District 7780 Historical Notes
 

During the summer of 1989 a District 779 Transition Committee began a cooperative and productive effort to create a new District 778 Rotary District by reducing the 72 clubs in District 779 which served a total of more than 4,200 Rotarians in territory from Newburyport, Massachusetts, eastern New Hampshire, central and western Maine and the province of Quebec in Canada.

The Rotary International Convention at Seoul, Korea in May 1989 authorized a separation of the seventy-two clubs of District 779 into two districts – District 779 and a new District 778, each of about two thousand Rotarians, effective July 1, 1990.

PDG Ronald Drouin, Governor in 1988-89 had worked with committees to develop a separation plan agreeable to district clubs, many of which would no longer be part of a Canadian-American fellowship of interaction and participation in Rotary service programs carried out under district leadership for as long as fifty years.  PDG James Labrie was Governor in 1989-1990 transition year during which details for the separation was completed and procedures for administering the new District 778 were developed and implemented.  (We became District 7780 on July 1, 1991 when zeros were added to all district numbers.)

Thirty one clubs consisting of twenty-two clubs in Maine, eight in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts, with a membership of 2,035 began our activity as a charter Rotary District 778 on July 1, 1990 with Daniel W. Mooers as our first Governor.  The Portland, ME club was celebrating 75 years and ten other clubs each had recorded 65 years or more of history.  Clubs in our new District 778 had been in District 779 for thirty-three years and in other district using about the same territory since 1937.  Historically, our Portland, ME Club and several other District 779 clubs were included in the original Rotary District 1.  On July 1, 1990, Roland Cloutier became the first District Governor of the new District 779 with forty-two clubs.

During District Governor Daniel W. Mooers’ 1990-1991 year, Brunswick-Coastal, ME was chartered on July 30, 1990 and Kennebunk Portside, ME was chartered on October 16, 1990 as new Rotary clubs, bringing the total number of clubs in District 778 to thirty-three.  On February 14, 1991, South Portland-Maine Mall, ME Club changed their name to Casco Bay Sunrise, ME.  Daniel Mooers was the only District Governor of District 778 as the following year a zero was added to all the District numbers.

During District Governor Robert “Bob” Patten’s 1991-1992 year, the implementation of Rotary International’s extended numbering plan took effect and we became District 7780 on July 1, 1991.  Rotary International, following requests from Boothbay Harbor, ME and Damariscotta-Newcastle, ME Rotary Clubs, moved from District 7790 to District 7780 on July 1, 1991.  A new Bridgton-Lake Region, ME club was chartered on September 30, 1991.  District 7780 now had a total of thirty-six clubs.

District Governor Morton Schmidt’s 1992-1993 year started on July 1, 1992 with a membership of 2,138 Rotarians. 

During District Governor Richard “Dick” Clark’s 1993-1994 year a new Fryeburg Area, ME club was chartered on April 4, 1994 which brought the total number of clubs in the District to thirty-seven.

During District Governor George Rice’s 1995-1996 year a new Yarmouth, ME club was chartered on June 17, 1996, bringing the total number of clubs in District 7780 to thirty-eight with a membership of 2, 300 Rotarians!

During District Governor Marie Williams’ 1997-1998 year another club was added to Portsmouth, NH.  The Portsmouth Sunrise Club was chartered on May 12, 1998 becoming the thirty-ninth club in the District.  Marie was the first woman governor of District 7780.  She was one of the 15 woman governors out of 530 governors that year.  It was only the third year of woman governors in Rotary's history.  We had a major ice storm in January 1998.  With the assistance of PRID Daniel Mooers, DG Marie Williams applied for a Disaster Relief Grant and it was award.  The first and only Disaster Relief Grant ever received by District 7780.

During District Governor Elias Thomas III’s 2000-2001 year a new Falmouth, ME club was chartered on May 10, 2001.  District 7780 now had 40 Rotary Clubs!

During District Governor Patricia Hunter’s 2003-2004 year another club was added to the Portland, ME area.  The Breakwater-Daybreak Club was chartered on May 10, 2004.  The Rotary Club of Seabrook-Hampton Falls, NH, which had been struggling for several years, decided to turn in their charter to Rotary International.  The termination took place on July 3, 2003.  We stayed at 40 Rotary Clubs in District 7780.

During District Governor Robert “Bob” Laux’s 2005-2006 year the new Topsham Expresso, ME club was chartered on April 20, 2006.  The Rotary Club of Windham officially changed their name to the Rotary Club of Sebago Lake (Windham Area), ME on March 20, 2006.  District 7780 was at a record high of 41 Rotary Clubs!

