News & Notices

News from the club and its members and notices.

Rotary Minute: Immediate Past President Don Stanger

DonsMinutewebThe “Rotary Minute” is back with a bang.

Past President Don Stanger, who introduced the new club feature under his leadership, took the podium on Monday to help drive the popular program into its second year by having what he jokingly called his own “day in the barrel” and sharing details of a well-lived life at club lunch.

As most of our club membership knows, this is the sole purpose of the program. The minute exists to help prospective and current members to see that our club is populated by a unique mix of talented and interesting individuals well worth getting to know and well worth joining in service.  The challenge is getting folks to get up there and tell all.  In recent months the frequency of the popular feature waned.

Which returns us to the past president who started it all and is driving the tradition forward:

Existing and long-time members are likely not surprised that Don had a sterling international business career, first with IBM, then with an international Fortune 500 joint venture between CSX and American Airlines, then as a small businessman and consultant.  He walked the membership through some exciting war stories (including meeting with the President of China and Prime Minister of Great Britain.)

But Don as surfer boy or cowboy roper or spear fisherman?  Turns out – courtesy of the protocols of the Rotary Minute –  that he disclosed that he had a colorful and happy boyhood with fascinating parents and college football career.  With benefit of growing up out West in California, he described a childhood that began “on the beach” and extended to included surfing, roping from horseback in the Wild West, spearfishing and deer hunting with a bow and arrow.

He loves Rotary (no surprise there). He described his tenure as club president as a “blessing,” as well as his role as father and grandfather now, or at least for now, in professional retirement.

Throughout Don’s tenure, the Rotary Minute did not disappoint.  We have sussed out among our ranks former rescue helicopter pilots, Notre Dame football players, World War II vets, even a former Star Trek actress.

Thanks to Don for his service, and making Rotary a part of his own fascinating and varied life.

(Submitted by Mark Lazenby)

Program Report: Jeff Polish – The Monti

MontiwebAri Medoff introduced our speaker at Monday’s lunch — Durham’s much-beloved Jeff Polish, the founder of The Monti.

For those not familiar with the home-grown organization, the Monti is a not-for-profit that builds community through storytelling.  And this is how Jeff started his discussion with our club: with a story.

In 1976, at the age of five, his father drove Jeff and his sister to their favorite restaurant, the Good Steer, in Free Hope, New Jersey. Jeff’s father turned off the car and told them that he and his mother were getting a divorce and that he would no longer be living with them.

Jeff explained that he could not know at the time how those words would affect him, but that the moment set the stage for a lonely and isolated childhood.  So Jeff retreated into his own world, where he could construct his own narrative, in his own mind. Though he appeared to the outside world as a shy and withdrawn child, inside of his mind was a vibrant universe alive with narratives of his own making.

Once in college he used these social skills to tell his stories to dorm mates.  This drew people to him. He learned, by contrast with athletes in the dorm, that telling true stories that reveal vulnerable and authentic qualities brought people close to him.  Boasting did the opposite.

With a PhD is sciences (with a specialty in genetics) Jeff became a high school teacher. He founded the Monti in Chapel Hill in April of 2008. T hese story-telling sessions sold out from the start and despite early criticism for foul language, Jeff stuck to his mission.

There are four rules for the Monti: The story must be true, follow a theme, be told without notes, and be done in under 12 minutes.

He moved the Monti Durham because, he said, “Durham and the Monti are much the same. Durham acknowledges its difficulties in order to move forward.”And this is what storytelling does.

Now Jeff is launching a new project: Voices of Medicine. The project will feature audio stories of people “traveling through the medical system”– patients, doctors, family, caregivers. By collecting their interviews, he hopes to connect people everywhere.

Among other planned features, participants will be able to share a database of stories searchable by keyword.  (In fact, Jeff said that people all over the world now download his podcast, from  Kuwait, to China and beyond). “A bad diagnosis is a lonely, isolated time,” he said. Hoping to have a permanent home at Duke Hospital, he believes the location will promote connections between everyone who at one time or another will face illness in some way. An audience member recently approached Jeff to explain that, by listening to his podcasts, his diagnosis of depression became more bearable. The young man told him, “I laugh, I sob, and I love that I feel something. I feel like I am not alone.”

Remembering the sad little boy outside the Good Steer in New Hope, NJ, Jeff answered, “I know exactly how you feel.”

Submitted by Deirdre Haj

Program Report: DPS Superintendent Eric Becoats on New Core Standards

becoats and barkerwebGiving away free stuff is cool so I had one of the easier volunteer opportunities at the Battle of the Bands on Sunday evening handing out tee-shirts to VIP ticket holders and later to anyone who wanted one. This year the Battle raised money for the East Durham Children’s Initiative which is, of course, led by Rotarian David Reese and includes our Reading Rangers program. David and a number of the Y.E. Smith teachers were there. My best moment was when Ms. Johnson, whose classroom several of us tutored in, came behind the table and gave me a quick hug, which was something of a surprise because she’s so formal in the classroom. I don’t even know her first name and she knows me only as “Mr. Jay.”

