Rotary Minute: Bob Yowell

BobYowellIf you want to really appreciate how big a number a thousand is, stuff and lick a thousand envelopes. Dr. Robert K. Yowell, gave us a lot of numbers in his Rotary Minute, but there was one that I kept thinking about. He’s delivered over 5,000 babies. For someone who has never witnessed the birth of even a kitten, that was impressive.

But even a number that large doesn’t totally capture the breadth of the accomplishment. I may not have ever witnessed a birth but I’ve been exposed enough to what precedes them and what follows to have an appreciation for the task. Take any 5,000 births and you’ll get a percentage that require an heroic effort on everyone’s part; some end up tragically, some are early, some are late, some have experienced parents, some parents are children themselves. My bet is that Bob had the mechanics of delivery down before the first hundred births, but I can’t imagine how much that broader experience of dealing with all those raging hormones over the years benefited each successive generation of mothers that came to him.

Bob shared some other numbers too that prove that point. But not all his accomplishments are purely medical. He met a beautiful nurse named Barbara in medical school at Duke that he is still married to. He served in the Navy on a ship that was part of the blockade of Cuba (how old is this guy?)  He ran in both the Marine Corps and Boston Marathons, played 18 holes of golf with Perry Como (old). Bob fathered 4 children, one who tragically died at three and a half years old. The other three are successful in their own rights.

Although he did his under-graduate work at UNC Bob’s blood is now true Duke Blue and his name is on walls all over the Duke Campus and Medical Center. Among them, the Yowell family holds seven Duke Degrees.

One number that he didn’t mention was what he has contributed to the Rotary Foundation. I don’t know what it is but I know that it’s beyond the level that you merely get a pin.

So, with all these accomplishments, what does Bob bring for “Show and Tell?”  A Captain Marvel comic book published during World War II. Our Captain Marvel fan created an award winning slogan for a Captain Marvel bond sales campaign, beating out 25,000 other contestants, all of whom, we presume, are also still trailing him in number of deliveries. Marvel

Program Report: Paula Alexander – Director of Sustainable Business at Burt’s Bee’s

burts bees webIt’s a big buzzword in corporate America.  But at Burt’s, they’re busy as bees making sure that “corporate sustainability” means much more than words smooth as honey.

Launched in a Maine schoolhouse, lured by incentives to Durham in the 1990’s and powered by a great idea, Burt’s Bees has turned itself into a retail powerhouse by keeping the focus not only on great natural products and the bottom line, but on the environment and the community.

Paula Alexander, director of sustainable business, took center stage at the Monday lunch to tell Rotarians how Burt’s Bees is embedding the principles of “people, planet and profit” into the fabric of a corporate culture that sounds unique.  And they’re apparently having a lot of fun doing it.

Internally, it’s know as “bee-havior.”  Its aim, Alexander said, is to carry out what Burt’s calls “The Greater Good Business Model.”

Employees “swarm” on projects.  They’re “pollinating” the company’s message through activities that include traditional volunteerism, charitable giving, home energy efficiency, and personal wellness programs for employees.

But then the list gets more interesting:  Urban gardening.  Supporting Planet Earth celebrations.  Sustainable agriculture at the local, national and international levels.  There is even a program to promote the honeybee industry.  That’s because honey bees pollinate one third of our nutritious fruits and vegetables, including favorites like peaches, strawberries, and pumpkins. “We believe,” Alexander said, “that nature needs a champion.”

Like any savvy business in touch with the increased expectations of an informed public, Burt’s works with partners including, among others, Green Plus, NCSU, Earthreal, Resourcesful Communities and the Pollinator Partnership.

It views its people as intellectual resources.  Employees brainstorm and strategize through individual “culture teams” dedicated to specific subject, including educating its own workforce.  “Our employees are some of our best brand ambassadors,” she said.

Burt’s Bees is also an active corporate giver – not surprising in a developed world that now expects any  successful corporation to support host communities that partially contribute to their success.  Alexander said the company will likely disburse more than $300,000 in grants this year.  Over time, Burt’s expects to make its giving more strategic, as it continues to develop a set of giving principles aligned with sustainable agriculture.

This week’s correspondent has long toiled in the area of sustainability with large corporations – on the in-house team and as paid consultant.  Burt’s Bees means business.

As they might say at Burt’s, a lot of local Rotarians are now “bee-lievers,” and we are grateful to Rob Everett for making the introduction.

(Submitted by Mark Lazenby)

Editors Note: Ms. Alexander brought to two videos to share with the Club. The second one was produced by WNCN and Melanie Sanders. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and could not show the second video. So here it is. See Paula in a hairnet!

