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.

Rotary Minute – Katie Wyatt

In her own words with the invocation she shared.

I first came to know Rotary through my friendship with Justin Peele, a Rotary Peace Fellow. We attended Rotary together when he was a graduate student at the Rotary Peace Center in Buenos Aires before it closed. I loved the ritual and the ceremony that is shared the world over – and in being a member of Durham Rotary now – thinking about our Argentine friends sitting down to lunch to discuss how to support their communities at the same time as we do. The international reach of Rotary is inspiring, and unites us across the globe through service.

Invocation: By Rudyard Kipling – with an update by me in honor of the Million Women’s March on January 21.

(From ‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:


If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:


If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a WOMAN!

Rotary Minute – Mike Woodard


Called on for an impromptu Rotary Minute, State Senator Mike Woodard remarked that no good politician refused the chance to get in front of a microphone (or camera.)

However, he did keep it very short and told a story about teasing his brother by insisting that the blinking red lights of a departing airplane in the dark night sky was Santa skipping over them.  It’s a joke they repeat every year now even though both are well beyond the age of believing in generous fairies. Mean Brother. Mean Santa.

It may have been Mike’s last laugh of the week as he watched from the Senate Chamber as Santa departed without leaving all of Governor Elect Roy Cooper’s Christmas presents under his tree.

Rotary Minute: Tom Krakauer

tom-krakaur-minute-webYou may not know that I am a first generation American. My parents got out of Germany in 1937 and moved to Boston, New York, a small rural community outside of Buffalo, where I was born.

I have Ph.D in Zoology. My dissertation on Water Loss in Snakes has made me forever safe from that early morning phone call from the Nobel Committee in Stockholm, but gave me the benefit of a Ph.D after my name. I taught four years at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, but soon realized that being closer to the community was more fun. So I helped start the science museum in Roanoke then directed science museums for 30 years, and followed up by helping to found the Museum of Durham History.

Outside of museums, I have an interest in birding and butterflies and have birded on five continents. I have a strong interest in family history and genealogy. In addition to publishing a book about the family, I have recently been creating two memoirs and archiving a treasure trove of family letters.

My mother saved 400 letters exchanged by the family during the late 1930s. The memoir deals with the heart rending story of those who were still in Germany during those last difficult years before most managed to escape. In addition, at age 64 mother joined the Peace Corps and spent 6 years in Colombia uncovering a multitude of rare books, eleven going back to within 50 years of the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.

I joined the Rotary club when I came to Durham in 1985.

The total museum attendance in Jan 1986 was 3,500, so the concept of needing a bond funded parking garage is mind boggling. Shortly after I arrived, the Museum hosted a traveling exhibit of robotic dinosaurs. A phone call I picked up at the museum one Saturday morning sticks in my mind as a stark indication of how Durham’s place in the triangle has changed..

I answered the phone and an elderly southern voice said “My grandson wants to come to the Museum to see the dinosaurs. How do I get there from Raleigh?” I responded, “How do you usually come to Durham, ma’am?” I will never forget her response. “My dear young man. I have lived in Raleigh for 72 years of my life and have never felt compelled to come to Durham.”

I learned a lot from that call.

The museum focused on what is called informal science learning. What does that mean? It means that “People learn best what they almost already know”. The exhibits and educational programs must be accurate, but more important, be engaging and approachable by people of all ages.

This laser-like focus built the Museum’s reputation. We received 9 National Science Foundation and one NIH grant for programs and exhibits. They benefited Durham, but also traveled nationally and internationally. That put us in a league with only a few of the largest science museums in the country.

Between those grants, private contributions, and six bond issues we were able to convert the museum from the number of small buildings to what you see today, with the butterfly house and the exhibit building and all the outdoor exhibits north of Murray Avenue. More than half a million yearly attendance in a community of 275,000 speaks volumes.

I was very fortunate to have benefited from of an extraordinary staff and the support of so many members of this club and the community. They were and continue to be vital to the success of the Museum.

I retired in 2004 and I am very proud that many of the lead staff are still at the museum. New exhibits like Hideaway Woods offer a different type of learning experience are now coming online. If you haven’t visited recently, please do so. You don’t need to bring a child.

Thank you.

Rotary Minute: Julie Wells

julie-wells-webEditor’s note: Our Rotary Minutes are routinely interesting and informative but every once in a while we get one that reflects strong passions or courage. That has been the case the last two weeks with Nancy Mark’s advocacy for student counselling in our schools and Julie Well’s story of the evolution of her passion for helping struggling children through some personal difficulties of her own. Police Chief Davis who delivered our program, even congratulated Julie for her courage to tell her story. Julie’s invocation, which was a prayer for resilience is also included.  – JZ

Good afternoon, my name is Julie Wells and I am grateful to have the opportunity to spend time with old friends and meet new ones here at Rotary.

