Program Reports

The program write ups as they appear in the meeting bulletins.

Program Report: Christopher Perrien – USS NC SSN 777 Club and Youth Day

Several “opening acts” preceded the announced program.  First of all, Durham Rotary celebrated “Children’s Day.”  Several Rotarians brought children and grandchildren who introduced themselves.  Hopefully, these youngsters will be inspired to become Rotarians in the future.  Christopher Gergen introduced a new cohort of Innovation Fellows.  They will present a program in the fall.  Meg Solera introduced several Rotary scholars who are recipients of Centennial and Brown Family Scholarships.

Most North Carolinians are familiar with the USS North Carolina moored in the Cape Fear River in Wilmington.  Many have trod on the decks, explored battle stations and imagined what life was like on this highly decorated battleship that played an important role in the Atlantic and Pacific during World War II.  But few North Carolinians know a modern, Virginia-class fast attack submarine bears the name of the old North State, the fourth U.S. Navy warship to honor North Carolina.

Our main speaker, North Raleigh Rotarian Christopher Perrien is trying to remedy that.  Perrien, by the way, was masterfully introduced by Wyatt Jernigan, son of President Seth.  Future Rotarians need to keep an eye on Wyatt.  He will make a terrific Rotary president someday.

A graduate of the Naval Academy and retired IBM executive, Perrien is President and Executive Director of the USS North Carolina SSN 777 club.  The club’s goals include supporting the crews and families of the boat; increasing  awareness among North Carolinians of the “Tarheel Boat;” and raising funds to acquire the boat when it retires—maybe around 2048—and moor it in Wilmington along with Battleship North Carolina.

A few crew members of SSN 777 are North Carolinians.  Earlier this year, Gary Montalvo was piped ashore as commanding officer of the boat.  Montalvo grew up in Durham, attended the School of Science and Mathematics, and graduated from the Naval Academy.  Under his leadership the USS North Carolina earned the 2015 Battle “E” Award, recognizing it as the best boat and crew among the ten boats in Submarine Squadron 1 home-ported at Pearl Harbor.  As Perrien said, it’s the crews and technology of submarines like SSN 777 that keep the Chinese on their toes.

Perrien described the SSN 777 as a “long tube.”  Its length is approximately the distance of a home-run ball hit over right-center field in Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  The Virginia-class sub is built as a smaller and less expensive alternative to the Cold War era boats.  It can operate in littoral waters as well as deep ocean waters.  Its weaponry is lethal.

Perrien brought along a friend, Matthew Cox, who served on the USS Alaska, an older and larger Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.  Matthew spoke and answered questions about life aboard submarines. The typical deployment is 180 days at sea, 92 percent of the time underwater.  Boats like the USS North Carolina carry a crew of 120 enlisted men and 14 officers.  Personal space  averages about 15 sq. feet.  A watch of six hours is followed by twelve hours off.  The wardroom is the center of social life.  Understandably, contact with families at home is very limited.  Usually, once a week submarines surface to give crews and families an opportunity for emailing.

Obviously, the service men and women of the submarine force make many sacrifices to earn their coveted dolphin pins and to ensure the nation’s security.

Submitted by Allen Cronenberg

Program Report for June 26, 2017 – Passing the Gavel

Even for the end of the Rotary Year,  there was a lot going on during our meeting of July 26.

First we had a mini-trade show.  Tables with easels were set up and the major committees where given a chance to staff the tables, talk about the committee’s activities and recruit new folks to join the group. Finger food was placed strategically so no one starved while this was happening. Each table also had “door prizes” and each participating member was given several tickets that they could deposit at the tables. Each table drew for their own prizes.

Second, instead of the usual buffet, sandwiches were served in the hall and taken into the ballroom. The program began with the Rotary Chorus serenading those gathered  with a song entitled Oh Rotary, with lyrics by Shelly DeVries and sung to the tune Oh Christmas Tree. The lyrics were part of the program slide show so everyone could sing along. Ok, it probably won’t inspire a Broadway musical, but it was fun.

Third, our unofficial Chaplain, Dallas Stallings, provided a moving invocation appropriate for the passing of the gavel.


Fourth, we had a new member induction, which isn’t unusual, but this one was Durham’s Mayor Pro-Tem, Cora Cole-McFadden (see separate post.)

Then we had a number of award ceremonies that are the subject of separate posts as well.

