Program Report: Economic Outlook – Dr. Michael Walden

President Don Stanger introduced our speaker by invoking the famous James Carville axiom, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The best part about N.C. State economics professor Michael Walden’s address was that it was laid out in easily understood terms, even for those of us who may feel a little, well, stupid when trying to grasp the complexities of what makes the market tick.

Though we all know the housing market crash was the predominant factor in the 2008 recession, it was illuminating to hear some of the jaw-dropping stats. On average, home prices doubled from 1996 to 2006, an unprecedented boom. All booms must end, Walden reminded us, and we learned that unprecedented booms come with unprecedented busts. Usually home price hikes will just decelerate. Starting in 2007, they didn’t just decelerate. They ground to halt, then “pierced zero” and kept dropping.

The tech sector fallout in 2000-2001 caused plenty of problems, but the housing collapse was more catastrophic.

“You’re talking about a sector that is four times bigger than the tech sector and touches virtually everyone,” Walden said. “Not only homeowners but construction, developers, finance, supplies, furniture, roofers, interior designers, you name it.”

The good news is the economy probably has bottomed out and is on the road to recovery. The bad news is that recovery will be sluggish.

Walden took pains at the beginning of his speech to note that he would be as apolitical as possible. He took that a step farther by saying we’re at least a few years away from a full recovery regardless of who wins the White House in November.

North Carolina, the Triangle in particular, is and likely will remain in better shape than most, Walden said.

On a macro level, though, the Federal Reserve will be taking some rather drastic steps to drag less fortunate parts of the country along.

Our economy is consumer-driven. The housing boom meant people had more to spend, seeing their home as a nest egg that could justify that new car, that trip, what have you. The bust sent people into squirrel mode. While saving is prudent on a personal level, it’s disastrous of the overall economy.

Which is why the Fed is printing more money – an action they call, in a triumph of euphemistic obfuscation, “quantitative easing” – which likely will spur some inflation and, it’s hoped, more spending.

“I think, quite frankly, the Federal Reserve doesn’t want you to save,” Walden said. “They want you to spend money.”

Guess my kids will have to understand that depleting their college fund was merely an act of patriotism. Anybody have a boat they want to sell?


Rotarian and historian Allen Cronenberg and President Don are already working on documenting events and preparing for the Club’s Centennial. President Don has scanned two books that were written to record our history through 1990. Other documents are being unearthed that will also be scanned and posted. To access the two books we’ve created a page to catalog the documents. You will find the page at ‎ or on the drop down menu under the “About” tab on the primary navigation.

Program Report: Dr. Deborah Tippett – Connecting To the Millennial Generation

Credit Durham native Deborah Tippett with smart use of the cardinal rule of great presentations. Know the audience.

She’s known hers for years. In an outstanding academic career atMeredithCollegeas an award-winning professor, department head, author and teacher-of-the-year, she has no shortage of experience with young people. And she has built on her career in academics as an expert on “Millennials,” the population of more than 100 million people born between 1982 and 2002.

As this week’s featured luncheon speaker, however, Dr. Tippett spoke to an audience composed almost entirely of Baby Boomers (52-69), Gen-X (31-51) and the Silent Generation (70-87). The most prominent and perhaps only Millennial generation representative was visiting guest Emily Stokes, daughter of her Boomer dad, Bill Stokes. Absent Emily, this was an audience most of whom, under guidance from our speaker, recalled their defining generational moment of childhood as the assassination of President Kennedy or evenPearl Harbor. This was a lunch group who not so long ago defined “text” as the material between two covers of a book.

In a presentation entitled “The New Millennials and Rotary,” Dr. Tippett cautioned, first and foremost, that generational studies are broad-brush in nature and not representative of individuals. [Read more…]

Rotary Minutes – Sheridan van Wagenberg

It’s difficult to imagine the always well put together Sheridan in something as informal as  hip waders but she did admit that she was a fly fishing snob only enthusiastic about fly fishing in Jackson Wyoming.  Ditto for oil painting or boating…you can’t do those in a business suit, can you?

But you can’t really be a snob in Durham and Sheridan is a Durham native through and through who attended St. Mary’s Country Day School, Hillside High and UNC where she majored in psychology.  Such a degree leads naturally to a career in banking. In Sheridan’s case that meant  being one of the specialists at NCNB that manage wealthy people’s assets. For the youngsters in the crowd NCNB used to be the big bank headquartered in Charlotte that gobbled up Bank of America and liked that name better.

Like others in the audience, Sheridan left the comfort and status of big banking to strike out on her own. In her case it was to start a photography business that she ran for a number of years. In 2009 she spotted an opening to manage Caring House and found her true calling helping adult cancer patients and their caregivers receiving treatment at the Duke Cancer Institute.  She told the story of how she had dressed in her best business attire for her interview only to be interviewed by Rotarian Bob Yowell in decidedly less formal attire. Bob must have been impressed because not only was she hired, he sponsored her for Rotary about the same time in 2009.  Judging from the picture below from the Caring House website she was not kidding about loving her job.

Sheridan raised two children, Trey who is now 26 and Cabell who is at UNC.  Sheridan recently remarried after being a single mother for many years and traded her maiden name of Townsend for van Wagenberg. Sheridan is part of the current Durham Rotary Board and has chaired the Million Meals effort in recent years. 

Program Report – DPS Chief-of-Staff Dr. Lewis Ferebee

Rotarian David Reese, Director of the East Children’s Children’s Initiative, introduced Dr. Lewis Ferebee, Chief of Staff, Durham Public Schools, by reminding us all that today is the first day of school in Durham County. Thousands of students are in their classrooms even as we sat and got ready to listen to him speak.

Dr. Ferebee started by saying that he stands on the shoulders of many, and that, in the Rotary spirit of Service above Self, he lives by the motto “To whom much is given, much is expected”.

At DPS the focus on literacy is because literacy is the foundation of all learning. Up until third grade students learn to read, after that they read to learn.

Literacy is the main focus of President Stanger’s term, so our Reading Rangers program is intended to play a role in Dr. Ferebee’s search for a community volunteer program. When a student is reading below grade level, engaging community volunteers becomes an important way to teach reading skills as well as a love of reading for life. Studies show that a significant relationship with an adult outside the home can make a huge impact in a young person’s life. Therefore a community group such as Rotary is a great partner. [Read more…]

Rotary Minute: Melissa Mills

Hey, I sympathize with Melissa, who apologized in advance for her tendency to run on.  But when you have done so many things and led such an interesting life how do you explain it in 5 minutes?  Most lives have a thread that runs through them and with Melissa it seems to be an attachment to higher education starting with her birth in the University of Chicago Hospital. I mean when you had three different undergraduate majors, studied six or seven languages, coordinated IT in a major university division, spent time at Harvard, done consulting, gone through Duke Divinity school and become the chairperson of the District’s ethics initiative, that takes a little time to explain. And, even if it hadn’t been delivered so charmingly…you’d still be thinking “Wow!”  Another great Rotary minute.