Rotary Minutes: Todd Taylor

ToddMinutewebThe staff at the Durham Convention Center had to roll out extra tables and many of us who came early gave up our seats to the overflow crowd that gathered to hear Todd Taylor’s Rotary minutes. They were not disappointed.  Most of the regular attendees of the meeting know Todd for showing up in western headgear (most of which came from Australia) as the organizer, cheerleader and chief spokesman for our Club’s efforts to light a fire under the collective butts of teachers, parents and kids to reduce and eliminate illiteracy in our school system.  Todd’s Reading Rangers (of which I proudly claim membership) is already in two of the Durham Schools with the most need for help from the community.

Todd described himself as a cat now in the third of his 9 lives. This claim is based on his three major careers but he cataloged a number of things that were so unique that they could have been conjured up by someone with the flair to stage the tragic death of an imaginary girlfriend to motivate a football team to the brink of a national championship and himself to the brink of the Heisman Trophy.

Consider these experiences and how often you are likely to run into someone who has had any of them much less all of them.

–          Have a mother who was one of the first 90 women in the US Marines.

–          Of all the billions of people who have lived, to be one of the 100,000 or so who have ever stood at the South Pole or the lip of southern most active volcano in the world in Antarctica.

–          Be officially credited with saving 28 lives as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.

–           Fly for the Royal Australian Air Force in an American Navy uniform.

–          Retire for the first time at 38.

–          Become a Mr. Mom. Todd stayed at home with his son, Jason while his wife Jan went off to work.

Consider also that Todd can pronounce r’s even with parents from Boston, graduated “Laudy How Come” as a physics major from Appalachian State University, managed cell phones towers, was a top recruiter for the Navy here in North Carolina, remembers Eastern Airlines as inspirational, flew repaired planes to prove they were safe and might have had a totally different life if he had been able to hit a curve ball.

Since I now work as a part time plumbing associate at Home Depot, my one and only retail job, I totally get a quote Todd shared from a fellow worker during his only retail job, “They say only two things make one hate humanity – combat and retail.”  Amen brother.

Todd’s current job managing Duke Corporate Education’s facilities sounds tame by comparison to the rest of his resume, but he still shows his tendency to temp fate with an off beat sense of humor that he shares regularly. Todd’s full presentation is here.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Rotary Minutes: Meg Solera

MegMinuteWebOne of the first tables to fill up before every meeting is in the center of the room where Meg seems to reign as a queen bee. When the seats fill up many other members stop by to say hello. One of the reasons for this I’m sure is that Meg has been the organizer and hostess for the annual progressive dinner since she conceived it as a club fundraiser several years ago. I’m not sure how much money it raises but it sure has been successful as a chance for many club members to get to know each other much better and everyone to know Meg.

Because of Meg’s gregariousness I’m sure no one was surprised when she grabbed the portable microphone and didn’t seek the protection of the podium like most of the other Rotary Minutemen and Minutewomen have done. She also didn’t have any notes to hand to me afterwards, which I may forgive her for one day.

Making a little fun of some of the claims of other presenters with movie stardom and rocket science in their backgrounds, she described her family connection to FDR and her own encounters with Newt Gingrich and Robert Reich…and if that ain’t Ying and Yang I don’t know what is. She also bragged about a friend of her daughter Kaitlin who is going to get them a special tour of the White House…I think she said it was Michelle Obama…but I could be wrong.

A California girl, she graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a degree in Sociology, one of those degrees that gets you a job at something like a restaurant chain. Not finding that totally satisfying she heard about business schools and applied to two….Harvard and Cornell. After being encouraged by the folks at Cornell to reapply after building a little more substantial quantitative base, she did that and was accepted. But her biggest prize at Cornell wasn’t her MBA but her husband Jose, who was also there getting an MBA.

With MBA’s in hand, Meg and Jose did the high tech SiliconeValley thing, he at Intel and she at Varian. They moved briefly to Dallas and then back to California where she changed gears and did college recruiting. She then spent 7 years as the director of youth services at the Palo Alto Jewish Center and as a volunteer Girl Scout leader which involved overseeing 80 adult leaders and 1100 scouts. I’ll bet those were great progressive dinners…Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patties and, finally, the ever popular Shortbread.

