Our History

Kiwanis Beginnings

The name “Kiwanis” was coined from an American Indian expression, “Nunc Kee-wanis,” which means, “We trade.” In 1920, the motto of Kiwanis became “We Build.” It remained the motto until 2005, when members voted to change it to “Serving the children of the world.” In the early years, members focused on business networking but in 1919, the organization changed its focus to service — specifically service to children.

Kiwanis became an international organization with the founding of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1916. Kiwanis clubs formed in communities across the United States and Canada until the 1960s, when worldwide expansion was approved. Today, Kiwanis clubs are helping children thrive, prosper and grow in nearly 80 nations and geographic locations.  

All people are welcome to participate in the Kiwanis movement of improving communities for children. In 1987, women were invited to join. In 2008, delegates approved a resolution that calls for Kiwanis clubs to celebrate and foster inclusiveness.

Our Beginnings

November 11, 1949 was the day and Hunt’s Food Shop was the place where the organization of the Kiwanis Club of East Lansing met to establish the first service club in East Lansing. It had all started when Bob Richards of the Kiwanis Club of Lansing had talked to Charles Pegg about establishing a service club in East Lansing. Merle Croy, Jack Patriarche, Charlie Pegg, Nels Waters, and Justin Zinn formed the nucleus of five charter members who each recruited five others to form the organizing group. Other recruits brought the total to about 45 to 50. Additional members were recruited before charter night January 11, 1950, when 81 men became their charter members (See below for more detail.)

Highlights of the East Lansing Club’s history

Members of our club have served in important leadership positions in both the Michigan District (3 former District Governors; 12 former Division Lt. Governors) and Kiwanis International. Particularly noteworthy is Sue Petrisin’s service as International President in 2015-2016. Sue was the first woman to serve as our local President and the first woman to serve as president of the worldwide Kiwanis International.

Founding of the East Lansing Kiwanis

Officers: Charles Pegg, President; Justin Zinn, Vice President; Nelson Waters, Secretary; John Hicks, Treasurer; and Lawrence Baril, Carl Card, George Cottral, Richard Fennell, Leonard Folkers, George MacKichan, and Ralph Write, members of the Board of Directors.

Officiating: In the Michigan State University, Student Union Ballroom were: Ralph Crego, Master of Ceremonies; Rev. Brandt Tefft, who delivered the invocation; District Secretary Frank Staiger, who lead the singing; District Governor Robert Webber, who brought official greeting; Past Governor Clarence Loesell, who presented the charter; and International Past President Ben Dean, who gave the address. President Pegg accepted the charter from Dr. Loesell, and Nelson Waters accepted the traditional gifts from Ralph Crego, Past President of the Kiwanis Club of Lansing.

Charter Members