Event Overview & History

Event Overview & History

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. The award is sponsored by the six Rotary Clubs and five Kiwanis 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.


The Tri-Citian of the Year exemplifies the highest standards of community service, leadership, and the voluntary contribution of selfless acts to positively impact community development, economic growth, and the overall well-being of all humans.The foremost criteria for the award is demonstration of public or volunteer service for which no monetary compensation is received.


The Tri-Citian of the Year awards program generates 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 and Kiwanis clubs. Efforts to publicize the event and involve community-wide organizations result in the Tri-Citian of the Year being thought of as the single most important and well-known annual awards program in Tri-Cities.


A call for nominations comes out after the first of the year. 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. Nominations are evaluated by 15 non-Rotarians and -Kiwanians from each of the Tri-Cities, including West Richland.


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 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. As the event grew, Kiwanis was invited to partner with Rotary in the 1990s. This event is now proudly brought to you through the collaborative efforts of our six Rotary and five Kiwanis Clubs, which together represent more than 650 community-minded Tri-Citians. The Rotary clubs are Columbia Center, Columbia Valley Daybreak, Pasco-Kennewick, Richland, Richland Riverside, and Tri Cities Sunrise. The Kiwanis clubs are Horse Heaven Hills, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and Tri Cities Industry. 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.