  This program, involving successful non-Rotarian business and professional people, has seen District 5190 sending groups to and receiving groups from many countries around the world. 

Each year District 5190 sent scholars abroad for a year or more of study under the Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship Program, now called Global Grants.   Generous membership support of the Rotary Foundation enabled our district to make these programs available in our communities.

With the new Future Vision model for The Rotary Foundation effective on July 1, 2013, District 5190 enjoyed the last official “Group Study Exchange” with District 3150 in southeast India in 2012-2013 and our last Ambassadorial Scholar, Martha Eisenhour, who completed her year of study in Dublin and Belfast, Ireland.

The once controversial issue of female membership in Rotary is now a distant memory.  In 1987, Georgia Schultz was the Charter President of the Rotary Club of Ione.  Since then, many of our clubs have elected women presidents.  In 1997-1998 Lydia Frenzel served as our first woman District Governor.  Wyn Spiller served as the second woman District Governor in 2008-2009 and was succeeded by District Governor Janice Gage in 2009-2010. Vicki Puliz served as Governor in 2013-2014 and Gail ‘Virus’ Ellingwood lead the District in 2015-2016. Tina Spencer-Mulhern served as District Governor in 2018-2019. 

For many years, Sparks, Nevada was the traditional location of the District 5190 annual District Conference. George Ticknor, the first District Governor of the most recently redefined district, broke with tradition in 1995-1996, and the Conference was held in Elko, Nevada.  The location of our District Conferences has been diverse over the many years. Following are the locations of the past Conferences:
  • 1997: Sparks
  • 1998: South Lake Tahoe
  • 1999: North Lake Tahoe
  • 2000: Tahoe City - Granlibakken
  • 2001: Reno – MGM/Reno Hilton, now Grand Sierra Resort
  • 2002: Sparks – John Ascuaga’s Nugget
  • 2003: Reno – Atlantis Casino Resort & Spa
  • 2004: Tahoe City, Granlibakken
  • 2005: Reno – Reno Hilton
  • 2006 & 2007: Sparks – John Ascuaga’s Nugget
  • 2008 & 2009: Reno – Peppermill 
  • 2010: Reno – Grand Sierra Resort
  • 2011: Reno – Atlantis Casino Resort & Spa
  • 2012, 2013, 2014: Sparks – John Ascuaga’s Nugget
  • 2015: Harrah’s at South Lake Tahoe
  • 2016, 2017 & 2018: Reno – Atlantis Casino Resort & Spa
  • 2019: Peppermill Casino Resort Spa – (The first multi-District Conference)
District 5190 has a history representative of the growth of Rotary, which in recent years has been through the chartering of sunrise or sunset Clubs. As an example, 2006-07 saw three new clubs chartered. The District recognized that we needed to find innovative ways to attract new members; we needed to create a Rotary Club for the next generation.  The District was honored to charter the Reno New Generations Club on November 6, 2009 with 31 charter members and represents one of the very few non-traditional clubs in the United States. Due to confusion when the fifth avenue of service, New Generations, was approved by Rotary International, the Reno New Generations Clubofficially changed their name to Reno Midtown in 2012.

The District welcomed a new Club in 2015. The Rotary Club of Auburn Sunset was chartered on June 3, 2015 with 23 charter members. Area 5 now represents four Rotary clubs in the Auburn, CA vicinity.  

In 2016, unfortunately two clubs in the District surrendered their Rotary Charter; Mammoth Sunrise and Westwood – Lake Almanor.

The 2016 RI Counsel on Legislation gave the tools for increased club flexibility; clubs now have more freedom in determining their meeting schedule; they can now adopt simplified and more inclusive criteria for membership. Unlike traditional Rotary Clubs that meet weekly, the Rotary Passport Club has only four "in-person" meetings per year, sponsors no service projects and performs no fundraising activities.  Instead, members are encouraged to attend any of the meetings of any of the other Rotary clubs in the District on days and at times that are convenient for them.  Members are also encouraged to support the service projects and fundraising activities of any Club in the District that they find appealing as their schedule permits. The Rotary Club of Auburn Daybreak transitioned to Sierra Passport in 2016 taking advantage of greater flexibility to attract new members. The Rotary Club of Passport to Amador was chartered in May of 2018. The Rotary Club of Carson City Sunset struggled with membership and decided to transition to a Passport Club in 2018, officially becoming the Rotary Club of Cap City Passport. 

The Rotary E-Club of District 5190 was chartered on April 19, 2016. Membership in the e-club allows the flexibility to serve the community and engage in the fellowship of Rotary at times that are convenient to its members. While e-clubs are a lot like other Rotary clubs in that they meet regularly, carry out service projects, support The Rotary Foundation, and socialize with each other, an e-club meets online when it’s convenient for its members - day or night, any day of the week.  E-club members use webinars, videoconferencing, message boards, or tools like Skype to communicate. Some e-club members also meet in person at service projects, social activities, the District Conference or the RI Convention. Membership in the Rotary E-Club of District 5190 allows the members to participate in service opportunities through the e-club as well as through partnerships with nearby clubs.  

The District formed a 501(c)(3) in 2016. The Rotary District 5190 Community Fund was organized exclusively for charitable purposes. Funds raised will consist of donations from Rotary members, local individuals, community organizations and businesses. Donations collected through fundraising efforts will be used for Youth Programs in the District such as RLYA and the High School Speech and Music contests that occur annually at the District Conference. 

The Achievement Beyond Obstacles (ABO) Programstarted by the Rotary Club of Reno South in 1996 and recently joined by the Rotary Club of Reno, Rotary Club of Reno Central and the Rotary Club of Sparks. It is an innovative scholarship program dedicated to students usually overlooked by other programs. Counselors from every high school in Washoe County—currently 20, including charter and private high schools— nominate one or more students for this program. These students have overcome major obstacles in their lives and will be continuing their education. These students usually do not qualify for other scholarships which are typically based upon grades or school participation. Other clubs outside of the Reno/Sparks area are considering implementing the ABO Program.