I am a local girl. I grew up in Raleigh, with a mom and dad and sister. We were a typical middle class family. My dad was a pharmacist, a UNC Chapel Hill grad and my mom stayed at home once I was born. She was a respiratory therapist and she grew up in Durham, down the street in fact from Clyde Edgerton, graduated from Durham high school and then Watts nursing school.  My parents met in their early 20s and were determined to create a family life better than the ones they experienced. My dad grew up in Creedmoor on a tobacco farm. He was a high school basketball star but lived with an abusive father and at age 18, his mother committed suicide in their home. My father was the one to find her. My mom lived with her parents, a sister and brother on Englewood Drive. Her father worked at Clements Funeral Home, retrieving and prepping bodies. He was also an alcoholic. She had memories of going into the bathroom in the middle of the night and seeing his bloody clothes thrown in the bathtub. Despite these challenges, my parents went on to create a stable family and were loved and respect by their friends.

Beyond being the poorer kids at private school when we were younger, my sister and I did not have a lot of adversity to overcome. We lived in a safe place, we were aware of money but not fearful of not having it. We were good students, we both had jobs from 15 on and we both ended up going to UNC-CH. My father worked a second job to pay for our degrees and we both graduated without debt. My sister went on to become a teacher and I started my career working with youth with developmental disabilities- first in a group home and then at The Arc of Orange County as a program director focusing on inclusion and jobs for teens with significant mental and physical challenges. It was challenging worked but I was saturated with the importance of recognizing people’s strengths instead of their weaknesses. Not only did I have to see them, I had to help the youth and all of the people they interacted with (teachers, other students, community members) see their strengths as well.

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Rotary Minute – Nancy Marks


Editor’s note: Nancy Marks is a Paul Harris Fellow who has achieved Major Donor Status.  In this minute she uses the opportunity to champion a passion and a career in education of great importance. This is her second Rotary Minute. She delivered her first Rotary Minute a little over two years ago. It was also remarkable in its own right and provides more of her biography and passion for Rotary. You can find it here.  -JZ

For those of you with whom I have not had an opportunity to visit, my name is Nancy Marks.  I have been a resident of this vibrant community for only about 4 years but I have a had a 60 year loving relationship with all things Rotary.

I would like to speak with you for just a moment about a small area of one of my other passions – education.  I was fortunate to live most of my adult life in Wilmington, NC, and for over 30 years I had the best job in the world as a senior high school counselor whose sole responsibility was to see that every child and his responsible adult understood college admissions, financial aid, and the competitive scholarship process, and that they believed that it was a realistic goal for them.  We proved that it can be done.  With an annual average graduating class of over 500 in this large public high school, reflective of every socio-economic and racial group in our community, over 90% of our students went on to some type of post-high school training every year.  Folks, we need not only to graduate them, we need to send them on.

In North Carolina, there is no excuse not to do so.  We are blessed with a great bounty of higher education opportunities.

We have:

  • 17 outstanding public universities, from Cullowhee to Elizabeth City to Wilmington,
  • 38 excellent private institutions spread out all over the state,

and – in every setting and size you can imagine –

  • 58 of the finest community colleges in the country – one within driving distance of every North Carolina resident!

They will take you where you are, regardless of your lack of attention in high school, give you the background courses you need, and give you superior technical and vocational training – or prepare you for the first 2 years of any 4-year degree program.

But, please understand, the admissions, financial aid, and competitive scholarship processes are an institution unto themselves.  There are documents to complete, deadlines to meet, courses and tests to take, and like every other institution, there are written and unwritten rules – any one of which might change on a regular basis.

So, this is not something the English teacher, or a coach, or the school secretary, can do.  Nor can the school counselor with 6 other jobs, who rotates with each class and only does this every 4 years.  As you are well aware, it helps to know those admissions and financial aid people and to have their numbers on your speed dial. There simply has to be at least one experienced person in every public high school whose only responsibility is to provide this information and  assistance, and to help set expectations for our children that they can and should go on for additional education.

Sadly, this is no longer the case in my former school and probably not here.  There are some wonderful not-for-profit groups in this community working hard to fill in the gaps.  But, every one of our children deserves this assistance.  Not only for their future, but also for ours.  A well-functioning democracy needs a well-educated, fully-employed work force.  And, it is my experience that individuals with a job, making enough money to take care of their family, are engaged citizens.  They take care of their children, they join civic clubs like Rotary, they pay taxes, and they vote!!

So, what do I want you to do?  I want you to be aware and to advocate.

Do you have a family member in public school, or a neighbor?   Do you know a principal, a superintendent, a school board member, a county commissioner, or maybe a state legislator?  Ask them if there is such a person in each of our public high schools, and if not, why not?  I want you to use your clout!! For the economic and cultural future of us all, especially in this day and time of rapidly changing job skills, we need to educate all of our children.  And, I believe with all my heart that an investment in quality education and a good job are a lot less expensive and lot more satisfying than any of the alternatives.