History of the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees)
Our founder, Henry “Hy” Giessenbier, knew that young men could have a positive impact in business and their community. At a time when most young men finished school at the age of fifteen and only held one job, Hy’s vision was unusual, but he knew that the twelve signers of the Declaration of Independence were all under thirty-five. Thomas Jefferson was thirty-three when he wrote the document’s original draft.
The key to improving their prospects for social and career advancements was to join forces socially. And so the Herculaneum Dance Club merged with six other socially minded groups, found the Federation of Dancing Clubs. Hy was elected President. Under his leadership, the Federation created the Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA) in 1915. The organization focused on developing leadership skills through civic involvement.
Henry Gissenbier and a group of you men continued their pursuits, and on January 21, 1920, The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce was founded.
History of the Kalamazoo Jaycees
Our chapter was signed in June, 1932 with Harold Vandenberg as the charter president. Kalamazoo is the 3rd oldest continuously operating chapter under the Michigan Jaycees.
For many years, membership in the Jaycees was restricted to men. In 1984, women were allowed to become members of the organization. Prior to 1984, there was a Jayceette’s organization the operated alongside the chapter. Lorraine (Fedoricheck) Kraker was one of the first three women to join the Kalamazoo Jaycees. Lorraine has been awarded an honorary lifetime membership.
Several members of our chapter have been elected to the Michigan Jaycees Board of Directors. Five of them have held the office of Michigan Jaycees President; Harry Smith (#12), Francis Schermerhorn (#16), Richard Meyerson (#34), Richard St. John (#41), and David Q. Worthams (#87).