When she and Jose finally found the right coast here in Durham, Meg kept a left coast connection by taking a certification course online from UCLA to become a college counselor helping high school students sort out their college options. She has been doing that ever since.

Meg thanked the club for becoming a family of friends and connections to their new community. We’re glad she found us.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Program Report: January Club Assembly – President Don Stanger

DonAlt3For the first program of the New Year, President Don scheduled a Club Assembly to review the progress made during the first half of his term of office.  We were honored to have both this year’s District Governor Rick Carnagua and District Governor–Nominee Matthew Kane.

President Don whizzed through a 56 slide Power Point in less than 25 minutes, which puts him in contention with Bill Kalkhof of Downtown Durham, Inc. for the record for most slides for a Rotary Program. Since this is virtually impossible to summarize, the presentation has been posted to the website for thoughtful perusal.  I will, however, share a few impressions from the presentation and my observations as Club Secretary for the last few years and chronicler of many of the meetings.

First of all, it is hard to overestimate the importance of the President’s position in a club like ours. It is not only time consuming, but it takes a tremendous amount of diplomacy and organizational skill to manage so many people who are leaders in their own spheres. Going back at least as far as Susan Ross’s presidency in 2006-2007, which is my first recollection of a systematic strategic planning process, each president has been able to build on the accomplishments of his or her predecessor to create a stronger club.

As one presentation after another has made clear, recruiting new members and moving them from just dues payers to active, involved Rotarians will continue to be a challenge. The good news is that the younger generations we call the Millennials want to give back to their communities, change the world, and make it a better place. However, they are different in how they communicate and a Rotary club must be prepared to adapt to bring their energy and talents into the service of the community.

The ad hoc communications committee has begun a transformation of our communications that is about at the point that the strategic planning process was back in 2006 with a long way to go. The website, the emails, the Facebook page, the LinkedIn group, are tools nobody even imagined when I first joined Rotary in the mid-eighties, but they are second nature to the Millennials that will be future Rotarians.  Like the strategic planning process, the communications process is not an end in itself, but a means to an end and we still have a long way to go before we can call it a success.

Two unsung heroes of our communications have been Bernadette Jones, our now retired Executive Secretary, who passed the torch to Sharon Lassiter, who has also been able to build on her predecessor’s foundation to provide responsive and timely communications.

President Don’s presentation illustrated well the breadth and depth of the club’s activities but so did the list of announcements that preceded his presentation, which along with the popular Rotary Minute “autobiographies” squeezed the main event into an abbreviated timeframe. In fact, this is fairly common now. Preceding our Christmas program there were 9 separate appeals and/or reports for worthy projects. Success breeds its own challenges and it is heartening to note that the announced slate of new officers and board members that will take over in July is prepared to build even more on the success of this year.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Program Report: Christmas Program

Christmas-WreathsI’ve written up these Christmas programs several times and it’s always a struggle because I want to watch and listen instead of take notes. So, I try to say something about the spirit of the season, etc. The problem with that is that the next time we’re together Christmas will be a couple of weeks in the rear view mirror and most of us will have had enough of it. One year I did the write up as a take off of The Night Before Christmas…rhyming and everything…and never got a mention from anyone that they had even read it.  You know it’s really bad when people are even embarrassed to damn it with faint praise… you know…with some comment like “cute.”

But this year I can post it on the website and know that everybody that is subscribed will get it on Saturday while we’re still anticipating Christmas. Since there are no space restrictions, I can add a few pictures too. marimbaweb

As usual, the Durham Public Schools provided the entertainment. Steed Rollins introduced Dr. Teresa Daye from the DPS, who is the Executive Director for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment and the Supervisor for the Arts. She introduced Mary Casey, who has brought us these programs for several years. She is the Director for Arts Education for DPS. She introduced Eric Hampton from Mangum Elementary and their Umoja Marimba Group. That was a hoot. There were severnteen kids with an equal number of marimbas. I admit, I had no idea what a marimba was. The picture is one I found on Google. There were a couple hundred images there and no two marimbas appear to be alike, but I want one. The kids were having great fun and made me want to grab my Santa hat and head off to the Caribbean for Christmas.