Finally, there was the passing of the gavel from outgoing president B C Dash to new president Seth Jernigan who then swore the new directors in and thanked those who were going off.

It’s a rule that the outgoing president must make a joke about how much he or she is glad someone else is taking over. B C was no exception but anyone who doubts his sincerity is probably not alone. This man loves Rotary. 

Program Report: Kevin Leonard – North Carolina Association of County Commissioners

Like any long journey, progress is often made in small steps with pauses, wrong turns and unexpected obstacles.  It’s all worth it though when during one of those pauses you look up from the road, realize where you are and say “Wow.”

Our guest and the primary presenter on Monday was Kevin Leonard, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. Mr. Leonard was with us at the invitation of Rotarian and County Commissioner Brenda Howerton. In the upcoming year, Ms. Howerton will assume the presidency of the organization which will mark the first time in the 100 + year history of the organization a commissioner from Durham has held that role.

Before Ms. Howerton introduced Mr. Leonard, the program was introduced by Club Vice President Shelly Green, who, of course, also leads the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.  She announced that another historical milestone, that is that the NCACC’s Annual Conference will be held here in Durham. This might not have been possible even a few years ago, at least in Downtown Durham. Durham now hosts thousands of annual conferences and this is now possible because of the many new hotels in the area. Older members will remember when Rotary meetings were held in the old Heart of Durham Motel located where the Transportation Hub is now at a time when there was no convention center and the space it occupies now was a line of abandoned retail buildings with decaying art projects in their windows.  The activity in the Convention Center has now reached the point that it has become a problem for the club, forcing us to frequently seek “off-site” locations for our meetings. Indeed, this meeting was hosted again by TROSA at their campus on James Street.

There are 100 counties in North Carolina, represented by an equal number of county managers and 583 commissioners plus sponsors and other officials who will be in town for the Conference in August. This is an important opportunity to showcase Durham’s progress to an important statewide audience.

After a warm introduction by Ms. Howerton, Mr. Leonard first recognized and thanked those in the audience who had chosen to seek elective office and serve in underpaid and underappreciated roles. A primary role of the Association is advocacy in the legislature. Two of their issues during this session have been for allocating more lottery money for school construction and against attempts to regionalize social services.

Each president adopts a theme. The current president who Ms. Howerton will succeed is Fred McClure of Davidson County who focused on the availability of mental health treatment and the opioid epidemic, that is so much in the national news these days.

The inevitable question that arose and was voiced by Rotarian Larry Crane was about managing a group of representatives from every county without falling into the fault lines we see in the legislature created by the divergent interests of rural and urban areas.  Mr. Leonard responded by pointing out that they focus on issues that are common to all counties and work closely with North Carolina League of Municipalities.

My “wow!” moment came when Mr. Leonard ticked off the list of new hotels in Downtown Durham that would be used by the attendees of the August conference.  But his presentation was also an interesting peek under the hood of the machinery of government especially when he mentioned some of the other function of the NCACC, such as the education of new commissioners, research and even risk management. You can learn more about the NCACC at their website

Our thanks again go to all the folks at TROSA for their hospitality.  TROSA itself is another one of those amazing milestones in Durham’s progress.

Program Report – Jodee Nimerichter

 Our fellow Rotarian, Jodee Nimerichter, certainly has a passion for modern dance. She has been the Director of the American Dance Festival since 2012, having worked with ADF several times during the previous 20 years.  She grew up dancing in Colorado, but did not encounter modern dance until she was a young adult and immediately fell in love with it, saying she “was overwhelmed with it”.   Dance is described as a non-verbal art form, and modern dance emerged as an approach different from ballet, with a focus on individual creativity.  Those who rebelled against ballet wanted to have the freedom to have their own voice – to tell stories, to be athletic – lyrical – sad – happy.  The ADF webpage quotes the New York Times saying ADF is “One of the nation’s most important institutions” for dance, and as “The world’s greatest dance festival” by the New York Post.

As the director, she travels around the world to personally see all dance groups that she schedules to come to Durham.  This means that Durham hosts the oldest and largest modern dance festival in the world. Founded 80 years ago, ADF moved to Durham in 1977, thus celebrating 40 years in Durham – What a treasure!

