Program Reports

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

Program Report: Veterans Day – Jordan Adair

One of the great Durham Rotary Club traditions has been to recognize the veterans in the Club along with a special program on Veterans Day. For many years these programs were organized by Walt Shackelford, who also played the anthems from the 4 major services and asked those from each branch to stand during the anthem of their branch.

Often the program was delivered by a soldier in uniform and they were often quite moving and inspiring. This year the program was a little different. The only uniformed serviceman at the meeting was a guest, Brian Knowles, who is stepson of Sam Miglarese and a Marine who has been deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Also departing from our usual tradition, the program was delivered by Jordan Adair, the head of the English department at Durham Academy, who is of the age that fell between the Vietnam War and our Iraqi adventures and is not a veteran himself.

Mr. Adair, however, is serving in his own way by helping preserve the stories of many veterans through the teaching of a senior elective at Durham Academy entitled Literary and Artistic Responses to War. This class introduces his students to the stories of veterans by both bringing them to class and through projects to record the oral histories.

Of the several stories that Mr. Adair told, the most notable was of bringing General Norman C. Gaddis to the class. General Gaddis is an Air Force Veteran who was shot down after 72 combat missions and captured and held prisoner for five and a half years by the North Vietnamese. [Read more…]

Program Report: Robyn Fehrman – TeachforAmerica

Robyn Fehrman, Executive Director of  TeachForAmerica of Eastern North Carolina, told the club of the exciting and innovative ways the corps’ teachers and alumni are serving as agents of change.  A native of western North Carolina, Robyn graduated from UNC-CH.  Prior to her current position she was community program officer at the Triangle Community Foundation.  She joined TFA in the summer of 2011. Robert Orr, who introduced Robyn, wryly noted that she is his boss.

I took away from her talk that the core value of TeachForAmerica is “No child should suffer educational inequity.” That, she decried as a “massive injustice.”  Robyn painted a grim picture of education in her chapter’s service area although there are a handful of bright spots.  Having grown up in that part of the state, I can testify that the rural counties to the east of Durham especially after you cross I-95 are blighted.  Studies show that only 50 percent of low income students—of which there are over 48,000 in northeastern North Carolina—graduate from high school although 60 percent of available jobs require education or skills beyond high school.

TeachForAmerica recruits talented, committed people who agree to teach for two years in a disadvantaged school.  Currently, there are 158 corps members in eastern NC, of whom 28 are working in Durham which has been a partner for the last two years.  Additionally, there are more than 400 TFA alumni living in this district, some of whom are serving as principals or in other educational leadership capacities.  According to her handout, many TFA corps members are recruited from Duke and UNC-CH; they come from a pool of bright students (3.6 gpa) of whom 100 percent have college leadership experience. [Read more…]

Program Report: Dr. Frank Neelon

A Candle for the Path: How Poems can illuminate the Doctor’s Job

Inspired by Dr. Frank Neelon’s spellbinding presentation on poetry’s ability to aid in, of all things, weight loss, I thought I’d give it a shot. Here goes…

Bacon is red

Pinot is too

I should lose weight

On the other hand, bacon

I think I’m doing it wrong. But seriously, folks, I shouldn’t be flip about my own health or that of our fattening society. It’s a real problem, of course, and an imminently preventable one. Something Dr. Neelon said at the outset of his talk rang true: Medicine has taught us nearly all it’s going to about preventing obesity and its attendant health crises. Eat right. Eat less. Exercise more. Everyone knows that, but many – including yours truly – find it difficult to actually follow through with those simple steps. Which is where poetry comes in. Dr. Neelon has used select poems to motivate, encourage and comfort his patients at the Durham-based Rice Diet Program, where he’s worked for 15 years.

He mesmerized us with from-memory recitations of four poems that, while varied in theme and tone, contained a common message: be patient, steadfast and, yes, joyful. Dr. Neelon noted that the word “diet” is from the Greek for “way of life.” Thought of in those terms, it’d be odd, Dr. Neelon observed, “to say, ‘I’m going on a four-week way of life.’”

I particularly liked “Ithaca” by Constantine Cavafy and “Postscript” by Seamus Heaney.

From “Ithaca”:

When you set out for Ithaca

ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction …

Have Ithaca always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years…

From “Postscript”:

You are neither here nor there,

A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

It really was powerful stuff, and I believe many of us left inspired to live better, to smell the roses and skip the bacon.

– submitted by Matt Dees

Program Reports: Dr. Paul Feldman – GlaxoSmithKline & Drug Discovery

Dr. Paul Feldman has lectured and published extensively across the global pharmaceutical industry.  As a senior vice president at GlaxoSmithKline’s RTP campus and site head, a spotlight comes with the turf.  But he conceded to being “especially nervous” after President Don introduced him as featured speaker at this week’s luncheon.  The Durham Rotary event, Feldman said, was the first time that his mother had seen him speak in public.  She was one of several guests presented by members at a nearly packed house.

At the end of Feldman’s presentation, both mom and club had a keen understanding of the enormous risks, challenges and opportunities facing GSK and the entire industry, and an equally keen understanding of the ways the industry improves life for people across the globe.

Locally, with more than 4,000 people employed, many of the company’s people are working in projects and partnerships aimed at improving education and health, as well as bolstering arts and culture and community affairs.  “We do write checks,” he said. “But we put our people into action, too.” [Read more…]

Program Report: David Reese – The East Durham Children’s Initiative

This was not your average Rotarian lunch! We wiped the chili from our mouths, enjoying the hospitality of the Holton Center and Joe’s diner, and turned our focus to Dr. Phail Wynn. He had the pleasure of reminding us that when the East Durham Children’s Initiative was conceived and modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, the task to find a leader with diverse qualifications was set: someone with 20 years minimum of not-for-profit work, experience in eradicating poverty, someone who had worked with disaffected youth and had ties to the Bronx.

David Reese had all of these. [Read more…]

Program Report: Creating Online Communities – Anton Zuiker

I’ll confess that I am out of it when it comes to “social media.”  I don’t blog, text or tweet.  Anton Zuiker’s program on “Creating Online Communities” inspired me to do something about these deficiencies.  Rob Everett who introduced Anton has a knack for ferreting out topnotch, stimulating programs.

Anton talked about blogging and social media in general and how they create communities with common interests or goals.  As a specific example he spoke about locally-spawned ScienceOnline that is both a conference and ongoing conversations online and at local gatherings in informal settings about science on the web.  From small beginnings ScienceOnline has emerged as global community of persons committed to communicating about science more effectively, accurately and responsibly.  The ScienceOnline conference or “unconference” as Anton describes it—the seventh such—will take place in Raleigh from January 30-February 2, 2013.  Unlike a conference in which “experts” typically read papers or lecture on topics, an “unconference” basically consists of moderated thematic sessions in which members of the audience are the program, sharing their knowledge, narrating their own experiences, or tossing questions to the audience for its input.  A glance at the conference program reveals several themes that run through the 2013 sessions: using storytelling to explain science; making science appealing and important to kids and adults; and considering the role of science and scientists in the public sphere.  For details of the ScienceOnline 2013 unconference, see scienceonline.com. [Read more…]