Rotary Minute: Patrice Nelson

Patrice Nelson webI was more fortunate that many to hear Patrice Nelson’s story before Monday’s meeting in another classic Durham Rotary way when I spent an hour with her ringing the bells for the Salvation Army last December in front of the new WalMart. We had the first shift of the day which was slow enough that we had a really nice conversation. Two things struck me about her in that hour. One was that Patrice, who we all know is the Executive Director of Urban Ministries of Durham, was even there. One of her responsibilities for Urban Ministries is raising money and, in fact, she had an UM fundraiser later that day. But here she was raising money for a competitor, the Salvation Army. However that’s my corporate think, and not the way those truly committed to helping others think about their comrades in helping the less fortunate.  My second impression was of her warmth and a determination sweetened with a touch of vulnerability.

In recounting her journey growing up in a middle class black family in D.C. she used the metaphor of a rope bridge strung over a chasm where winds or others making the crossing can make it a white knuckle experience. Those of us old enough to remember, know these were difficult but important times in the slow march to a more inclusive society. One of her first steps in that journey was the National Cathedral School for Girls where she discovered her calling “to make cities better.” That journey took her to MIT (“the math was so advanced it didn’t have numbers”) where she studied urban and community development, to Kansas City for many years and then to Philadelphia where she entered the seminary and was eventually ordained a minister with a mission at the prestigious Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church to reach out to smaller congregations in community development.

When a fire in her townhome destroyed much of what she had, it was natural for her to come here and live with her daughter. Philadelphia’s loss was our gain.

Writing In the Durham Public Schools

MichelTharpWebEditor’s Note: Below is Michel Tharp’s brief presentation to the Club about writing programs in the Durham Public Schools in response to some concern after David Robbins program that Durham’s situation might be similar to what David discovered in Richmond several years ago and led to the founding of Podium in Richmond.

Three weeks ago, we had an inspiring presentation by David Robbins from Richmond. Virginia.  He described a very impressive writing program he has organized through The Podium Foundation. This foundation has done a remarkable job of promoting writing in the public schools.  His foundation serves as wonderful model for private groups to create useful and effective organizations that can make helpful and significant contributions to help improve public schools.

Several times in his presentation, Mr. Robbins mentioned that Durham Public Schools might have many of the same problems that Richmond schools have. While there are many similarities (poverty, low performing populations, high drop out rates among minority males, etc), the one area he focused on is his talk was the fact that Richmond schools did not offer any writing classes and that no school had a newspaper or literary journals.  I was immediately horrified that many people in this room listening to his talk might think that this was also true for Durham Public Schools.   As a 14 year teacher in Durham Public Schools, I know that this is NOT true and I feel that it is absolutely necessary for me to make sure that every one here knows this is not the case.

For the past 10-12 year, all DPS schools have worked with  philosophy called “Writing Across the Curriculum” – this program emphasizes writing in every course – English, history, science, math, arts, health, etc –across the entire curriculum. There are training sessions, in-service workshops and continual support for teachers to incorporate writing in their classrooms.  I’ll admit that even though, I personally felt very comfortable and confident teaching writing, as a mathematics teacher, I did have some trouble justify the time that students spent writing how they would solve an equation instead of just going ahead and solving it. But that’s not the point – the point is that district policy places a high emphasis on student writing

Knowing the things that were happening at my school, I decided to check out the other traditional high schools.  Every one of our schools has a school newspaper as well as a student created yearbook.  Many of the newspapers have ongoing connections with “The independent” and “The Voice.  In addition to the writing that is an integral part of ALL English classes, the district curriculum offers courses in Journalism (Riverside offers 5 different levels of Journalism) as well as courses in Creative writing and Critical writing and even “writing through literature”.  At least three of the high schools have had professional writer come in to work with their students this year.  Hillside’s “Book Club” invites members to bring in and read their own poetry.  Other schools have Creative Writing Clubs and Slam “spoken” poetry club.

For the past 5 or 6 years, DSA has produced a Literary Journal entitled “Portraits in Ink” which last year won a “Superior” rating from the National Council for Teacher of English.  That journal looks just like the ones we saw from Richmond with short stories, poems, essays, commentaries, drawing and other art work.

In Durham, developing writing skill starts long before high school.  As a Reading Ranger, I am lucking that I get to spend an entire morning each week with Ms. Jones’s first grade class. Every week, we work on a writing project. It might be a narrative – “My first day at school”, a critique “My favorite part of the book was..”, opinion “I think we should have more or less recess” or personal feelings” My treasure chest would have …”.  In all this writing, these first graders are encourage to expand and develop their ideas and include more and more details – at least 5 or 6 sentences with 6 words or more. As a reward they get to draw picture about their writing and read them to the other students.  The halls of Y E Smith are full of hundreds of other writings samples from this and other classes.

Yes, DPS is faced with many challenging problems and the school system could definitely use the kind of help and support that a Podium Foundation type organization could provide in many different arenas including reading, writing, science, math and other aspects of student growth and development.  But we all need to know that writing and literacy is not dead and forgotten in Durham Public schools but that it is an important dynamic and integral part of the entire Durham Public school system.

