Service Above Self:
History of the Las Cruces Rotary Club
This history is from a pamphlet commissioned by the Rotary Club of Las Cruces in 1989 and written by Jennifer L. Holberg.
The 1970s and 1980s
The 1970s saw continued activity by the local club. In 1970, it donated $2500 to Memorial General Hospital to furnish a staff meeting room in memory of charter member Dr. R. E. McBride. The Club’s Golden Anniversary was celebrated on 5 December 1973. Rotarians and their wives were joined at the Palms Motor Hotel by district governor Billie Holder, where they listened to Adlai Feather tell of the early days of the club. Las Crucean Ralph Stucky was elected to serve as District Governor in 1974-75. Under his administration, Las Cruces became the first city in New Mexico to have two Rotary clubs. In the formation of new clubs, Rotary International is unique. According to Ralph Stucky, Rotary, unlike most service clubs, has no outside organizers; instead, clubs are formed on the basis of local interest. Thus, on 18 June 1975, Bob Heckler, Bob Crews, Walt Rubens, John Floyd and Ernest Williams received approval to begin a second Rotary club, and on 14 August 1975 the Rio Grande Rotary Club was granted its charter. On 14 September 1976, Las Cruces Rotarians gathered to dedicate Rotary Park to commemorate the club’s deceased members. (Rotary Park is located on the grounds of the former Memorial General Hospital and city-county office building on Alameda Boulevard. The city representative in the photo is Parks and Recreation Director Sam Graft.) By 1976, $19,488 had been given in scholarships, twelve Rotary exchange students from Las Cruces had been sponsored, and seven exchange students had been hosted in Las Cruces. In the 1980s, these figures continued to grow. Las Cruces Rotarians would receive international Rotary recognition by co-sponsoring a mobile eye clinic in Mexico, a 3-H project. The club also gave generously, $20,000, to the Polio Plus program in the years 1986-1989. Charitable donations to the community remained high as well; in June 1989, the Las Cruces club pledged an additional $2,900 for local charities. To honor Gen. Hugh Milton, an early honorary member, the club worked with other local service organizations to erect a statue on the campus of New Mexico State University. Another highlight of the 1980s was hosting the district convention in 1987. This convention was the most highly attended conference in the district’s history.
One major change occurred for Rotary clubs in the 1980s. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled that Rotary clubs were required to admit both men and women. Pam Smith, the first woman to be admitted to the Las Cruces club, joined soon after. According to Leo Valdes:
Oh, I think [women in Rotary] is wonderful because it keeps you on your toes, really. I think it’s the best thing that could have happened; as long as everybody is created equal and treated equal and everything’s on an equal basis, I think it will work. But the minute one gender or the other tries to get a hold of things, I think that will be the end of it.