News & Notices

News from the club and its members and notices.

Rotary Minute – Harvey Sellner

One of the problems with the Rotary Minute is that sometimes they really don’t do justice to many of our members that have had long and interesting careers and active “retirements.”

Harvey is one of those members so it’s not surprising that this was his third minute. You can use the search capability on the website to see the reports of the other two. In 2015 he shared some of the background of how he and his wife Calla got to Durham and his role in getting Rotary International involved in providing safe water where it is needed in many impoverished areas of the world that has been a focus of Rotary for many years now.

It was a natural jump from that to his current interest in sustainable agriculture which he described in his Minute last year.

This year, he dug a little deeper in to his engineering career in the US Space Program.

For those of you that have many loops around the the sun on this planet like me, you will remember when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and the determination that caused in this country to catch up and surpass them.  Most of you who weren’t around should catch the movie Hidden Figures which will give you a feel for the urgency that Sputnik inspired, as well as an inspiring story about three women that worked on the space program but will be remembered more for the segregation barriers that they broke.

But even we older folk weren’t aware of some highly-classified spy satellites that Harvey worked on, one of which dropped photographic FILM back into the atmosphere. Some of the youngest of our Rotarians may not even remember that that used to be how all cameras operated. Both Harvey and the movie pointed out is that most of us have more computing power in the phone in our pockets than was available for the first manned missions.

Harvey also worked on the Hubble Space Telescope which launched in 1990 and is still functioning today and is expected to continue sending fantastic digital pictures of space for many years to come.

Rotary Minute – Carolyn Aaronson

Carolyn Aaronson used her Rotary Minute to give a moving account a childhood that was beyond difficult. But the saddest part of the minute for many was her announcement that she had requested a leave of absence. Carolyn shared how she was deeply disturbed by the direction that the country had turned with the recent election and needed time to deal with that.

Since she became a member, Carolyn has been generous with her time, her money and her artistic ability. On this particular Monday, she was selling the beautiful hand-made valentines she creates. They were there for sale the following Monday as well, with all proceeds going to the club.

Carolyn will be missed even by those who didn’t share her political beliefs and more by those, like me, who do, but most of all by those who consider her a friend.

Carolyn, please join us again very soon in support Rotary’s goals of literacy, health, inclusiveness, world peace and friendship.

Program Report – David Baron, Founder of

Don’t just sit there – go to!

As a little boy with a lot of energy, David Baron too often heard “that’s not a toy.” Delicate things, dangerous things, and things his mother claimed were “just for looks” – he converted them into tools and toys. He broke things, and sometimes broke himself. So he decided early on that when he grew up, he wanted to change that and be able to say, “that’s a toy.”

As a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, he discovered that sleeping on a futon – particularly a cheap one – was way less than desirable. He found they broke, they were cumbersome, and they ended up in the dumpster. He was offended that the big box stores could get away with that, basically “tricking customers.” It hit him: that was the opportunity to make something better, and way more delightful. He was on track to become a successful manufacturing entrepreneur just a few years later.

Baron, CEO of, an e-commerce business based in downtown Durham that sells fun foam futons called Nuggets, is a native of Atlanta. Prior to Monday’s speaking engagement, his experience with Rotary was “a dedicated park bench on a corner in suburban Dunwoody, Georgia.” He appeared a bit taken aback by the size of his Rotary audience, but quickly warmed to his topic. [Read more…]

New Member – February 6, 2017 Geri Lail

Please meet and our newest member Geri Lail CPA and tax partner with Thomas, Judy and Tucker, Certified Public Accountants.

Leaders of Tomorrow Support Rotary Initiative

The Leaders of Tomorrow sponsored by the RDU Chapter of the National Black MBA Association lent their support to the Rotary Clubs of Durham by assembling take-away gifts for the attendees of the upcoming Alzheimer’s Caregivers’ Appreciation Luncheon.  On February 19, invited guests will be treated to lunch, entertainment and a raffle for prizes in recognition of the tireless efforts that caregivers put forth every day.  The lunch is jointly sponsored by the Downtown Durham, Southwest and Sunrise Rotary Clubs of Durham.

During their most recent monthly meeting, the Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) assembled gift boxes of truffles for luncheon guests to take home. Rotarians Emily Page and Marion Johnson organized the event as a service project for the youth group.  LOT participants were introduced to Alzheimer’s disease and to Rotary before they joined an assembly line to create the gifts.

The RDU Leaders of Tomorrow group is sponsored by the RDU Chapter of the National Black MBA Association.  Rotarian Marion Johnson is one of the Directors of the LOT program.  Each year, some of the older LOT members participate in the National Black MBA Association’s national business case competition.  Downtown Durham Rotarians may remember the LOT team from their presentation to the Club last year.  That case competition team placed 3rd nationally and received scholarship prizes for their achievement.

Rotary Minute: Past District Governor Newman Aguiar

A frequent recurring nightmare is being lost in a place suddenly unfamiliar and filled with busy people you don’t know. Maybe you’re seeking family, maybe your home or maybe just a lost wallet.

When Newman offered his Rotary Minute on Monday, there seemed to be a little less confidence in his voice than we usually expect. He told me later that he didn’t often share his personal story. We all know Newman as a successful businessman, a leader of this club and our district, and, indeed the community where he has served in many ways, often hand-in-hand with his wife, Ann-Louise.

Newman was the middle child in a family of five. His family immigrated to New York from India in 1985. Trying the slow down the brain drain, India was only allowing emigres to take $20 each with them when they left the country. So, the seven of them arrived with $140 to make their way in America. Newman’s dad was a high court judge in India but couldn’t practice law here and took a job on the New York subway as a conductor.

In his late teens, Newman assumed some of the responsibility for supporting the family and set out, with little luck, to find a job. When he figured out there were opportunities in data processing he studied and immersed himself in that field. An attractive young woman doing the hiring for a law firm in the city gave him a chance and hired him to do data entry, which was about as low as you could get in the data processing hierarchy. This same young woman later promised the management she would supervise him when she recommended him for another position that had opened up. As anyone who knows Newman would realize, he was all over it and later became the data processing equivalent of a hero, dumping an expensive purchased system and building its replacement. He and the young woman that hired him became good friends and eventually the couple we know so well today.

Apparently, there are enough people in this country who thought American had become a bad dream and found it so troubling that they elected a man who promised a massive wall on our southern border, a ban on Muslim immigrants and a more aggressive stance towards the rest of the world. Now the other half of the country is in awakening from a fitful sleep and seeing their nightmare unfold. Our tradition welcoming and being enriched by immigrants and our freedom to practice whatever religion we believe is being challenged. The invitation to share in the American dream inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, “give me your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,” is being questioned.

I’ve had a few Muslim clients over the years and, to tell you truth, I’ve found Baptists to be scarier. But I’m coming around since my daughter got involved with a local Baptist church. They have been working to resettle immigrant families here in Durham and were ready to welcome a Syrian family when this recent ban went in place. That family is now in limbo.

Thanks for sharing your story Newman, and for having the courage to live the Four Way Test and Rotary’s commitment to international good will and peace, in spite of your tough start in America.