The History of Our Club
On August 6, 2003, Birmingham, Alabama natives John Peinhardt and Mike Mahon attended a Rotary Club of Birmingham meeting as a guest of John’s father, Brent Peinhardt. The Rotary Club’s guest speaker was the recently elected Alabama State Governor Bob Riley who was seeking support for his new tax plan. On that day, Rotary’s large meeting hall was filled to capacity and the crowd listened intently to their guest speaker. Following the Governor’s remarks, the floor was open for questions and for several minutes Birmingham Rotarians were able to question their Governor’s policies, voice opinions and concerns, and most importantly, receive instant feedback. John and Mike were inspired by what they witnessed and were also impressed by the large number of young people attending as guests. Having recently graduated college, they believed there should be an organization in Birmingham founded on the same principles as Rotary but tailored to the needs and interests of young professionals.
Immediately John and Mike began pursuing the opportunity to partner with Birmingham Rotary to establish Alabama’s first community based Rotaract Club. In October, they presented the concept to the Rotary Club of Birmingham’s Board of Directors. The Board, led by President Charles Collat, pledged its full support and agreed to sponsor the new club.
After the Rotary Board meeting, John and Mike spoke to several local Rotary clubs and asked Rotarians to submit names of quality young professionals who would be good candidates for Rotaract. By November, a Board of Directors was formed when John and Mike were joined by Matt Menendez, Brian Boehm, Kelly O’Donnell, Leslie Wood, Allen Jones, and Rachel Thompson. The inaugural Board members devoted substantial time and energy to promoting the club and developing its mission and operations. Their devotion paid off and by February 2004, Rotaract had received numerous applications for membership, ultimately yielding 51 charter members.
The club’s inaugural meeting was held in downtown Birmingham in the Harbert Center’s Bruno Hall on March 2, 2004. The first guest speaker, Hatton Smith, Rotarian and President of Birmingham-based Royal Cup Coffee, opened his presentation by exclaiming, “I wish I was a member of this club!” Following this meeting, Rotary International officially chartered the Rotaract Club of Birmingham on March 9, 2004 as Club Number 62902.
As a result of the generous and invaluable support of Rotary President Charles Collat, Rotarian Advisor Colin Luke, Rotary Club Executive Director Susan Jackson, members of the Rotary Club of Birmingham and the inaugural members of the Rotaract Club of Birmingham, the Rotaract Club of Birmingham has flourished in Birmingham by providing an unparalleled combination of high quality programming, service and fellowship opportunities for the area’s young professionals. With its consistent annual growth and ever increasing accomplishments, the Rotaract Club of Birmingham is among the largest, strongest and most effective Rotaract Clubs in the world.