Third-generation Rotary president

NAW’s own correspondent, Rasmus Falck, takes the reins of a venerable Oslo institution

Photo courtesy of Rasmus Falck Rasmus Falck, new president of the Oslo Rotary Club.

Photo courtesy of Rasmus Falck
Rasmus Falck, new president of the Oslo Rotary Club.

Special to the Weekly
Oslo, Norway

Oslo Rotary Club has elected Norwegian American Weekly’s correspondent Rasmus Falck as their next president. He follows in the footsteps of his grandfather and father as president of Scandinavia’s largest and oldest club. His grandfather became a member in 1924. When the capital of Norway changed name from Kristiania to Oslo on the first of January 1925 (90 years ago), he had the idea of using the occasion to do some international branding. A special publication about the club and the city was distributed to all the existing Rotary clubs. Rasmus’s grandfather was elected president shortly after WWII, and his father was president when Crown Prince Harald became a member of the club. Rasmus’s father celebrated his 107th birthday at the club as the world’s oldest rotarian.

The most ambitious program in Rotary’s history is to end polio. Rotary, along with partners like World Health Organization, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has reduced polio cases by 99 percent worldwide since our first project to vaccinate children in the Phillipines in 1979.We are now close to eradicating polio. The efforts in 2015 will give priority to refining surveillance to catch any remaining virus, keeping Africa and the Middle East polio-free and providing a surge of support to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Rotary has more than 300 clubs and 12,000 members in Norway. It was the Norwegian-American senator Olaf M. Oleson from Fort Dodge Rotary Club who brought the movement to Scandinavia. He participated in Rotary International’s Convention in Edinburgh in 1921, the first to be held in Europe. After the Convention he visited Norway, where he brought up the idea to start a Rotary Club. Oslo Rotary Club held its first inaugural meeting on the 13th of October that year, when the first members of the board and the first president was elected.

That was the first Rotary meeting held in Scandinavia. Later they applied for membership in Rotary International. The application arrived in Chicago on the 17th of May! At the charter banquet in Kristiania later the same year, past president of Rotary International, architect C. Klumpf from Cleveland Rotary Club, handed over the charter dated June 1, the first such charter in Scandinavia.

The club’s president bell was a gift from the Minneapolis Rotary Club in 1925. Explorer Roald Amundsen became an honorary member in 1926. Crown Prince Haakon keeps up the tradition and is an honorary member today. Rotary’s founder Paul P. Harris visited the club in 1932. During WWII the club went underground.

The club has its luncheon meetings on Thursdays at the Grand Hotel in the heart of Oslo. The Grand first opened its doors in 1874, and world-famous Norwegians such as Henrik Ibsen and Fridtjof Nansen made the hotel their second home. At the Mirror Room, where the club occasionally has its meetings, the annual Nobel Banquet takes place just before Christmas. If you want to invite friends and try the menu, you are welcome. Rasmus Falck had the pleasure of meeting with Carl Johnson, president of the Fort Dodge Rotary Club on a visit to Iowa some years ago. Then he extended an invitation to all members to visit the Oslo chapter. The same applies now.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 9, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Rasmus Falck

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo.