Program Report: Christmas Program

Christmas-WreathsI’ve written up these Christmas programs several times and it’s always a struggle because I want to watch and listen instead of take notes. So, I try to say something about the spirit of the season, etc. The problem with that is that the next time we’re together Christmas will be a couple of weeks in the rear view mirror and most of us will have had enough of it. One year I did the write up as a take off of The Night Before Christmas…rhyming and everything…and never got a mention from anyone that they had even read it.  You know it’s really bad when people are even embarrassed to damn it with faint praise… you know…with some comment like “cute.”

But this year I can post it on the website and know that everybody that is subscribed will get it on Saturday while we’re still anticipating Christmas. Since there are no space restrictions, I can add a few pictures too. marimbaweb

As usual, the Durham Public Schools provided the entertainment. Steed Rollins introduced Dr. Teresa Daye from the DPS, who is the Executive Director for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment and the Supervisor for the Arts. She introduced Mary Casey, who has brought us these programs for several years. She is the Director for Arts Education for DPS. She introduced Eric Hampton from Mangum Elementary and their Umoja Marimba Group. That was a hoot. There were severnteen kids with an equal number of marimbas. I admit, I had no idea what a marimba was. The picture is one I found on Google. There were a couple hundred images there and no two marimbas appear to be alike, but I want one. The kids were having great fun and made me want to grab my Santa hat and head off to the Caribbean for Christmas.

MarimbaThen Mary introduced Jane Brewer from Githens Middle School and their 7th and 8th grade chorus. Something that always makes me a little jealous when I see one of these youth choruses is my experience trying out for the chorus at St. Bridget Elementary School back in Richmond. Madame St. Jude, of the Religious Order of the Sacred Heart of Mary, came and bent over to listen to me and then stood up and said, “Jay dear, you’re a listener” and put her index finger up to her lips. She probably didn’t hear too well though, because back then nuns still wore “habits.” The Sacred Heart of Mary nuns’ headdress covered their ears like earmuffs and peaked at the top. It was kind of like looking at a big face painted in the bottom of a rowboat. In my eight years there I could never prove that any of those nuns had a single lock of hair, or an ear, for that matter.
The other impression I had is that the group from Githens was a good representation of the international community Durham is becoming. As if anticipating my thoughts Jane mentioned that the chorus represented 5 different native languages. They then sang a piece in Yiddish and another in Greek. Wow.githenschorus

Our friend, fellow Rotarian, and Ethics Teacher, Melissa Mills, tells me that live music is healing. It certainly can bring out emotions and at least once during every one of these Christmas programs I’ve felt myself tearing up at least a little. And this is certainly, even more than most Christmases, a time for healing. For whatever history it had before, the little town of Newtown, Conn will now always be associated with one of the great tragedies of the new century. We, and the country, will need a lot of music and Christmas carols from the beautiful faces of these and other children to get over that.


Newtown, by the way, has a Rotary Club. Someone contacted us through our website to confirm their address because they wanted to send a contribution. I found their website and indeed, they are accepting contributions. For anybody interested in doing so, you can go to

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Paul Harris Fellow: Aubrey Zinaich-Howell

AubreyHowellwebFoundation Chair Dallas Stallings presented Aubrey Zinaich-Howell her pin and certificate commemorating her contribution and induction as a Paul Harris Fellow. Aubrey is also one of the newest members of the club and quickly recognized the good work done by the Rotary Foundation.

More information about becoming a Paul Harris Fellow can be found on the Rotary International website.

Connie McLeod

Dear Fellow Rotarians:

It is with regret that I write to inform you of the death of Mrs. Connie McLeod, wife of one of our Club Members, Mr. Randall McLeod. Mrs. McLeod passed away on Monday, December 17, 2012. Mrs. McLeod’s Obituary is noted below.

Please keep Mr. McLeod and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Yours In Rotary Service,

C. Donald Stanger, President

Durham Rotary Club

Cornelia “Connie” Grissom McLeod

Cornelia “Connie” Grissom McLeod, 88, died Monday in Duke Hospital following a brief illness. A native of Vance County, she was born June 6, 1924 to Charlie and Effie (Glenn) Grissom. Connie graduated from Peace College, after which she began working in the offices of Golden Belt Manufacturing Company. She married Randall A. McLeod, her husband of 62 years, whom she met on a blind date. For many years, she worked alongside her husband in their Durham business, Piedmont Printers.

Connie was a longtime member of First Presbyterian Church, where she was a faithful Tuesday afternoon office volunteer. She was active in Presbyterian Women’s organization, serving as the treasurer for many years. Connie was awarded an honorary life membership in Presbyterian Women in 1996. She was known for her quilting and handicrafts, and initiated the Presbyterian Women’s Chrismon making project, which continues to decorate the church Christmas tree annually. Together she and Randall enjoyed dining out and travel over the years. Connie took a keen interest in others, savoring the stories of people’s lives.

Surviving are her husband, Randall A. McLeod; sisters, Beth G. Bussey of Greensboro, Edith G. Shelden of Raleigh and Rachel Grissom of Durham; 10 nieces and nephews; and many great nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Friday in First Presbyterian Church, with the Reverend Joseph Harvard III and Reverend Marilyn Hedgpeth officiating. A reception will follow.

Gifts in Connie’s memory may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 305 East Main Street, Durham, North Carolina 27701. Arrangements are with Hall-Wynne Funeral Service & Crematory.

Program Report: Adam Klein and the American Underground

“More geeks and more beer.”

That was Malcolm White’s succinct summation of what creates a vibrant entrepreneurial eco-system.

Adam Klein, chief strategist for the start-up incubator American Underground, will let others handle the latter. But he’s played a major role in attracting the former.

During his years at the Chamber, he spearheaded the Start-Up Stampede and, along with Matthew Coppedge of Downtown Durham Inc., created The Smoffice – the world’s smallest office – at Beyu Caffé.

Now he’s poised to take American Underground to the next level by finding next-big-thing companies to fill a 22,000-square-foot office space at 201 W. Main St.

Amenities for the new space, slated to open in April, include an entertainment/lounge area in an old bank vault and a trolley that will be lowered into the basement level and used for entrepreneurs to pitch investors. The new space will take the number of companies nurtured by American Underground from 30 to 80.

The work of Klein and others of his ilk has been copied in Wilmington, Morrisville and as far away as Canada. Durham, of course, is following on the coattails of Austin, Silicon Valley, Boston and other start-up hotbeds.

But, Klein said, “We want to do this in a uniquely Durham way. We want some of the same outcomes, but we want to do it our way.”

That means, in part, more entertainment options, more cool places to live, more restaurants and, yes, more beer downtown. We’re well on our way on those fronts, but Klein sounded a note of caution that the Triangle is lacking “next-level talent,” people who can take great ideas and turn them into thriving businesses.

Area universities will play a big role in home-growing such talent and, indeed, all four will have space in the new Main Street space.

The takeaway from Klein’s presentation is that, with smart, driven people like him providing great ideas and leadership, there’s no reason Durham can’t be the entrepreneurial envy of the nation.

Bill Kalkhof, who recently announced he’d soon be stepping down after a stellar career as head of DDI, praised Klein and Coppedge.

“I’ll give a pat on the back to Casey [Steinbacher] and I in that we just got the hell out of their way.”

Submitted by Matt Dees

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