What is the impact on Durham and the world?  This 2017 season includes 71 performances with 30 dance companies at different venues in Durham and also the NC Art Museum, with 9 commissioned works.  The international impact on Durham comes from providing training for dancers and production managers from over 30 countries with 420 international participants.  With a budget of $3.8 million in 2017, ADF has a $500 million impact on the Durham area.  Their funds come from grants, donations, tuition fees, and ticket sales.  ADF has helped establish modern dance festivals in 20 countries. 

With studios on Broad Street, they now provide year round programs and classes.  Also, they have enabled 2,000 school classes to attend a dance performance.  During the festival, three special kids shows are held at DPAC at a reduced price.  Jodee shared a video which highlighted the 40 years of ADF in Durham.
Jodee encouraged us to see one of the ADF programs, and concluded that “art forms like dance may adapt to changing times, but dance will always be with us.”

For more information about the 2017 performances the website is Jodee Nimerichter was introduced by Rory Gillis.

Submitted by Brady Surles

Program Report: Ellen Andrews – Church World Services Refugee Program

Durham native Ellen Andrews is the Director of Church World Service’s (CWS) Immigration and Refugee Program, one of two organizations of its kind in Durham. During the past eight years, she and her colleagues have assisted over 2,500 individuals from more than 20 countries to resettle into new homes, new jobs, and new lifestyles in the Triangle area. Club President B.C. Dash commended Ellen on her work in the community, noting that many Rotarians’ lives have been touched as we welcome these newcomers to our country, allowing them to reclaim their dignity and build new lives marked by hope and opportunity.

CWS-Durham ( opened its doors in 2009, and works to welcome refugees and immigrants from around the world. As a faith-based global humanitarian organization, CWS is also known for managing CROP fundraising walks. Staff and volunteers base their resettlement work on an empowerment-focused declining model of support designed to enable new arrivals to embark on a path toward self-sufficiency, and ultimately, become completely in control of the direction of their new lives. CWS staff ensure refugees immediate access to food, shelter, and medical care, in addition to providing legal counseling, employment services, and links to community partnerships.

Ellen outlined the thought process that refugees go through before deciding to abandon their home country. “Most of them want, and plan, to return home someday, but unfortunately that is often not the case,” she explained. “While some families, usually those with greater financial resources, have time to plan their escape, many are forced to make a very emotional decision in a short window of time.” Families must decide what, and whom, to take: will elderly family members or small children slow them down? Will travelling be dangerous? How long will the journey take? Do we have financial resources? If so, how long will they last, and how will we access them?

[Read more…]

Program Report: Brian Hamilton – Sageworks


Brian Hamilton reflected on his own career as a successful start-up entrepreneur during Monday’s lunch presentation. Brian was introduced by Don Stanger who praised the series of entrepreneurs we have had in the last few weeks with a retailer and builder and now with Brian’s tech company all thriving in the environment that Durham provides.

As he explained it to a near full house of Rotarians, there are popular images in the media of starting a company, and succeeding in short order. Then, there is the reality that he has encountered over the last two decades as a co-founder of Sageworks.

Many successful startups have some age on them, Hamilton said. Their existence likely lies in years of learning, hard work, revising the game plan and then revising some more.

Today, Sageworks is a successful financial information company based in the Triangle. It helps financial institutions and businesses access complex data by making it easier to understand in narrative form. The company’s numbers-to-narrative proposition ultimately met great success.

But that happy outcome, Hamilton said, was not a fast-growth wonder that “bloomed” in short order.

“What I learned, it takes time to learn,” said Hamilton, a Duke business school graduate who also has appeared as a business pundit on cable news networks. “It takes a long time to learn. I am still learning. It’s the rate at which you learn that will dictate your success.”

Among the basics of business startup success, Hamilton said: “You need the right product.  That’s hard.”

In the case of Sageworks, the entrepreneurs who launched the idea of making financial information accessible and easier initially found an indifferent reaction by potential clients as they made their pitches. Multiple iterations took place, he said, including one “pivot” that focused the product more to the precise needs of banks.

Hamilton also pointed to a key ingredient of successful leadership that might not appear at the top of some textbooks.

“To lead people,” he said, “you need to love them.”

Leaders with that quality will find their employees detect it and will work with the bosses through bad times and good as the whole team works to get better and deliver products that creates even more value for customers than the products cost.

Last, “You really must love your customers. You can never have enough service and love for your customers.”

Submitted by Mark Lazenby