Program Write-Up: John Guss and the Bennett Place Historical Site

The last time we heard from John Guss was when he addressed the Club at the re-dedication of the Rotary Bandstand at Bennett Placeduring President Sam Miglarese’s term two years ago. Sam, who is now on the board of Bennett Place introduced John, a man trained in marketing but very interested in history and who built something of a career in films based on his interest in the Civil War as a reenactor.

Even though Mr. Guss joked about having to begin to grow a beard for an upcoming portrayal of William Tecumseh Sherman, the Union General who wreaked havoc throughout the south during the war, this presentation had a more somber tone than the celebration two years ago.

Bennett Place is one of three state historical sites inDurhamand is important because it was the site of the largest surrender of the war. The others are the Stagville Plantation and the Duke Homestead. Mr. Guss related that besides preparing to play Sherman, he was also preparing for a meeting the following day to discuss the fate of the three sites under the pressure of the State’s ongoing budget crisis. One of the cuts under discussion is to place the management of the sites under one manager and letting two go…at no additional salary, of course. [Read more…]

Program Write-up Joystick Labs – Video Gaming Industry

 Video Gaming has come a long way since Atari was launched in the 1970s and later when the industry began migrating from video arcades to home computers—remember the Commodore and Tandy computers.  A guy named Steve Jobs was selling Apple computers out of his parents’ garage.  I’ll bet many Santa Clauses in this club remember scrambling in the next decade to find copies of  Frogger, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders to put under Christmas trees and in stockings.

Development of video games has become big business, bigger even than the movie industry.  Gaming is something on the order of $30 billion a year.  Silicon Valley leads the pack but the Triangle area has emerged as one of the top ten areas—with 30 video game studios and companies—ranking somewhere around fifth or sixth in the country.

Joystick Labs, located in the American Tobacco facilities, plays an important role mentoring and fostering emerging video game developers who have great ideas but little business experience and no money.  Joystick’s Managing Director John Austin and co-founder Glen Caplan gave us a fascinating overview of their operation and the video game industry.  For most of us, their presentation was something of an eye-opener.  They were not preaching to the choir.  A show of hands revealed few video gamers in our midst except of course for a small number of younger, more “with it” members.  However, a later show of hands revealed that many club members reticent to admit game playing confessed to being avid fans of  “Angry Birds,” a game ap on their Iphones. [Read more…]

Program write-up – Open World Program: Visitors from Sister City Kostroma

Open World Program Kostromo GuestsThe U. S. Congress chartered the Open World Program in 1999 as a pilot program to invite leaders from the former Soviet Union to visit the United States as an introduction to our version of democracy and free enterprise.  Beginning in 2011 the program began focusing on leaders younger than 36.  Open World pairs these visitors with local organizations such as sister city programs, Rotary clubs, colleges, local government agencies and other non-profit groups.  Durham is one of sixty or so communities across the United States that have hosted about 18,000 participants over the years. [Read more…]

Melissa Mills Visits RLI x 2

I thought RLI (Rotary Leadership Institute) was just for PET (President-Elect Training), but when I heard President Arthur and others speaking about it as a resource for us all, I thought I’d try it out.  I’m glad I did!

RLI isn’t part of Rotary International, but then, neither is Rotary Foundation .  At RLI, we learn why.  In fact, not only did I learn a great deal that deepened my admiration and respect for the leaders who formed and founded Rotary, I also met a bunch of extraordinary people – both classmates and faculty.  And had fun! [Read more…]

Program Review – Morris Ridge Update

Scherich Jernigan and MedlinWhen Jack Wiggen had to miss the meeting Seth Jernigan stepped in and introduced Bryan Scherich and Drew Medlin who together run Measurement Durham, LLC the real estate arm ofDurham’s own Measurement Inc. They joined us to provide an update on Morris Ridge, an urban mixed use development just north of the Civic CenteronMorris Street. Measurement Inc. is the highly successful firm begun by Bryan’s father Hank Scherich that provides achievement tests and scoring services for state governments, other testing companies, and various organizations. MI evolved from a consultancy originally focusing on writing to become an important player in the field of education.

Both Bryan Scherich and Mr. Medlin grew up in Durham and besides their responsibilities in the company are active in the community. Mr. Scherich is on the board of the Durham Lions Club and Durham Central Park, the latter in close proximity to the Morris Ridge development. Mr. Medlin is a board member of Preservation Durham, Downtown Durham, Inc., the Furman University Alumni Association and is an active member of the Urban Land Institute. [Read more…]

Million Meals

This write up is from Matt Dees of Durham Magazine via Rotarian Sheridan Townsend, who coordinated the club’s participation in the event.  Be sure to click on the slideshow which will take you to the magazine’s site. Some great pictures including one of our own Past President Newman Aguiar with a huge smile and Rob Everett and his daughter Cate wearing funny hats and banging a gong.  Thanks Matt for all the help. Great write up and great pics too!

The gong went off, and cheers went up among the hundreds crowing around tables covered with giant tubs of rice, dehydrated vegetables and other food stuffs.

The gong sounded every time 1,000 meals had been packaged and ready to be shipped to needy people both domestically and around the world. Every time it reverberated, the group of volunteers got one step closer to the goal of packaging 80,000 meals by day’s end, contributing to the Million Meals Project, backed by Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization.

The event, organized by representatives of Duke, NCCU and the Rotary Club of  Durham, has become an MLK Day tradition. Last year, more than 64,500 meals were packaged.

Jesse Huddleston of the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership said they started the day anticipating 500 volunteers but said by mid-morning they were expecting closer to 1,000 to show up by day’s end. The Freeman Center for Jewish Life at Duke was absolutely jammed with people, some of whom were left waiting for a work station to open up.

Rebekah Johnston, representing the Benjamin N. Duke Scholarship Program, said it was heartening to think about the good the meals would do. She said many of the meals will go to schools in developing countries, where sometimes the food provided at school is the only meal some students will eat. “This is supporting worldwide education, in a way, by helping them to concentrate, focus and just stay healthy,” Rebekah said.

Check out our slideshow to see more, and congratulations to everyone who participated in this worthy effort!