During District Governor Elizabeth “Liz” Cullen’s 2007-2008 year the Rotary Club of South Berwick, ME turned in their charter to Rotary International affective May 16, 2008.  The new Rotary Club of South Berwick-Eliot, ME was chartered on June 12, 2008.  The District was still at 41 Rotary Clubs.

During District Governor Brad Jett’s 2008-2009 year the Rotary Club of Portsmouth Sunrise, NH officially changed their name to the Rotary Club of Seacoast (Portsmouth), NH on April 9, 2009.

During District Governor Ann Lee Hussey’s 2010-2011 year the Rotary Club of Somersworth, NH, which had been struggling for a number of years, they finally decided to turn in their charter and it was accepted by Rotary International on May 6, 2011.  We were back to 40 Rotary Clubs in District 7780.  The Rotary Club of Rumford, ME changed their name to the Rotary Club of River Valley (Greater Rumford Area), ME which was officially accepted by Rotary International on April 1, 2011.

During District Governor Gary Speers' 2011-2012 year we maintained our 40 Rotary Clubs in District 7780.  This was the year of the "Moose on the Loose".  Every club president was given a stuffed moose and asked to submit pictures of their "moose" at fundraisers, service projects, etc. to the District newsletter.  It was a fun year with the moose and some clubs really got into it!

During District Governor Marty Peak Helman’s 2012-2013 year the Rotary Club of Casco Bay Sunrise, ME changed their name to the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise, ME which was officially accepted by Rotary International on November 30, 2012.  This is the third name change for this club but is more in line with where they are located and the time of day they meet.  The Rotary Club of Breakwater-Daybreak, ME also changed their name to the Rotary Club of South Portland Sunrise, ME which was officially accepted by Rotary International on April 15, 2013.  The Rotary Club of Newburyport, MA applied to Rotary International to move their club from District 7780 to District 7930.  They were the only club in MA in District 7780 and it made sense for them to be part of a MA District.  This had been discussed for many years and it was finally persued and approved by Rotary International this Rotary year.

During District Governor Carolyn Johnson’s 2013-2014 year several things happened.  As of July 1, 2013, the Rotary Club of Newburyport, MA officially became a part of District 7930.  This brought the number of clubs in District 7780 down to 39 clubs.  They were the only club in Massachusetts that had been a part of District 7780 and they felt it would be better to be part of District 7930 which is made up of Massachusetts clubs.  They will be missed.  We had our very first Cultural Exchange Team take place in the spring of 2014 with Uganda.  This replaced the old Group Study Exchange (GSE) Teams. 
 
During District Governor Lawrence Furbish’s 2014-2015 year, we had our first monthly video blogs.  These were short messages from the Governor and they were informative and entertaining.  We had our second Cultural Exchange Team this spring with Bulgaria.  We had three International Service Newsletters produced by Mary Tennant.  The number of clubs in District 7780 went back up to 40 with the chartering of The Rotary Club of Kittery After Hours on June 4, 2015 which was co-sponsored by the Rotary Club of Kittery, ME and the Rotary Club of South Berwick-Eliot, ME.  Their charter night will be September 18, 2015.
 
During District Governor Sheila Rollins' 2015-2016 year, we lost the Rotary Club of South Portland Sunrise.  They turned in their charter on November 5, 2015.  We gained a new club the Rotary Club of Saco Bay Sunset which was chartered on March 1, 2016 which was co-sponsored by the Rotary Club of Biddeford-Saco & the Rotary Club of Saco Bay.  So once again we stayed at 40 clubs in District 7780.  The number 40 seems to be District 7780's number!
 
During District Governor Marjorie Barker's 2016-2017 year, we did not gain any new clubs but we did not lose any either.  Like the prior year the number 40 seems to be District 7780's number of clubs!
 
Indeed, our District 7780 is one with a rich and unique heritage.  Comparatively few Rotary Districts enjoy the rare and significant honor of providing an international president.  Arthur Lageux, a Quebec club member and District Governor (1942-1943), served during 1950-1951 as President of Rotary International.  Ray Collett, an Old Town member and District Governor (1947-1948), was Vice President of Rotary International in 1951-1952 and also served on the RI. Board of Directors.   Fourteen clubs of our present district were active during this time.

Paul Cote of the Quebec club, District Governor (1972-1973), honored our district with his 1974-1976 tenure on the RI. Board of Directors.  Twenty-two clubs of our present district were active during this time.

Daniel Mooers of the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth, ME Club, District Governor (1990-1991) during our first year as District 778, served on the RI. Board of Directors 1994-1996 as our first official District 7780 RI Director.

Michael McGovern of the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth, ME Club, District Governor (1999-2000) was Vice President of RI. in 2007-2008 and also served on the RI. Board of Directors from 2006-2008.  Michael served on the Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees for 2012-2016.

