History of Tri-Citian of the Year

Gale Metcalf

Tri-Citian of the Year was born as an enduring legacy in 1981, with its roots dating back to 1962.

“The key point is service above self,” says Bob Young, a retired Pasco businessman who was influential in helping establish Tri-Citian of the Year as it is known today.

A Tri-Citian of the Year Award had been presented from 1962 through 1970 the Tri City Herald.  After the ninth recipient was named in 1970, it ceased as a community function under that format.

After a 10-year hiatus, the Pasco-Kennewick Rotary recognized that the Tri-Cities needed a vehicle to honor their spirit of service.  Rotary asked members Bill Waddingham, Coke Roth and Bob Young to define criteria for selecting those who have performed outstanding community service.

“Someone who has given substantially of themselves for the betterment of the community based on service above self,” Bob explained.

In 1980, Pasco-Kennewick and the Richland Rotaries were the only active Rotary clubs in the Tri-Cities.  They joined together to promote the Tri-Citian of the Year.  Richland representatives Clif LaHue and Ernie Boston began working with Young, Roth, and Waddingham to make Tri-Citian of the Year a living dynamic.

Today, representatives from each of the six Tri-Cities Rotary clubs join forces and form a steering committee that spearheads the annual Tri-Citian of the Year selection process and gala signature event.

Although Rotarians are among those who have received Tri-Citian of the Year honors, it is not “a Rotary thing,” Bob Young said.

“Rotary is a vehicle that allows it to happen,” he explained.  “It’s a lot of work and it’s all voluntary and that’s what Rotary is all about.”

“Bob was the first Rotarian chosen,” said Bob’s wife, Pat Young, who with Bob was a longtime downtown Pasco businessperson.

“It’s an honor and quite humbling,” said Bob, who also was involved in helping bring Washington State University’s branch campus to the Tri-Cities.

Nominations can be submitted by anyone in the community.  A selection committee chooses from nominations received.  Detailed testimonies in the nomination help in choosing the person honored.

Tri-Citian of the Year History

By Marilyn Robison, August 2008


Widely regarded as the highest honor the Tri-Cities can bestow upon one of its citizens, the prestigious Tri-Citian of the Year award is presented at a gala banquet each spring, with an average attendance of 450 – 500. The award is sponsored by the six Rotary Clubs in the Tri-Cities (although the clubs do not select its recipient, as explained below.) The motto of Rotary is “Service Above Self”, which concept is embodied in the criteria for award eligibility.

Basis for Award

Presentation of the award is based on this statement of criteria, adopted in 1982: “The Tri-Citian of the Year, through ‘service above self’ has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contribution to positive development, economic growth and quality of life in the Tri-Cities.”

Service and leadership are also the goals which the world of Rotary espouses to its 1.08 million members in 24,504 clubs in 167 countries around the world. The Rotary Foundation is world renowned for its funding of educational and charitable programs, such as international student exchange, university scholarships; grants for university teachers to serve in developing countries; national and community service projects throughout the world; disaster relief; and public health projects, including the PolioPlus program, conceived by Rotary International, for which the Foundation is funding over $200 million to immunize all the world’s children against polio and five other vaccine-preventable diseases. (1990 TCOY Program)

Mission Statement

The Tri-Citian of the Year awards program spawns volunteerism by celebrating and honoring outstanding examples of “Service Above Self.” Tri-Citian of the Year is a community wide effort involving and recognizing as many Tri-Citians as possible while being administered by local Rotary Clubs. Efforts to publicize the event and involve organizations community wide results in the Tri-Citian of the Year being thought of as the single most important and well known annual awards program in Tri-Cities.

The Mission Statement will differ slightly from the Rotary slogan “Service Above Self” when emphasizing the particular values of Kiwanis, Lions or Soroptimists. Still, the Mission Statement will remain consistent with recognizing volunteerism that significantly influences positive development, economic growth, and quality of life in the Tri-Cities.


The Tri-Citian of the Year award was originated by the Tri-City Herald to honor distinguished Tri-Citians for their contribution to “growth and development of the Tri-Cities”. The winner was selected by Tri-City Herald management and the first recipient of this award was Owen Hurd in 1962. The Herald continued to make this award annually through 1970. Those honored by the Herald after Mr. Hurd were Sam Volpentest, 1963; Battelle Executives, 1964; Hanford Executives, 1965; W.E. Johnson, 1966; Jerry Horrobin and Clif LaHue, 1967; John Neuman, 1968; Harry Kramer, 1969; and Larry Olson, 1970. After the ninth recipient was named in 1970, the Herald ceased sponsorship and the Tri-Citian of the Year ended as a community function under that format.

In 1980, after a nine year hiatus, the award was revived as a joint project of the community’s two then-existing Rotary Clubs, Pasco-Kennewick and Richland. These Rotarians recognized the need for a vehicle to honor Tri-Citians who help enhance the Mid-Columbia region through their spirit of “service above self”. Rotary relied on members Bill Waddingham, Coke Roth and Bob Young to define criteria for identifying those who have performed outstanding community service.

They established the process of choosing the award recipient by public nomination and selection, and modified the eligibility criteria to their current form. There are now six Rotary Clubs active in the Tri-Cities – Richland, Pasco-Kennewick, Columbia Center, Riverside, Columbia Valley Daybreak and Tri-Cities Sunrise. They jointly sponsor this prestigious event, facilitate the arrangements and procedures, secure the participation of community representatives in integral actions, and host the award banquet. They coordinate in the selection of the Tri-Citian of the Year based on evaluations of citzens selected from across the Tri-Cities..

To help ensure the highest credibility and public endorsement, the Rotary Clubs made their own members ineligible for the award during the first five years. In addition, to this day the two panels of community citizens who perform the steps of selecting the award recipient are composed of non-Rotarians, served only by Rotarians who advise on tradition and procedure.

Added Honor: Paul Harris Fellow

Adding to the distinction of the award itself, the Rotary Clubs contribute $1000 in the recipient’s honor to the Rotary International Foundation and name the person a Paul Harris Fellow (after the late Paul Harris, founder of Rotary). Such designation is Rotary’s highest honor for “service above self” and is seldom awarded to a non-Rotarian. This contribution in the winner’s name helps further Rotary’s many charitable and educational projects throughout the world.

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