Circle K International History


In 1936 Jay N. Emerson, a member of the Pullman Washington Kiwanis Club, presented a plan to his club proposing that the Pullman Kiwanis Club purchase a house that could be rented to young men in need of assistance to attend the local college. The plan became a reality as the Kiwanians established the "Circle K House" at Washington State College. For ten years the "Circle K House" became affiliated with a Greek letter organization, although it continued to be sponsored by the Pullman Kiwanis Club.

Eleven years later in 1947, Donald T. Forsythe, Trustee of Kiwanis International, aided in transitioning Circle K from a fraternity to a service-oriented organization. That year, during September, the first Circle K club similar to our present day organization, was chartered at Carthage College in Carthage, Illinois. (The college moved to its present-day location of Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1962.)

As Circle K's structure adapted from being a fraternity, its purpose also changed. The organization established the following objectives:
· To provide an opportunity for capable, ambitious, and worthy young men to acquire a college education by assisting them, where necessary, with their financial problems; by means of a scholarship fund, if available, or securing part-time employment.
· To afford members a useful training in the social graces and the development of a well-rounded personality.
· To promote good fellowship and high scholarship within the group.
· To develop in the members a thinking and aggressive citizenship and the Kiwanis spirit of service for the improvement of all human relationships on the campus, in the community, state, and nation.
· To aid the growth and development of other Circle K Clubs.

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.


For two years, the Carthage College Circle K Club existed alone. But on March 26, 1949, the University of Western Ontario became the second Circle K Club to charter. Carthage College and the University of Western Ontario were soon joined by the Louisiana Polytechnic Institute on May 13, 1949. Circle K gained momentum and grew rapidly throughout the United States; sixteen more clubs chartered in 1950.


As Circle K International began to award charters to individual clubs, plans to form Circle K Districts began. By the summer of 1956 there were four unofficial Circle K Districts: California-Nevada-Hawaii, Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma, and Missouri-Arkansas. With the development of the unofficial Circle K Districts, the International Board was faced with another challenge which would eventually cause the International Board of Officers to clearly define their responsibilities as International Officers, since the Districts began to initiate their own programs for service, thus reducing the amount of direct contact between individual clubs and the International Board.


The first Circle K Club outside of the North American continent was organized in January of 1970 at the American College of Switzerland in Leysin, Switzerland.   The sponsoring Kiwanis Club was the Alcoa, Tennessee Kiwanis Club. A club was established in Monterrey, Mexico, during 1971. Unfortunately, neither of these clubs received official charters, nor were they incorporated into an existing District of Circle K International.

The first club to be officially chartered outside of the United States and Canada was the College of the Bahamas on April 25, 1977. A fourth nation joined Circle K International on October 27, 1977, when Mico College of Jamaica was chartered. Circle K International extended into a fifth nation with the chartering of a Circle K Club at the University of Suriname, South America, which became part of the Eastern Canada and the Caribbean District of Circle K International.   Mexico became the sixth nation in Circle K International when the Circle K Club of Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon in Tijuana was chartered May 2, 1980. The Tijuana Club was assigned to the California-Nevada-Hawaii District. With the addition of several nations and continued growth by existing clubs, Circle K's membership grew to 13,000 by the end of 1980.

In 1985 Barbados became the 7th nation of Circle K International as the University of West Indies, Barbados, was chartered. Affiliate clubs were chartered in Ghana and the Philippines during the 1984-85 administrative year.


Circle K International has grown tremendously over the past 40 years, sometimes in spirit, sometimes in members, and still other times in service to the community. Circle K International is continuing to move toward ever-increasing service and leadership development as well as providing fellowship and personal growth to the members. Though history provides a good foundation from which to view achievements and obstacles, Circle K International must connect the organization's mission with tomorrow's college students and tomorrow's student organizations to envision the possibilities for the organization and realize its dream of creating a better world in which to live.

For additional history of Circle K click here

EKU Circle K History

Although a new Circle K Club is being organized in 2005 - a Circle K Club has existed in the past at EKU. Following are some pages from the Milestone, the university yearbook:

EKU Circle K - 1965-66

EKU Circle K - 1971-72

EKU Circle K - 1973-74

EKU Circle K - 1979-80


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