I mention this because watching these folks from Y.E. Smith interact with each other in an informal setting is something we don’t see when inside their classrooms. Their youthful enthusiasm and respect for each other and the commitment we do see in the classrooms added special poignancy to the presentation their boss and our Superintendent and fellow Rotarian, Dr. Eric Becoats gave us at Monday’s meeting.Becoats1web

Dr. Becoats was introduced by Barker French who set up the presentation with a quiz that pointed out several recent achievements of the district including graduation rates of 80% and no under-performing schools in the most recent assessment. That was the good news. The bad news is that we are now implementing new “Core Standards” which are national standards that have been adopted by many states including North Carolina. That itself is not bad news because these emphasize analytical skills and are meant to be more rigorous, integrated and individualized.  Dr. Becoats used one of those text abbreviations, WIIFM or “what’s in it for me” to illustrate the point. Providing context for how knowledge and skills are used in the real world answers this kind of question for students.

What is troubling is that the adoption of these standards comes at a time when resources have been slashed by the General Assembly. Our Senator Mike Woodard squirmed visibly during the presentation even though he was not part of the majority that was responsible. Once again teacher pay was frozen and financial incentives for getting advanced degrees was taken away, hurting the teachers, the school system and the university schools of education.

Dr. Becoats is giving this presentation in a number of venues to alert the community to expect less glowing achievement reports as everybody adjusts to the new standards. More information including Dr. Becoats’ full presentation are on the DPS website at this link: . Dr. Becoats also thanked the club for our leadership in the Reading Rangers program and the Crayons2Calculators school supplies collection efforts.

There are several other take-aways from this and our program last week with speaker Steve Schewel. First, we cannot take for granted the teachers and their leaders in the school system. As Dr. Becoats pointed out, two thirds of the 32,000 +/- kids in our system qualify for free lunches, meaning their households often lack the resources or skills to help with their education.  This forces many teachers to buy supplies out of their own pockets. As the squeeze continues there will be a point when almost every teacher in will be ask the WIIFM question themselves. In fact, I note this morning on Facebook that a statewide teacher walkout is being organized for November 4 to protest the cuts and lack of financial incentives. We can’t expect to keep good personnel on board and motivated without recognition and reward.

Second, all the Reading Rangers we can recruit, all the supplies we can collect and all the businesses that participate in the Battle of the Bands will never be enough without the total support of the community through adequate funding for regular activities. Those struggling kids are not “them,” Dr. Becoats reminded, they are our future citizens, they are our kids.

Finally, as Rotarians in particular, we have to remember that the point of this is Service above Self. It is not just about the warm and fuzzy feeling we get from a hug we might get from a kid occasionally…or a pretty teacher. Those are just an extra bonus and not the main goal.

New Members – More September Inductions

Please welcome these new members to the Durham Rotary.

new member1webCicely Mitchell, President of the Art of Cool non-profit here in Durham with her sponsor Deirdre Haj.

new member2webMartin W. Morris, Attorney and Retired Chief of Staff of US Senator Richard Lugar with his sponsor Bill Stokes.

Progressive Dinner – Save the Date – Sunday October 27


The Fifth Annual Progressive Dinner
This year, we move to a Sunday, change the appetizer location, change the menu and add a great surprise during dessert.  Curious?  Save the date and Sign-Up!

This is our Club’s premier Social/Fellowship event of the year.  Here is your opportunity to bring a spouse, partner or simply come alone to mingle, dine and meet new folks in a casual setting.  We meet up for appetizers, then are given an envelope with the dinner host’s name and address (with

a map) and split up to dine at one of eight catered dinners hosted at the homes of fellow Rotarians (within a ten minute drive of the appetizer location).  Following dinner, every host hands out envelopes giving directions to our dessert location which is always held at a Rotarian’s place of business (also no more than a ten minute drive) where we all meet back up to enjoy delicious goodies and beverages, and wrap up the event.  Starts promptly at 4:30pm and ends at 9pm.

This is a great opportunity for new and ‘seasoned’ members of our Club to meet people and socialize together. $30/person includes scrumptious appetizers, dinner with wine, and lovely dessert treats.

No one knows which home they will be assigned for dinner, but we mix it up annually and everyone has a great time.

No football conflicts (it’s Sunday), so jump on board and save the date.  Sign-ups will begin after Labor Day at our regular meetings and spots fill up quickly as we can only accommodate approximately 65 total guests (including hosts).

Many thanks to House Hosts: Newman & Ann-Louise Aguillar, Arthur & Caroline Rogers, Ellen & Ken Reckhow, Mark Higgins, Shannon & Wil Leskin, Harvey & Calla Sellner, Susan Ross & Tom Hadzor, Vandana Dake & John Warasila…………and Appetizer Host Nancy Gordon.

Questions?  Email Progressive Dinner Chairperson Meg Solera

New Members – September

newmembers2From left to right:

New member Alison Steele with her sponsor, President elect Vandana Dake.

Returning new member, Roz Grace with her sponsor, Meg Solera.

New member Craig Reed with his sponsor, Membership Chair Sheridan van Wagenberg.