Rotary Minute: Jay Zenner

In his own words…

When I first started planning this Minute I was going to follow the lead of David Durack and Charlie Steel and talk about a woman who had an influence in my life.  I met Flossie Segal when we moved to a new neighborhood in Richmond when I was 12.

The following year Flossie and her husband Jake, our next door neighbors, built a swimming pool in their back yard. Jake was ex-Marine who made a lot of money from several furniture stores he owned in Richmond. Flossie was a very smart and gregarious woman who taught part time in the Social Work program of VCU and was the first woman I ever saw in a two-piece bathing suit. The first car that I drove on a regular basis was a turquoise and white ’55 Chevy handed down from Flossie.

That was about the same time I gave up any idea of going into the priesthood.

More important, Flossie introduced me to the civil rights movement and all things liberal in Richmond. However, that story includes several New York Yankee baseball players, two NFL Hall of Fame Football players, a radio personality, an African Prince, lots of politicians and my integration of the faculty basketball team at Maggie Walker High School in 1972.

It’s a story much too long for a Rotary minute and I don’t want to break my own record set the first time I did a Rotary Minute when President Don stopped me at 13 minutes.

What I decided to do instead is take this opportunity to thank those who have helped me during my tenure, which ends next month, as Chair of the Communications Committee, and especially the current crew in the rotation for writing the program reports that have been a central part of the website that I built when I took that on, during Newman’s presidency in 2010 and 11.

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Rotary Minute: Bob Yowell

Editors Note: There is no way a Rotary Minute can do justice to a long and honored medical career and 46 years as a Rotarian. Bob’s notes for his minute below cover the facts. But when I think of Bob I remember a woman I knew well whose children were delivered by Bob and spoke his name in reverence. 

I reviewed my previous minute – first 8 years in Durham 1936-45; Raleigh 8-20; back to Durham 20-now that started with Duke Med then UVA intern, marriage and US Navy, Duke residency then 37 years of OB-Gyn practice. Married 56 years Barbara Duke nurse 4 children first died at Duke at 3 1/2 next 3 born at Duke and all graduated from Duke. 11 grandchildren.   Things you may not know about me- 1. Captain Marvel war bond. 2. Cuban missile blockade 1962 – stopped 3 ships and sent 2 back to Russia. 3. Runner for 17 years 1977-94 included Williamsburg half marathon in 1981, MarineCorps Marathon in 1983 with3 other rotarians, and theBoston Marathon 1984. 4. I delivered 4000 babies in Durham, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, and Salisbury. 5. I have been a student, resident,Asst. Professor, or Emeritus Professor of Duke Med Center for 61 years. 6.Watched the first Polio Plus announcement in Philadelphia in 1988 – goal $150 million but raised $250 1 month before starting my year as President of Durham Rotary. I have been a rotarian 46 years – served as board member, vice-president, president and assistant District Governor. I have been a member of the Paul Harris Society since it started and was selected for the Nick Fagan Award a few years ago.

Program Report: Jeff Ward – Behind Bitcoin and Blockchain

Jeff Ward, Director of Duke University’s Center on Law and Technology, gave a presentation on the exciting and, to most of us, mysterious technology of blockchain.  Judging from the number of searches for blockchain and bitcoin on Google, there is a recent surge of interest by people who are trying to stay ahead of the curve of the next “technology big deal.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Jeff is not a “techie.”  In fact, before turning to law his background was in philosophy and literature.  Between graduating with a degree in Liberal Studies from Notre Dame and getting a law degree from Duke he worked for a global management firm in Chicago and taught high school English in the suburbs.  Now on the faculty of Duke Law School, he specializes in law and policy of emerging technologies such as blockchain, robotics and artificial intelligence.

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District Awards

The Durham Rotary Club garnered several awards at the District Conference in New Bern. The biggest honor went to Past President and Past District Governor Newman Aguiar. As President Seth noted Newman has long been our go to guy on all things Rotary. He might also have noted that Newman is a perpetual competitor for the smile of the year award as illustrated above.

The Club was recognized as the 1st Runner Up for the Best Club in the District among 42 clubs in competition.

The Education Committee’s and Mimi O’Brian’s Books on Break was named the 3rd Most Outstanding  Project without funding.

Our CART donations were also noted as the third highest in the District.

We also received two Difference Maker Awards the first as an individual was Past President and current Asst. District Governor Susan Ross and the was for the Club.

Three Durham Rotarians were recognized for Outstanding Foundation Service, Dallas Stallings, BC Dash and Ann Evans.

See the video on the Club Facebook page with the story behind the contribution that got Ann the tie pictured below.

Special recognition was also given to District Secretary/Conference Planner, Sharon Lassiter, who is, of course, our Club Executive Secretary as well.

Her enthusiasm in the acceptance of this honor was as great as the contribution itself.  All three of these honorees are great spokespeople for the Rotary Foundation. She appears below with Club Foundation Chair Andy Esser, who is challenging Newman for the best Rotary Smile.

