Clem Renouf, RI president-elect, introduced the 3-H program to an enthusiastic audience at the 1978 convention in Tokyo.

In 2016-17, The Rotary Foundation turns 100. That's a century of helping Rotary members change lives and improve communities all over the world.

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In its sixth decade, The Rotary Foundation took a significant turn that set the stage for Rotary's landmark PolioPlus program. The story is best told by Rotarian Clem Renouf, who after serving as a pilot in World War II settled down in the small Queensland, Australia, town of Nambour as an accountant. In 1949, he joined the Nambour Rotary Club as a charter member, serving later as club president, then in 1965 as district governor. He went on to serve on the RI Board of Directors and was elected RI president for 1978-79.

Renouf had been well prepared for the opportunity to be district governor. On his way to training at Lake Placid, New York, USA, in 1966, he visited a medical facility in Vellore, India, which had gained support from Rotarians in Australia, India, and the United States. Rotary was then entering an era of reaching out through Matching Grants and GSE.

While Renouf was preparing to become president, a friend from his days on the RI Board, Mike Pedrick, told him of a medical project in South America that attracted volunteer physicians. At a Rotary Institute in Pittsburgh, Renouf had seen Rotarian Dr. Robert Hingson demonstrate his "peace gun," a remarkably efficient tool for mass immunization against communicable diseases.

All these experiences were coming together in his mind in February 1978, when Renouf, then president-elect, attended what would turn out to be one of the most important Board meetings in Rotary history. RI President Jack Davis, of Bermuda, had invited Hingson, founder and medical director of the Brother's Brother Foundation, to speak to the Board about his peace gun. A tool that enabled serum to enter the skin under high pressure, the peace gun could immunize a thousand people per hour — a vast improvement for mass immunizations over the traditional single-use syringe. Hingson spoke persuasively of the work of his foundation, demonstrated his peace gun, and suggested a closer relationship between Rotary and the work of Brother's Brother in childhood immunization.

Davis then raised the question of a special campaign to commemorate Rotary's 75th anniversary, just two years away. He challenged the Board to come up with an idea that would make a major impact during that anniversary year. Davis had a special passion for child health in developing countries. With the Year of the Child coming up in 1979, followed by the UN-designated "Decade of the Child" in the 1980s, Davis asked: "Might we launch such a program emphasis at the 1978 convention [to wipe out childhood diseases]?"

That evening, President-elect Clem Renouf worked late into the night and penned a proposal to launch a two-year 75th Anniversary Fund that could support international service projects too large for any single club or district to undertake. It would also encourage Rotarians to become personally involved by volunteering their time and talents to the projects.

When the board reconvened the next morning, President Davis read the proposal and liked it, and he proceeded to read it to the rest of the Board. The Board approved the program, and Davis promised to introduce it to the Rotary world at the upcoming convention in Tokyo.

by David C. Forward