Rotary Minute: Shannon Leskin

Shannon Leskin attended her first Durham Rotary Club meeting in the fall of 2010 as a guest of Ken Lundstrom and joined the club shortly there after. She has lived in Durham for the past 24 years. She and her husband, Will, live in Trinity Park with their two dogs, Gracie and Murray. They have one son, Edwin, who resides in Asheville, NC.

When thinking about what being a member of Rotary means to her, the first ideal that comes to mind is the Rotary motto, “Service above Self”. Shannon likes to think of it as service above self (interest). She told the club about a time in her professional life when she had to make the choice to put service to another individual above what would have been her own best interest and that of the company.

32 years ago Shannon was producing professional regional theatre, think of Playmakers Rep in Chapel Hill, in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a particularly scary and sad time as the AIDS crisis was reaching a pinnacle and devastating the arts community. The PR Manager at the theatre contracted AIDS. The theatre had employee health insurance and it was imperative that this gentleman remain on the insurance. As his condition deteriorated.,Shannon and the staff found jobs that he could do either from home or coming into the office.

When it came time for the annual budget review the health insurance quote came in 100% higher than the previous year. This was due to the employee with AIDS. The Board Finance Committee questioned the premium and urged the dismissal of the employee to save money. Shannon said “no”. The alternative for him would be isolating and devastating. Several days later a call came from the Board Chair that there would be an executive session meeting to discuss her decision. At the meeting it became clear that the Board wanted Shannon to fire the employee in order to save money.

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New Member: Murray Forbes

Erik Benson of the Membership Committee on Monday inducted Murray Forbes to the Club. Murray was sponsored by Past President and Assistant District Governor Susan Ross.

In his own words Murray provided a brief biography.

Originally from Pennsylvania, I moved to Durham to start high school. I lived in Charlotte for close to ten years attending Queens University of Charlotte, obtaining an undergraduate and graduate degree in business. I have lived abroad in China teaching English, and most recently New Zealand, where I was assisting lululemon athletica AUS/NZ business strategy implementation and leading the men’s branding campaign. I moved back to Durham three years ago, received my real estate license three months later and started working for Real Estate Associates, Inc in July 2015.

I’m passionate about the development and wellbeing of our community’s children, education, health and wellness, the environment and sustainability of our planet, the growth and development of Durham, and much more. I’m excited to call Durham my home and I’m ready to serve our people. I look forward to meeting each rotarian in our club in the upcoming months.

Please introduce yourselves and welcome Murray to the Club.

New Member: Melody Robinson

Melody Robinson was inducted as a new member by Erik Benson of the Membership Committee and was sponsored by Mike Priddy.

Melody currently works for Johnson and Johnson and brings over 25 years of diverse healthcare experience serving in policy/advocacy, marketing, and customer management across three industries: pharmaceuticals, wealth management and medical devices with 15 years of healthcare community board leadership.

A native of Ferndale, Michigan, and most recently Scotch Plains, New Jersey, Melody now lives in Chapel Hill and is an Associate Director with Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, reading, baking and hanging out with her two daughters, Malindi and Summer.

Melody is a graduate of Leadership Cincinnati class XXVIII and looks forward to serving as a Rotarian.  She holds a Master of Business Administration from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Hampton University.

Please introduce yourselves to Melody and welcome her to our Club.

Program Report: Deirdre Haj – Full Frame Success and Expansion

Documentary film is taking its proper place in the popular movie going and move-watching market – no question there.  In the words of former club and board member Deirdre Haj, “It’s no longer Broccoli” or as she said at another point Monday at lunch, “It’s no longer two guys talking with a fern behind their head.”

Haj moved to Minneapolis a few years back to enable a big career jump for her husband. She did not leave behind her career in documentary filmmaking as executive director of Durham’s prestigious national festival, Full Frame. Credit modern technology.

Nor did the geographic distance and passage of time erode her enthusiasm for our city and several growing educational outreach projects launched by Full Frame during her time at its helm – here or there. The purpose, as documentary film becomes household fare, is to broaden Full Frame’s local presence and impact beyond its niche in the national film world. And in that case, Haj said, a lot of credit goes to Durham Rotary.

“It really started here with all of you,” Haj said during a Full Frame update. She recalled what she described as the festival’s “inward-focused” position when she joined as executive director in 2010, the year she joined our club. Though prominent in documentary film making space even in 2010, the festival operated four days of each calendar year, she recalled, and appeared to carry the local perception of focus on the outside.

Citing inspiration and support by specific Rotary Club members, Haj outlined the details of community-focused programs that began with the assistance, support and participation of various club members. They have been moved along by energetic, talented staff.

Haj reminded club members how her growing Full Frame team launched outdoor screenings around the Triangle year-round known as the Full Frame Road Show.

“Teach the Teachers,” a program designed to train and certify teachers in ways to best instruct students in the fundamentals of basic film making. “ Teach the Teachers has started to go national, all through Durham,” Haj said.

Among other initiatives, Haj described “School of Docs,” a camp taught by professional filmmakers designed to help students learn the art of filmmaking. In some instances, students have gone onto promising new careers and UNC scholarships. In others, she said, “They may have and discover a talent they didn’t know.”

Ms. Haj was introduced by Rotarian Savannah Lennertz the Senior Development Associate for Full Frame. The Full Frame website is HERE.  Passes go on sale this Wednesday, February 14 at 11:00 AM. Tickets reservations begin on March 21 and the Festival begins on April 5 in Downtown Durham.

(Submitted by Mark Lazenby)

Paul Harris Fellows: Mercer Stanfield and Dave Ross

Foundation Chair Andy Esser presented two Paul Harris awards. The first was to Mercer Stanfield for his Paul Harris Plus 1 and the second to Dave Ross for his Paul Harris Plus 5. Congratulations to both Mercer and Dave for their commitment and service to the Club.

President Seth congratulates Mercer while Andy waits to award the new pin.

Dave accepts congratulations from Andy

New Member: Eddie Blount

Please introduce yourself to new member Eddie Blount who was inducted by Membership Committee member Kay Gresham and sponsored by Steve Hancock.  Here in Eddie’s own words is a little bit about himself.

I grew up in northern California, went to college at BYU, where I met my wife, Janet, who was born and raised in Durham.  We moved to Durham in 1986 and I worked for a few years before going back to finish college at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I received two degrees.

I have been a banker in Durham for nearly 25 years.  In 2006, I helped organize KeySource Commercial Bank, which is now a part of Pinnacle Financial Partners.  My office is in Diamond View II and I serve as the Area Executive over our Durham and Chapel Hill markets.  I have been President of the Durham Jaycees, Durham Arts Council and Croasdaile Country Club.

I have been married for 33 years and have three children.  I am an avid tennis player in my spare time.  I look forward to being a part of Rotary.