In the midst of the Great Depression, in 1936, the Kiwanis Club of Pullman, Washington, took a creative step in helping young men attend Washington State College, today's Washington State University. The club established the Circle K House in Pullman, described as a kind of housing scholarship program for students. Sponsored by Pullman Kiwanis, the house also affiliated with a fraternity for ten years. It combined community service with fellowship.
The proposal for the Circle K House came from Jay N. Emerson who had been the club's president in 1931-1932. The club embraced the idea and put it into action.
This was the first step in the creation of Circle K, today an international service and leadership organization for college and university students. In 1947, a Circle K service club was started at Carthage College, moving from the fraternity concept to one emphasizing service and leadership.
In 1946, Emerson was elected President of Kiwanis International at its first post-war convention, held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The emphasis of his presidency was youth and expanding opportunities for service.
Emerson's founding role is recognized on the Circle K Web site in this way:
"Circle K began as one man's dream to enable the success of local collegians and continued to grow as others began to believe in the concepts of Circle K and in the men who belonged to Circle K. Though Jay N. Emerson died June 12, 1947, before he could his dream become a reality, his vision of a collegiate-level, international youth organization will live on forever."
The organization today is Circle K International, a co-educational service, leadership development, and friendship organization. Each Circle K club is organized and sponsored by a Kiwanis club on a college or university campus. The clubs are self-governing and elect their own officers, run their own meetings, choose their own service activities, and set their own dues structure.
Circle K International and About Circle K and History of Circle K
This is Circle K (PDF brochure )
Circle K at Washington State University, where it all started.
Early Circle K History in Pullman, Spokane - presented in a speech to the 1992 Pacific
Northwest District Convention by Delaine R. Swensen, Past International President, Circle K.
Washington State University - historic main campus in Pullman
Circle K on Wikipedia
Presidents of the Kiwanis Club of Pullman
Note: Jay N. Emerson was also referred to as J. N. Emerson. Born on November 24, 1879, in Ohio, he was the oldest of ten children. His full name was Jay Noble Emerson. He married Amelia M. Gerding of Ohio in 1910 and they moved that year to Pullman. His business was the Emerson Mercantile Company.
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Updated November 23, 2008