New Member: Rebecca Newton

Please introduce yourself and welcome new member Rebecca Newton. Rebecca was sponsored by Gloria Ann Evans.

Perhaps best known in the Triangle as the leader of the 30 year group, “Rebecca & the Hi-Tones”, Rebecca Newton is the CEO & President of Carolina Theatre of Durham, Inc.  Prior to joining CTD, Rebecca spent 25 years as an expert in online child safety, community and gaming, working for major companies such as Disney, Mind Candy, and AOL.  She spent 16 years with RTI International before joining AOL. In 1980, Rebecca was the first Executive Director at what is now The Hayti Heritage Center.

She publicly speaks on online child safety and gaming, internationally, and has worked extensively with the FTC, US Senate, EU Commission, Parliament (UK) and Scotland Yard. She has served on many boards including The ArtsCenter (vice chair), GirlsRockNC (chair) The Durham Citizens Advisory Committee (chair), the NSPCC (UK Natl Center for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), and was appointed by the UK government to various government task forces serving the rights of children. She is currently a board member of and PrivacyCheq.  Rebecca has 2 children and 5 grandchildren, all residing in Durham.

Rotary Minute: John Staddon

John Staddon delivered the following Rotary Minute about research he had participated in while in Africa. Coincidentally, in attendance were Rotarian Rebecca Johnson and her boss at FHI 360 and prospective Rotarian, Ted FitzGerald. FHI 360’s headquarters are visible across the field from the meeting room and was formed in 2011 when Family Health International joined forces with Academy for Educational Development. Among other things they do research in Africa and both were there during the Ebola crisis. What an interesting group we have.

John’s Minute:

An ecology lesson?

Some years ago I found myself, a college dropout, in Fort Rosebery (Mansa) in N. Rhodesia (Zambia) looking for a job.  Fort Rosebery was tiny: about 20 British families, a few hundred Bemba people, a handful of Indians and no electricity.

After many tries I got a job with something called the Health and Nutrition Scheme, run by the colonial government.  Health and Nutrition studied disease – malaria and bilharzia (schistosomiasis) especially – and nutrition, especially kwashiorkor a protein deficiency that stunts development and leaves kids with skinny limbs and bloated bellies.

The scheme had three study sites.  The main site was Fort Rosebery, which had a laboratory and a small hospital.  The other two sites were Bemba villages at Matanda on the Luapula River and Shikamushile on Lake Bangweulu – a river site and a lake site.  Each was a one-hour or so bone-rattling drive from FR on dirt roads.

The senior researcher on the scheme was Fergus McCullough, an Irish expert on tropical diseases.  The medical chap was a recently arrived Danish pediatrician, Bent Friis Hansen.  Both these guys were supported by WHO.

I worked both in the lab and as a note-taker for Friis Hansen as he examined children.

Malaria and bilharzia were the main diseases affecting the Bemba people.  I will talk just about one interesting thing about bilharzia that came up again recently.

Bilharzia is a nasty affliction with a bizarre life-cycle – not really an appropriate pre-prandial topic, but hey, this is Rotary!  It is caused by a parasitic trematode worm about 1 cm long that lives in your veins and subsists on red blood cells and other things essential to life.  The worms are monogamous.  They come in pairs and reproduce as busily as they can in the victim’s body.  Since the worms don’t multiply in the body, the amount of sickness depends on the patient’s fixed ‘worm load’.  The eggs, when they don’t get lodged in an organ and cause trouble that way, are excreted in urine and feces.

Lucky eggs end up in water – a river or lake – where they hatch into tiny larvae, which go looking for a particular kind of snail.  When they find the snail, they bore into it and after a few weeks produce sporocysts which each produce thousands of cercaria.  These little darlings then swim about looking for bathers into whose skin they can burrow. There they turn into the trematode worms and repeat their sorry cycle.  (How this strange life cycle evolved I leave to someone more imaginative than I.)

Fergus and Bent never understood why bilharzia was so much more common at the Luapula river site compared to lake Bangweulu: 

What is so different about the river compared to the lake?

A possible answer appeared just recently.  The African rift-valley lakes – Malawi, Kivu, Victoria, Bangweulu and many others – sport the world’s most varied set of freshwater fish, hundreds of species, each adapted to its own special niche.  A tasty cichlid Trematocranus placodon, was once common in Lake Malawi.  The incidence of bilharzia was then also relatively low, just as it was in Lake Bangweulu.

The reason for the low incidence in Malawi was that T. placodon  feeds on the snails that transmit the disease.  More placodon means fewer snails, hence less bilharzia.   BUT, when overfishing caused a decline in the Malawi placodon population, snail numbers increased and so did bilharzia.

Possibly, therefore, it was the relative lack of snail-eating cichlids in the little Luapula streams that allowed the snails, and thus the bilharzia, to flourish in Zambia’s Northern Province.

I wonder if anyone has tested this hypothesis in modern Zambia?