The Founding of Circle K

Kiwanis Club of Pullman Role in Founding Circle K, the Collegiate Service Organization

In the midst of the Great Depression, in 1936, the Kiwanis Club of Pullman, Washington, took a creative step in helping young men attend Washington State College, today’s Washington State University. The club established the Circle K House in Pullman, described as a kind of housing scholarship program for students. Sponsored by Pullman Kiwanis, the house also affiliated with a fraternity for ten years. It combined community service with fellowship.

The proposal for the Circle K House came from Jay N. Emerson who had been the club’s president in 1931-1932. The club embraced the idea and put it into action.

This was the first step in the creation of Circle K, today an international service and leadership organization for college and university students. In 1947, a Circle K service club was started at Carthage College, moving from the fraternity concept to one emphasizing service and leadership.

In 1946, Emerson was elected President of Kiwanis International at its first post-war convention, held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The emphasis of his presidency was youth and expanding opportunities for service.

Emerson’s founding role is recognized on the Circle K Web site in this way:

“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.”

The organization today is Circle K International or CKI, a co-educational service, leadership development, and friendship organization. Each Circle K club is organized and sponsored by a Kiwanis club on a college or university campus. The clubs are self-governing and elect their own officers, run their own meetings, choose their own service activities, and set their own dues structure.

CKI/Circle K International link-external-gray

History of Circle K link-external-gray

Circle K at Washington State University – Twitter link-external-gray

Circle K on Wikipedia link-external-gray