News & Notices

News from the club and its members and notices.

New Members October 14, 2013



From left to right:

Andrew Lakis, sponsored by Arthur Rogers

Forrest Perry, sponsored by Arthur Rogers

Phyllis Coley, sponsored by Don Stanger

Program Report: Paul Newton – State President North Carolina, Duke Energy

dukeenergyFlip a switch and the lights come on.  Rain or shine.  Easy, right?

Yes indeed – if you’re the customer of a power company that knows its game.  But life behind the switch is an entirely more complex undertaking.

As we were reminded at Monday’s lunch, keeping the lights on is an enormous, challenging and at times even dramatic business, especially when two major industry players based in the same state merge to create the nation’s biggest utility.  Recall that Charlotte-based Duke and Raleigh-based Progress Energy married up (to big national headlines and much business buzz) not so long ago.  The marriage produced big-time scale.  That reduces costs passed along to customers, better controls future costs and better positions the new company to master looming industry challenges.

These were among key points delivered by Paul Newton, Duke’s state president of North Carolina, who told Rotarians that size alone “means nothing” to the company.  “We want to be the best,” Newton said.  “We want customers to be proud to be served by Duke Energy.”

Part of his job in helping Duke win that respect is by helping its customers (and many other stakeholders) to see that there are advantages to being hooked up to the Duke wires.  It’s running in excess of 99 percent reliability.  Rates have remained drastically lower than inflation over two decades for virtually all other things we use – milk, for example.  Duke is operating efficiently.

In the capital-intensive, engineering-heavy utility space, it’s often difficult to put things in plain English. But Newton served up a helpful, easy-to-use soundbite on customer prices.  He said that running a typical average residential household in North Carolina on Duke Energy electricity for 24 hours costs people about the same as a latte at an upscale coffee shop.

Duke executives may not consider the sheer size of their company to be a critical metric.  But a lot of us are glad that Duke bulked up.  The company is making an annual state payroll of $1.2 billion.  It’s kicking in annual property taxes to local governments across the state in excess of $113 million.  It’s operating its new “two-utility-but-one-company” generation, transmission and distribution system efficiently, thanks to 13,200 employees who still make the Tar Heel state home.

Unlike some industries, unlike certain other sectors, running a top-tier utility takes uncompromising commitment to community engagement.  Not surprisingly for a large investor-owned utility, the company is investing more than $16 million annually (shareholder money) in charitable and philanthropic giving.  Corporate Responsibility Magazine, a major and respected voice among big American businesses, is placing Duke at #26 on this year’s list of the nation’s top 100 corporate citizens.

“We know for a community to survive, we’ve got to build jobs,” Newton added.  By keeping rates stable, by returning what he said were hundreds of millions of dollars in merger-related savings in fuel costs and operations, Duke promotes development here.  Site Selection Magazine, another premiere voice in the industry that it serves, rates Duke’s North Carolina service area as one of the best to bring in shovel-ready industrial and commercial business, Newton said.  Energy prices for big users are key.

Newton identified challenges facing the company (and the industry) that he admits that he places under the “wakes-me-up-at-night” file.  The environmental rules are changing often and in major ways that add challenge to long-term planning.  Coal-fired stations, the anchor of reliable American electric generation, are being retired and creating need to replace the capacity.  Renewable “green” energy sources are popular with the public and politicians and strongly embraced by Duke.  But “renewables” are still costly to customers, Newton said, and not ready for round-the-clock “baseload” generation vital to running a reliable system through all weather and temperature conditions.

“We’re trying to thread the needle with the company,” said Newton, who also walked us through the company’s programs to teach customers how to conserve energy and be more energy efficient, and to take advantage of its energy-efficient lightbulb giveaways.

Thanks to new club member Indira Everett of Duke Energy, who arranged the briefing and made the introduction.  We’ll look forward to a future update.


Submitted by Mark Lazenby

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.