The Joseph A. Caulder Collection
Past Rotary International Director 1928-29   -  Regina, Sask., Canada

"Eyewitness to Rotary International's First 50 Years"


JOSEPH A. CAULDER - An eyewitness to Rotary International's first 50 years.

Album 1 - Pages 21-22:  Rev. E. Leslie Pidgeon, 7th  President

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Rev. E. Leslie Pidgeon

Rotary's 7th President





By Allen D. Albert - President of

Rotary International - 1915 -1916.

From-The Rotarian

April 1946.

E. Leslie Pidgeon is gone, but work he started is going on and will go on.

If you have been a laborer in the field for any one of three certain causes these past 30 years, you may well be familiar with the fall figure of the Rev. E. Leslie Pidgeon, D.D., Past President of Rotary International, striding out in front with long and valiant steps. The causes that I have in my mind, now that he is gone, are those of putting religion to work in a man's daily living, working out a man's love of this country in active citizenship, and Rotary as an ideal of service to all a man's brothers everywhere.

I do not know that Leslie Pidgeon would have put these in any order of precedence. He interwove them. I recall him raising a great sum, $50,000, as I remember after many years, to provide for a study of public education throughout the Dominion of Canada. I had it from his own lips that he put into his zeal for education all that he had of religion and Rotary.

He rose to fame as a clergyman. His congregation in Montreal, Quebec, was that of the Erskine and American United Church and it was said to be recognized as the strongest Protestant church north of the boundary. Seeing him there, speaking to crowded galleries Sunday after Sunday, his proud and yet modest lady and his three children, who gave him so much of refreshment by their progress, must have looked upon that as his greatest pulpit.

Yet I think also of the new life in little schools in far-off British Columbia, of a Rotary Club singing beside the Saguenay Rapids, of the wartime Convention of 1918 in Kansas City over which he presided without passion or bitterness, and I am impressed that the yield of his sowing is wide and the harvest season long.

Leslie came to the international Convention in San Francisco in 1915 as a delegate from Vancouver, British Columbia. He was quite unknown to most of us. From our first hearing of his English, almost crackling in its explicitness, from our first appreciation that to him Rotary was spirit in action, we marked him for further and still greater speaking of Rotary.

That year we elected him Third Vice-President. Next Year we re-elected him. Next year we made him President. So it was that, counting his service as Immediate Past President, he served four consecutive years as a member of the international Board. There are other distinctions that no man may share in Rotary. He was:

The first international President who was not a citizen of the United States; the first international President from Canada; the first international President to exemplify in his own person the teaching of Rotary as of the same substance on either side of any international boundary.

By impulse, conviction, scholarship, he taught everywhere: "In essentials, unit; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity." His eloquence and close reasoning supported the consolidation of the Protestant denominations of Canada. It was only fitting that when he was to be nominated for the Presidency of Rotary, it should be- done by Rev. Father John Handley, a priest of the Roman Catholic Church.

Leslie was the seventh of seven early Presidents privileged to give form and voice to Rotary. We other six all loved him.

He openly admired Paul Harris, the Founder, for his openmindedness. He confirmed the work of Glenn Mead, who federated the Clubs into a unity. He and Russell Greiner were alike extenders of Rotary and Leslie recognized the resoluteness of the third President.

Like President Frank Mulholland he had a talent for financial administration. From the latter came the setup wherewith Rotary International need never have a bill it cannot pay. Through three years as a Director and one year as President, Leslie upheld and strengthened that plan. Likewise he took from President Arch Klumph a widening of Rotary activities, a favor of the fine arts, an expansion into Latin America, as phases of progress he must maintain.

This is not the all of Leslie Pidgeon. He had in his personality something of the intrepid voyageurs, something of the monks of the Middle Ages poring over their scholarship, something of the goodness and lovableness of the early fathers of the church.

We may think of him, now that he is gone, as the bearer of the Rotary torch. Any who would take it from his hand must reach high as he did.

[Reprinted by Permission 2004]

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Joseph A. Caulder

Recollections of

Rev. E. Leslie Pideon, D.D.

Leslie was Rotary's 7th President but more important to Canadians is the simple fact that he was the first Canadian chosen for that high office. The records show that Leslie did not let Rotarians from Canada down.

He was also a golfer of note and his own motor car mechanic. Many tales are told about Leslie's ability on the links and he made many addresses on the scientific angle of golf. In the summer he would send his family to the lake a week or so before he could go and in that period of time every spare hour was spent in the back yard trying to (and succeeding) place the ball in a one gallon tin can at 20-30-40 and 50 feet.

It is told that one day when he was officiating at the funeral of one of his best church elders, the church was packed and the starting time of the service had passed. One of the elders called for a hymn which was done twice before Leslie arrived, out of breath, and in a whisper to the officiating elder, said; "I made the course in 75". Of course it was only a story!

I remember him first when in June 1918 he dropped into the Rotary Club at Moose Jaw, Sask. (my club then) between trains. He was enroute to Victoria from the Kansas City convention and had just completed his year as President of the International Association of Rotary Clubs, as it was then known. In our club we were groping to find out what Rotary was all about. He only had a 40 minute stop and perhaps 30 minutes (his small daughter was with him) to eat, but we asked him to say something. Coming from that great inspirational convention, he was able, in 10 or 12 minutes, to change our 30 or 40 members from mere members of a Rotary Club into real Rotarians.

He left us February 1st, 1946.


Rotary International


E. LESLIE PIDGEON. Montreal. Quebec. Canada.

President, Rotary International


(Deceased: February 1,1946)

E. Leslie Pidgeon was born in New Richmond, Quebec, Canada. He was graduated from Queen's University of Kingston, Ontario, and from the Presbyterian College of Montreal. On entering the ministry, his first charge was at Markham, Ontario. From there he went to St. Thomas, to Vancouver, to Winnipeg, and then to Montreal where he was with the Erskine and American United Church.

Dr. Pidgeon became a member of the Rotary Club of Vancouver in 1914 and a member of the Rotary Club of Montreal in 1925. He was active in Rotary International as President (in 1917-18), Third Vice-President, committee chairman and member.

From Rotary International,

35 East Wacker Drive,

Chicago 1, Ill., U.S.A.

March 1954.


Copyright Daniel W. Mooers

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