THE HISTORY OF ROCHESTER GLOBAL CONNECTIONS
Formerly known as ROCHESTER INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP COUNCIL / ROCHESTER INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
Beginning and Early History of International Student Program In 1948, Elmer Hollowell, chairman of the membership committee of the Cosmopolitan Club and Lottie Hollowell, member of Third Presbyterian Church, invited May Crowley to become a member of the Cosmopolitan Club where she later accepted the Chairmanship and Presidency, and instituted its student program.
May Crowley and Dr. Isabel Wallace, members of the Cosmopolitan Club (which was made up of people who had traveled or were interested in traveling) were on a trip to England and Scotland, and were invited to attend a Sunday afternoon tea for students held in a minister’s home. These teas, first given for refugee students during the war years, provided a warm fellowship in a foreign land. When May returned to Rochester, she learned that the Public Library had a group of interns from England on its staff. May Crowley started inviting these interns to her apartment on Sunday evenings.
In 1949, the executive director of the Council of Churches Women (later becoming Church Women United) was made aware of the number of foreign students in the city, and their need for friendship and neighborliness while in the U.S. She created the International Student Committee. By that September, a survey of the various schools and individuals in the city was complete. In November, the first real committee meeting included personnel from local industries, the VP of R.I.T., a department head of UR, churches, executive secretary of RAUN, Chamber of Commerce, YWCA, YMCA, Jewish YMA as well as a Cosmopolitan Club representative. They discussed ways of bringing about an exchange of ideas and backgrounds with the students. They met regularly to plan systematically for the needs of the foreign students.
Following the first meeting in 1949, the aim was “to acquaint them in every way possible with our American way of life. We felt that in the way of give and take we might establish a bond of understanding that would enable these young people, on their return to their respective homelands, to more accurately interpret America and thus become a link in a chain of friendship that might help tie our worlds together.”
The first get together was on December 9, 1949 at Central Presbyterian Church; with 47 students from 23 countries attending. A master file of students was established. Any student still in town over Christmas holidays was included in home holiday festivities, and families were encouraged to invite students into their homes.
In 1950, Rochester Branch of UN joined the Council of Churches Women to assist in creating opportunities for the students to share in the community.
By 1951, a card catalog of international students was ready for reference with the names of 111 students from 38 countries. Students attended parties, picnics on Lake Ontario, 70 attended a Halloween party, 65 were at a Christmas party, Eastman Kodak offered them a tour with invitations to a dinner after the tour where they met with department heads. They were entertained in homes, given tickets to concerts and travel talks, and invited to church groups.
In 1952, the Masonic Service Bureau held a Christmas dinner for service personnel from Sampson Base and also invited international students. In May, 1953, a garden farewell party was held for students. As one of the leaders said, “What can be more important in bringing peace than making friends with students (future leaders) from other nations?”
Activities accelerated in 1954. In February, a dinner for students became an annual affair for years and they made recordings--“Talk a Letter Home”. The Council was congratulated on having started the work with students and several organizations began to offer help with programs. In that same month, the Red Cross Inter Colleges Council held the first get together with the international students, which gave the students an opportunity to become acquainted with Americans their own age. By this time, there were 274 students listed in the area. Church women were “adopting” some of the students and inviting them into their homes. Churches and school groups invited the students to speak about their countries, and teas and dinners were held regularly on Sunday afternoons especially during the winter months.
The Cosmopolitan Club invited students for panel discussions. Asbury Methodist Church offered 1050 East Avenue for regular Sunday afternoon teas and open houses. Zonta Club invited students as dinner guests at their meetings. Students were invited to speak at the City Club and for other groups. The Sisterhood of B’rith Kodish began holding their Friday evening “People to People” program, where students were invited for dinner with families before attending the service at the Temple. The Catholic women organized an evening party for students.
Tours to farms and industries as well as to museums and art galleries were arranged and some activities were being overlapped, as organizations began to become interested in the program.
By 1957, May Crowley had become so deeply interested in the student program, that she wanted to enlarge the whole program to a greater degree than the church women felt could be done under their organization. May continued to work on her own.
Because of the overlapping programs and a need for more control, a committee of the organizations who had been helping with the entertaining of students was established. It laid the foundation for what later became the Rochester International Friendship Council in 1956. It was incorporated in 1957 with May Crowley as its volunteer director.
It was agreed that the Council of Churches Women, the hospitality committee of the RAUN and RIFC would share responsibilities.
In 1957, RGC partnered with the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology to develop cultural programs and support for international students and their families.
In 1963, Rochester Global Connections joined Global Ties and started designing and implementing professional programs and cultural activities for foreign leaders, specialists, and scholars.
By 1971, the RGC was responsible for all the services to international students and visitors.
In 2002, the organization’s name was changed to Rochester International Council.
In 2012, the Board approved calling the organization Rochester Global Connections with the slogan “Connecting Rochester to the World. Connecting the World to Rochester.” This expands on the original mission to promote international understanding between our community and the international students.