Many District officers and Rotarians regularly have provided active leadership/service at the Rotary International level.

Pride in our District history does not rest only with accomplishments of individual Rotarians.  District projects have characterized Rotary service on the years.  Along with our active participation in RI. programs such as:  Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA); Group Study Exchange (GSE); Health, Hunger, Humanity Grants (3-H); World Community Service and similar on-going activities our District has  carried out and continues to develop unique programs of immeasurable and lasting value for people throughout the Rotary world.

In 1950, PDG William Linnell (1949-1950) spearheaded a Portland Club massive relief program for fishermen on the west coast of France.  Our district sent trainloads of clothing to needy families there.

During the early 1960’s the South Berwick Club with help from the District and others, carried out in British Guyana and Rio Grande de Norte, Brazil, a “heifer” project which, by the introduction of new genetic technology, improved over several years the breed lines of cattle, chickens and pigs.

PDG Marcel Morissette (1984-1985) was inspiration for a project to provide water wells in the Dominican Republic.  Thousands of District dollars along with grants from the Canadian International Agency and the Rotary Foundation supported the project which brought improved sanitation and better health to destitute places there.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic benefit from out on-going Intercultural Nursing “health Clinics” project developed during PDG Ronald Drouin’s (1988-1989) and PDG James Labrie’s (1989-1990) years.  The program included training for nursing personnel.

The Dover and Durham-Great Bay Clubs with District and RI. Foundation support developed in Honduras a dental hygiene project to provide better and more professional care.  In addition to clinical facilities, a mobile dental van was put in operation to serve out-lying areas there.

A District Scholarship, patterned after the RI. Foundation Scholarships program, was for years awarded annually to ad District undergraduate or graduate student for a year of study abroad.  Finally one student was brought from an underdeveloped country for training at a vocational/technical institute in our district with all expenses paid.  He returned to his homeland, Montserrat, West Indies as a teacher.

The clubs in our district have been honored on many occasions by visits from Rotary International dignitaries.  Paul P. Harris, legendary founder of Rotary and its first president (1910-1912) visited several times.  In 1919, he and his lady, Jean, made an official and memorable visit with the Portland Club.  During a 1938 visit to the Rumford Club, Paul Harris planted a maple tree which still stands at one end of Memorial Bridge in that community.

Percy Hodgson, RI. President in 1949-1950 when William Linnell was District Governor, spoke at a meeting of area Rotary clubs hosted by the Dover Club at City Hall auditorium in Dover.  President Hodgson began, during his presidential year, the custom of the annual Rotary International theme.

In 1955, RI. President Herbert J. Taylor (1954-1955), who was the originator of the 4-Way Test, was presented with a sizeable Paul Harris Foundation gift while visiting the Portland Club.

Many remember the more recent visit by M.A.T. Caparas with the Biddeford-Saco Club on August 6, 1986 when our global theme “Rotary Brings Hope” was enhanced with a substantial cash contribution to fight poverty, illness and illiteracy in Natal, Brazil.  That initiative to improve the region of the Amazon is continuing even today.

Attendance at a District Conference, PETS conclave, District Assembly or other district meeting is a time when Rotary “comes alive: - when fellowship thrives, friendships grow and with the boundless enthusiasm of Rotarians, we interact in Rotary’s mission to share, learn and develop new avenues for Rotary service here and throughout the Rotary world.

District Conferences in much of the Rotary world are fall season occasions.  The conference heritage for our District is one of leisurely spring season meetings to celebrate the accomplishments of the Rotary year being completed – usually held prior to the full opening of a major summer season hotel or resort.

From as far away as Chicoutimi and Murray Bay in the province of Quebec to Newburyport, Massachusetts, dozens of resorts, hotels, conference centers and college campuses have been the sites of outstanding and productive conferences, assemblies and other district meetings.

Since we have been District 7780, consideration has been given to the RI. preferred fall season district conference as well as to a commuter-type format for district conferences and assemblies which probably encourages larger attendance.

Incoming club presidents attend a Presidents-Elect Training Seminar (PETS) held each year in early spring, which now includes participation by multi-districts around New England.  A District Assembly, for incoming Club officers and committee chairs, is held in mid-spring to train them by the incoming District Team leaders each year.

This “history” was originally put together a number of years ago by Jim McAdams of the Dover, NH Club with the aid of an earlier “Brief History of District 779” by PDG Ron Drouin and other PDGs.  Historical records of several clubs which celebrated significant anniversaries and information from District Rotarians plus assistance from Rotary International’s History archives aided in writing about District 7780.

Updated October 16, 2017 by Marie A. Williams- District Historian