Rotary Minutes: Steve Fishler

As I view my next age milestone, the start of my eighth decade, right over the horizon, I’m starting to appreciate people like Steve Fishler more. Steve describes his professed calling as working with old people like his grandparents. Steve described his current position as the big boss at the Forest at Duke as the pinnacle of such a career.

I can see that. I have a dear friend, who is wrapping up her tenth decade, who has been at the Forest at Duke for several years. At first she didn’t want to leave her home and give up her independence. I used to tease her that I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to live in what I perceived to be the best college dorm ever. I mean think about it, all those amenities, plus something I never had in college, many more women than men. Most of us were probably aware of The Forest and that Steve’s role as “Chancellor.”

But like so many of these Rotary Minutes, Steve also surprised and entertained the gathered Rotarians. First of all, he’s a Braves fan from the Bronx, where rabid Yankees are born and bred. He explained this as the result of his wife being a 7th generation North Carolinian raised mostly in Atlanta.

Steve’s journey through life has taken him from New York City to Long Island to Rochester, to Tucson, to Ocean Beach, to Encinitas, to Chicago to Hollywood (Florida) and finally to Chapel Hill, where he has the Triangle triangulated, since he works in Durham and his wife works in Raleigh at NCSU.

Steve has degrees in Health Services Administration and Long Term Care Administration but his wife has three degrees including a PhD in International Relations. He claims that deciding who to root for in the local athletic wars is not difficult; they root for all three Universities. “It’s fun, it’s easy…most of the time.” This must be a side benefit of an International Relations degree.

Another surprise was his passion for concerts which started with his first, the Concert for Bangladesh in Madison Square Garden in 1971. He then ticked off a long list of familiar names in rock and roll as well as jazz. This made me feel better than last week when the list of her favorite movies that Deirdre sent me did not contain one that I had seen and several I’d never heard of. I’ll publish the list as a follow up once I check that they were really movies and she wasn’t just teasing.

Steve joked about his two children too. His son is at San Diego College skateboarding or skateboarding college…he wasn’t sure which. His sixteen year old daughter also plans to head to college in California and I swear Steve said one of the schools she was considering was UC Santa Clause.

Steve’s final surprise was reaching down under the lectern and pulling out several balls that he juggled, which was even more surprising than Vince Simonetti showing up to relieve me at the Salvation Army bucket with a tuba. This made Steve a perfect counterpoint to Marge Nordstrom’s  juggling…and dropping….the raffle tickets in her role of sergeant-at-arms. Thank God sergeants-at-arms don’t really carry arms.

One critique of Steve’s presentation; at the beginning he announced his age as 56 which just so happens to be the year he was born, 1956. He described it as a once in a lifetime occurrence. He should have saved that for last. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who sat there trying to figure out how many birth years there where, where that was possible. I haven’t figured it out and I may have to pose the question to my math teacher daughter who writes up those kind of tricky questions to demonstrate how smart she is and how dumb I am.

Submitted by Jay Zenner


North Durham Rotary Does Coffee Sale Again

Greetings! My North Durham Rotary Club is again selling Fair Trade Certified and organic Green Mountain Coffees to raise money for helping “to provide clean water to coffee producing countries. Countries where 30,000 people per day die due to water-related illnesses.” It’s called 5(4)H2O {Five for water = web:}. So far 6 countries have benefited from these efforts to provide clean water: Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Bolivia, Haiti & Honduras.

These are the 4 coffees available:

1. Organic House Blend – A hearty blend of medium and dark roasts. Deep, rich, and full-bodied.
2-. Organic Sumatran Reserve – Exotically lush, sweet, and heavy-bodied, born in the mountains of Indonesia.
3. Rain Forest Nut – A subtly sweet, delightful coffee with tastes of vanilla, caramel, cashew, and Brazil nuts.
4. Organic House Blend Decaf – This decaf blend of light and dark roasts has a full, mellow flavor and a smooth finish.

Can’t you smell the coffee brewing now! Ummmmm So Gooooooood To The Last Drop! No, Virginia, it’s not your mother’s/grandmother’s Maxwell House Coffee.

I am taking orders and filling them as fast as I get an order. We just received 2 cases of mixed flavors, or 48 bags to begin with. Can I count on you to get some from me? I will try to make whatever possible/acceptable accommodations I can to help get them to you ASAP.

They make great Christmas/Holiday gifts, especially to business offices, etc.; don’t you personally want a cup of this coffee brewed, especially after Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the 27th of November, which is now called Giving Tuesday. Will North Durham Rotary Club be a beneficiary along with The Rotary Foundation’s Donor Advised Fund and Rotary International who’ll help w/these countries for Water Projects?(What you may not know is that “Giving Tuesday” is launching as a national day dedicated to giving. This year, Giving Tuesday will be on 27 November, dedicated to creating a day for everyone to celebrate and encourage charitable contributions that support communities in need. The Rotary Foundation hopes to be one of the many charities helping to improve the lives of those in need by accepting contributions on “Giving Tuesday.”)

And the cost is a meager $10.00/bag. So how many can I count on you for? Ask your friends. Cash or checks payable to: The North Durham Rotary Club.

My contact information is as follows: email or cell best way to reach me.

Jim Leak: Email:

Home: 919-490-6151 Cell: 919-630-1548

Your help and purchase will be greatly appreciated.