Submitted by Michel Tharp

Program Report: The Last Moderate Muslim – Sam Wazan

SamWazanWebFull disclosure: most Rotarians in our club know that I am an American Jew married to a Catholic Palestinian.  My mother-in-law’s father was killed when she was eight by a bomb blast in an Israeli market. No person I know from the Middle East (and of course I know more than most) didn’t carry a story to the US with them of violence,  sorrow, displacement, and a deep-seated desire for peace.

So it is less than ironic that it was my turn to write the minutes for our speaker for the day, Sam Wazan, author of “The Last Moderate Muslim”. It is a shame our announcements gave Mr. Wazan such a short time to speak, because how can one summarize neatly the path for peace in the Middle East, or for that matter anywhere?

I hesitate to even try to condense his story for you here, because these are stories I know personally: I only remind you that in reading the words “slaughter”, “massacre” or “rape” that they are more than letters on your screen; they are the deepest tragedies human beings can bear. And so Mr. Wazan implored that perhaps all he could do was allow us to see the conflicts through the eyes of those who have lived it, and beg an end to our apathy.

Sam sought out to do four things in his short talk: give us a new lens to see the violence through, share the root causes of conflict, how he believes you can achieve peace where there is a culture of religious violence, and to implore us to do things differently because the United States “inadvertently fuels the fire.”  Here he made reference to changes we can make such as boycotting non-profit organizations which are intent on making their enemy, ours. “The camp that I subscribe to is upholding humanity above all differences in pursuit of peace.”

Raised in a Muslim school, Sam recalls his first identifications for himself: that he was a Sunni Muslim, and that Jews and Americans should die. By the age of ten and a half Sam’s life was torn apart by the Lebanese Civil War, so he was exposed to horrible conditions: snipers, religious massacres and constant bombing. For fifteen years there was no power, water or phones. He witnessed Christians murdered, first systematically tortured to cause as much suffering as possible, and this continued back and forth between the two faiths. By 1982 the country was invaded by the Israelis, and now even trying to buy gasoline he had to maneuver past Christians, Israelis and the PLO, his heroes, who shot at his car, stole his gasoline, and stole his faith in them as well.

He remembers the Israeli army allowing the Christian militants to surround the Palestinian camps (here I believe he is referring to the Sabra and Shatila massacres, which Jean Genet wrote about, but I am certain there were more than just these that he means), and the Muslim militants retaliating against the Christians, the leaflets from the Israelis stating that any males 16-60 years of age would be considered enemies of the State of Israel and their “future was undetermined”. So in the end, he believes Peace can only come if it starts free from ancient grudges, because the damage to the people of the region, especially on their psyches and those of their children is so great, that the starting point must be one of respect. Where each side listens to the other with the intention of finding value in what the other has said.

And so Sam Wazan travels and speaks to Jews, Muslims and Christians, imploring that we forget who is right or wrong, and mostly that we are not cavalier about where our money, support or votes go, and to make certain that these things match what is actually happening on the ground in the Middle East, not just rhetoric for the status quo.

I believe all of us who listened to Mr. Wazan’s story wished we could have heard more. Much of what he said was unbearable to hear, but should be heard for the very reasons he states: our lives, our economy, all that globalization depends on peace in these regions. Or we will all suffer the consequences.

Submitted by Deirdre Haj

Editor’s note: Sam Wazan’s novel, The Last Moderate Muslim can be purchased on Amazon. There is a link on this page to his “author page” as well with some biographical info.  The book is available in paperback as well as for the Amazon Kindle. On the Barnes and Noble site, the book is available at this link as a NookBook

Rotary Minutes: Bob Gutman

BobGutmanRotaryMinuteWI have no doubt that Bob was a passionate physician. But anyone that expected to hear about how he left Duke and founded Durham Nephrology Associates or served on the Board of the Renal Physicians Association, or as President of the Medical Staff and Chief Medical Officer of Durham Regional Hospital, had to be disappointed in his presentation. Forget about the time he served in Vietnam as a Navy Medical Officer.

But anybody could learn that, which I did by googling Bob’s name. What has been so fascinating about these Rotary Minutes is learning things about our members that you seldom learn with a google search; their deep interests, their passions and how they really want to be remembered themselves.

Bob made no bones about it. He is not only passionate about Durham and the Judea Reform Community here, but also about Israel which he had recently returned from. Bob noted that he and his family were supporters of the fabulous Levin Jewish Community Center that we were listening to him in. But most of his time was spent describing Jerusalem and other vibrant and diverse areas of Israel.

Travelogues without pictures can be pretty boring but this was a case where the enthusiasm of the narrator can paint an even more vivid picture than the camera. For me, it certainly shed some light on a fuzzy impression I’ve had of a prosperous but barricaded country in one of the most tortured corners of the world.

As President Don remarked afterwards, anyone visiting Israel would do well to take Bob along as a tour guide.

Submitted by Jay Zenner