MarimbaThen Mary introduced Jane Brewer from Githens Middle School and their 7th and 8th grade chorus. Something that always makes me a little jealous when I see one of these youth choruses is my experience trying out for the chorus at St. Bridget Elementary School back in Richmond. Madame St. Jude, of the Religious Order of the Sacred Heart of Mary, came and bent over to listen to me and then stood up and said, “Jay dear, you’re a listener” and put her index finger up to her lips. She probably didn’t hear too well though, because back then nuns still wore “habits.” The Sacred Heart of Mary nuns’ headdress covered their ears like earmuffs and peaked at the top. It was kind of like looking at a big face painted in the bottom of a rowboat. In my eight years there I could never prove that any of those nuns had a single lock of hair, or an ear, for that matter.
The other impression I had is that the group from Githens was a good representation of the international community Durham is becoming. As if anticipating my thoughts Jane mentioned that the chorus represented 5 different native languages. They then sang a piece in Yiddish and another in Greek. Wow.githenschorus

Our friend, fellow Rotarian, and Ethics Teacher, Melissa Mills, tells me that live music is healing. It certainly can bring out emotions and at least once during every one of these Christmas programs I’ve felt myself tearing up at least a little. And this is certainly, even more than most Christmases, a time for healing. For whatever history it had before, the little town of Newtown, Conn will now always be associated with one of the great tragedies of the new century. We, and the country, will need a lot of music and Christmas carols from the beautiful faces of these and other children to get over that.


Newtown, by the way, has a Rotary Club. Someone contacted us through our website to confirm their address because they wanted to send a contribution. I found their website and indeed, they are accepting contributions. For anybody interested in doing so, you can go to

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Paul Harris Fellow: Aubrey Zinaich-Howell

AubreyHowellwebFoundation Chair Dallas Stallings presented Aubrey Zinaich-Howell her pin and certificate commemorating her contribution and induction as a Paul Harris Fellow. Aubrey is also one of the newest members of the club and quickly recognized the good work done by the Rotary Foundation.

More information about becoming a Paul Harris Fellow can be found on the Rotary International website.

Connie McLeod

Dear Fellow Rotarians:

It is with regret that I write to inform you of the death of Mrs. Connie McLeod, wife of one of our Club Members, Mr. Randall McLeod. Mrs. McLeod passed away on Monday, December 17, 2012. Mrs. McLeod’s Obituary is noted below.

Please keep Mr. McLeod and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Yours In Rotary Service,

C. Donald Stanger, President

Durham Rotary Club

Cornelia “Connie” Grissom McLeod

Cornelia “Connie” Grissom McLeod, 88, died Monday in Duke Hospital following a brief illness. A native of Vance County, she was born June 6, 1924 to Charlie and Effie (Glenn) Grissom. Connie graduated from Peace College, after which she began working in the offices of Golden Belt Manufacturing Company. She married Randall A. McLeod, her husband of 62 years, whom she met on a blind date. For many years, she worked alongside her husband in their Durham business, Piedmont Printers.

Connie was a longtime member of First Presbyterian Church, where she was a faithful Tuesday afternoon office volunteer. She was active in Presbyterian Women’s organization, serving as the treasurer for many years. Connie was awarded an honorary life membership in Presbyterian Women in 1996. She was known for her quilting and handicrafts, and initiated the Presbyterian Women’s Chrismon making project, which continues to decorate the church Christmas tree annually. Together she and Randall enjoyed dining out and travel over the years. Connie took a keen interest in others, savoring the stories of people’s lives.

Surviving are her husband, Randall A. McLeod; sisters, Beth G. Bussey of Greensboro, Edith G. Shelden of Raleigh and Rachel Grissom of Durham; 10 nieces and nephews; and many great nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Friday in First Presbyterian Church, with the Reverend Joseph Harvard III and Reverend Marilyn Hedgpeth officiating. A reception will follow.

Gifts in Connie’s memory may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 305 East Main Street, Durham, North Carolina 27701. Arrangements are with Hall-Wynne Funeral Service & Crematory.