Yours in Rotary Service,

Jim Leak – North Durham Rotary Club

Paul Harris Fellowship – Matching Contributions

The Durham Rotary Club Foundation Committee Announces Double Matching Points for December Contributions

To encourage and assist Members to become Paul Harris Fellows, the Foundation Committee announces a one-time special for double-matching points through the December 17, 2012 meeting. All Members are eligible for the double match.  Members who used the dues check-off earlier of $50.00 are encouraged to make an early $50.00 contribution, which will equal 150 points toward a Paul Harris. Similarly, a check for $334.00 will result in a PHF – a tremendous benefit to Rotary International service, and to our Club.

Please contact Chairman, Dallas Stallings for details. Dallas’ phone is 919.419.0503 and his email is


Ringing the Bells

Ringing the bells for the Salvation Army is always a great way to get into the Christmas spirit but here are a couple of Rotarians that took it to another level.  That’s Vince Simonetti on the tuba and Meg Solera vocalizing during their shift on Wednesday. Maybe next year we can add a tambourine and a few of our great voices like George Deaton and Shelly Green and have a concert!

Rotary Minutes: Deirdre Haj

OK Deirdre, you were discovered in high school by Ed Sherin, went through SUNY Purchase with Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames, Ron Eldard, Parker Posey, and Edie Falco, had roles in Dallas and Star Trek and worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, but what everybody really wants to know is how many degrees of separation are there between you and Kevin Bacon.

Lest anybody who wasn’t there think that Deirdre was just dropping names from her acting career in New York and Hollywood, her Rotary Minute actually revealed something much deeper. Besides her encounter with Mother Teresa as a teenage goodwill ambassador traveling with a chamber choir to Egypt and India, she shared her admiration for Dallas star Larry Hagman after hooking him up with a kid waiting for a liver transplant like Hagman had himself. She also described wanting to become a nun after a long recovery from a childhood accident in a Catholic hospital, something her Jewish parents didn’t seem to appreciate. It also gave her an appreciation for the great health insurance provided by her father’s employer, IBM.  Then, during the first Gulf war, she spent time as a political aide in Israel and struggled with reconciling her faith with that country’s policies.

It was in Hollywood though that she met her husband Joe at the Classical Theatre Lab doing Shakespeare. She shared that Joe, who is the Producing Artistic Director of the Playmakers Repertory Company over at UNC, is a first generation American and Catholic Palestinian. She described her daughter Samantha as a gorgeous, smart 12 year old who looks like she is 15 and whose mixed heritage which could uniquely qualify her to bring peace to the Middle East if it doesn’t blow up before she reaches voting age.

Of course, we know Deirdre as the dynamic Executive Director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. She got into documentaries producing one on smoking in Hollywood films. Under her guidance Full Frame has not only become an important international film festival but is important to Durham’s economy and cultural scene as well as to the kids that participate in its annual camp for budding documentarians.

Deirdre did not encourage me to put her notes on the website but did volunteer to provide a list of her ten favorite movies. Can’t wait. In the meantime here’s a link to the Frank Stasio interview that she mentioned that would help explain how her meeting with Mother Teresa would affect her career. The link also has a pretty cool picture of her in her Star Trek role.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Program Report: Bringing Latinos to the Table – Dr. Luke Smith

Let’s set up more seats at the table.  There’s plenty of room.  And a lot of human upside.

Dr. Luke Smith set aside his psychiatrist’s notebook Monday and made a persuasive public call for more inclusion across the community for a Latino population that is growing locally at the statistical equivalent of fast forward.

Dr. Smith acts as executive director and medical director of El Futuro, Inc., a Durham-based non-profit helping Spanish-speaking people and their families by providing behavioral health treatment for a population traditionally underserved in this important area of development.  He spoke to a near full house during our first luncheon since Thanksgiving.

“They really bring strength to the table,”  Dr. Smith said, noting low rates of organized community participation that can and should be be improved.  “It’s important for our prosperity that we welcome them to the table.  There is room at the table.  There is an open seat at the table. And when we bring them, we are not just going to be placating them.”

Among the numbers presented by Smith alongside photos of the people behind the numbers:

  • Latinos make up nearly 9 percent of the state’s population, a continuing growth trend that began more than two decades ago with job opportunities in the textile and poultry industries in a state the issued drivers licenses until 9/11.
  • Latinos are “underserved;” they comprise just under 4 percent of people served by the state mental health system, due to a wide range of factors including cost, fear of identification, fear of driving, insufficient “health literacy” and fear of perceived discrimination by providers.
  • Latinos are expected to make up 25,000 of 45,000 expected growth in individual residents in Durham County between 2010 and 2020.

Dr. Smith said El Futuro continues to yield clinical and functional successes among the people whom it has aided since a group of volunteer health professionals opened the doors in 2004.  Most are poor women and children, many who have experienced direct or indirect trauma.  Eighty percent of patients over a recent 3-month period demonstrated clinical improvements and nearly as many had functional improvements.  Ninety-nine percent reported feeling helped and respected.  They’d recommend it to a friend.

Dr. Smith himself trained in child and adult psychiatry at UNC when he moved to the RTP region in 2000 from Arkansas.  He described his engagement with the Latino community here as a “full immersion experience” that left him fluent in Spanish and fond of the cuisine.

In short, El Futuro works.  It’s moving the needle.  It’s helping to broaden the civic table a seat at a time.  And for El Futuro’s efforts, our club and our community are grateful.


Submitted By Mark Lazenby