By Barbara Whitaker-Shimko
On November 1, 1946, Ed Jones, a young lawyer who had just become a member of his grandfather’s and father’s law firm in Chester, joined the Rotary Club of Chester. When the family firm moved to Swarthmore in the 1970s, Ed moved his membership to the Swarthmore Rotary Club. Seventy years after joining, he is still a Rotarian.
Talking with Ed on his 70th membership anniversary, I was interested to note the differences between Rotary in 1946 and Rotary in 2016. Ed’s career in work and in Rotary contrast nicely with that of Swarthmore Rotary Club’s newest member, Anthony Coschignano, with whom I also spoke recently.
Ed was born in Chester and his family moved to Swarthmore in 1930. He graduated from Swarthmore College in 1939, went to law school at the University of Penn, and then into the Army from 1942 to 1946. In the late 1970s Ed’s law firm relocated yet again, this time to Media. He loves the law, and still goes to his office just about every day.
Anthony, who was born in Florida, went to school locally, as Ed had done, earning a B.S. from Florida State University’s College of Business. He worked in food service management for several universities in the South and Midwest before arriving at Valparaiso College in Northern Indiana, where he was a senior administrator and also earned an MBA.
Looking for advancement, Anthony turned to the Internet, and applied for an open position at Swarthmore College. Late last year, he got the job as executive director of Auxiliary Services, responsible for The Inn at Swarthmore, The College & Community Store, all college dining halls, summer programs, and college events.
Ed joined the Chester Rotary almost immediately after joining his family’s law firm. He said it was an excellent place to meet business people in Chester and he needed contacts while founding his Savings & Loan. He enjoyed the friendships he developed and thought the club performed good works in the community.
After Anthony’s career journey brought him to Swarthmore (we’re so glad he found us!), he was soon welcomed into the Swarthmore Rotary Club. Somewhat further along in his career than Ed had been when he joined, Anthony is married and has two children: a son in kindergarten and a daughter in 1st grade. Anthony cited his reasons for joining Rotary as wanting to be part of Rotary’s mission to make a better community both locally and globally.
Rotary Builds a Bridge in the Community
Ed tells a story from a time when he was president of Chester Rotary. (He later became president of Swarthmore Rotary as well.) During a strike at the General Electric plant in Eddystone, Ed invited the general manager of the GE plant to speak at Rotary. The manager declined, but Ed’s invitation to the head of the striking union was gladly accepted.
After the union leader’s Rotary speech was extensively written up in the Chester Times, the GE general manager reconsidered. The Chester Times also fully covered the GM’s speech; the strike was settled soon after, and Ed has always though that publicizing the issues of both sides helped settle the strike.
Ed was “very pleased” when Rotary returned to meeting in Swarthmore at the Inn. He has stayed in Rotary for all these years because he believes, “It is an excellent way to help the community.” He, too, has been a vital resident of Swarthmore and the larger community through such work as participating in the Nuremberg war crime trials, serving as Mayor of Swarthmore, borough solicitor, and Representative in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
Anthony’s contributions to Swarthmore are in the present and the future, starting with his role in Rotary’s return to downtown Swarthmore at the Inn. He plans to facilitate new ways for Swarthmore College to enhance and be integrated with the Swarthmore community. Anthony’s goal in Rotary is to participate in service projects, quite possibly devising a new project.
As a younger Swarthmore Rotary member, Anthony is perplexed that “Young adults perceive Rotary and other local organizations to be for older adults, and that perception is wrong. Rotary is geared toward service activities and goals that many younger adults value and commit to. You can be in your 20s and 30s and fit right into Rotary activities and membership.”
Although their reasons for joining Rotary were different — Ed focused on making connections in the business community and Anthony focused on providing service — their reasons reflect the nature of Rotary at the time each joined.
Monetary contributions in 1946 to worthwhile charities were generous, but there was less time spent doing service projects. There was little awareness of diversity then; the Swarthmore Rotary Club consisted of white businessmen, who came to meetings in conservative business attire. Today, 35% of Swarthmore Rotarians are women, and the days of racial and religious discrimination are long past.
In 2016, most Rotarians participate in hands-on projects like the Fun-Fair held in the Ville each May sponsored and manned by Rotarians; packing meals for hungry groups in the United States and around the world in conjunction with Stop Hunger Now; reading every week to students at the Chester School for the Arts; and travelling to India to give polio vaccine to make sure it remains eradicated.
The Club meets for luncheon and a talk each Thursday at noon at the Inn at Swarthmore. We would be glad to host those interested in exploring Rotary; check rcswarthmore.org for the schedule, call (610) 565-4035 or just come by. You are always welcome.