Rotary Minute: Jay Zenner

In his own words…

When I first started planning this Minute I was going to follow the lead of David Durack and Charlie Steel and talk about a woman who had an influence in my life.  I met Flossie Segal when we moved to a new neighborhood in Richmond when I was 12.

The following year Flossie and her husband Jake, our next door neighbors, built a swimming pool in their back yard. Jake was ex-Marine who made a lot of money from several furniture stores he owned in Richmond. Flossie was a very smart and gregarious woman who taught part time in the Social Work program of VCU and was the first woman I ever saw in a two-piece bathing suit. The first car that I drove on a regular basis was a turquoise and white ’55 Chevy handed down from Flossie.

That was about the same time I gave up any idea of going into the priesthood.

More important, Flossie introduced me to the civil rights movement and all things liberal in Richmond. However, that story includes several New York Yankee baseball players, two NFL Hall of Fame Football players, a radio personality, an African Prince, lots of politicians and my integration of the faculty basketball team at Maggie Walker High School in 1972.

It’s a story much too long for a Rotary minute and I don’t want to break my own record set the first time I did a Rotary Minute when President Don stopped me at 13 minutes.

What I decided to do instead is take this opportunity to thank those who have helped me during my tenure, which ends next month, as Chair of the Communications Committee, and especially the current crew in the rotation for writing the program reports that have been a central part of the website that I built when I took that on, during Newman’s presidency in 2010 and 11.

I had already been writing a lot of the reports when they appeared primarily in the Bulletin and finally decided that it wasn’t going to be any fun if I strove for complete coverage of each program. I think it was a 40-slide power point delivered by Bill Kalkhof of DDI fame, that sealed the deal and I just started trying to get down a couple of key points and an insight or two.

Currently there are over a thousand posts on the website, God only knows how many photographs and about 45 live pages in the navigation.  I think I’ve written over 200 of the program reports myself.

The talent of the current crew is quite humbling for an old jock like me whose sole claim to fame is being the least valuable player on the 1966 Notre Dame National Championship Team.

Key in all this has been the steady hand of Sharon Lassiter who never makes a mistake or chides us much if we’ve blown past our deadlines for the bulletin.

The latest to join the rotation is Duke professor emeritus John Staddon, who is Harvard educated, authored a dozen or so books and has been published in The Atlantic magazine.

Also from academia, is Allen Cronenberg who retired from Auburn as a professor of European history and has also written about Alabama’s history in World War II. He’s also taken on the task of authoring the most recent history of the club and doesn’t mind taking on programs way out of his field like last week’s Bitcoin and Blockchain presentation.

And then there is Carver Weaver, last year’s Rotarian of the Year. For many years Carver had her own marketing firm and then led marketing efforts for two of Durham’s key institutions, the Chamber of Commerce and Durham Tech.

Last but not least, is Mark Lazenby, a UNC Journalism graduate and former Associated Press newspaper reporter, who sold out to the dark side and became the chief PR guy for utility company Dominion Resources in Richmond. Mark now writes speeches for corporate executives who he cannot name because of Non-Disclosure Agreements, probably drafted by Michael Cohen.

I have been extremely jealous of Mark for some time because he does it so well and so fast. He often has his reports written, polished and in my email inbox before I get home from the meeting. Ask Sharon if you don’t believe it.

I’d also like to thank Tom Bagby for the photography work. As many of you know Tom was professional portrait photographer back in Arkansas. He’s now both a Realtor and a Rotary buddy and my choice for shooting listings, when I have a choice.

Finally, I’d like to thank Tammie Sellman, Cara Rousseau and Marge Nordstrom for getting involved in upgrading our social media presence. Tammie has also agreed to take over as chair.  I think she will do a great job and I’ll help her all I can.

I’ve been asked, “Why am I giving it up?”

The answer is “Fear.”

The Rotary Club president for 2024-25 might be sitting in this room right now. I don’t want him or her leading a discussion about how to gently push that old relic Jay, out of the role. It’s better for the club to keep moving younger, and more savvy people into roles like this for the vibrancy of the club.

Back to Flossie Segal.  Her heritage is Jewish, but she’s been my Mother Teresa. Having this Communications role for the last 8 years has forced me to pay attention to what was going on in the Club.

When I was first inducted in the 87-88 Rotary Year, it happened to be on the same day that the club inducted its first woman member.

Look around you and you will see in that time the club has grown more and more inclusive and a reflection of the community and not just a group of old white guys like me.

I’m proud to be a member and proud to have chronicled some of it. I think Flossie would also have been proud to be a member as well and to have participated in some of the really great things we do especially the Reading Rangers and Habitat.

I haven’t seen Flossie in a bathing suit in at least 50 years. She’s still alive, well into her 90’s, and still a beautiful person. My sister recently sent me a clipping of her being honored for her role in the founding and funding of a group home for mentally disabled people. We should all be so lucky to have people like her in our lives.

Thank you, Flossie. And thank you Rotary for some wonderful years.

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