New Member: Michael Blacksburg

Please introduce yourself and welcome new member Michael Blacksburg to the club. Michael was sponsored by Don Stanger. In his own words, here is a some background information on Mr. Blacksburg:

I’m a former solo estate planning attorney turned estate and legacy advisor with Wells Fargo Private Bank.  As a Fiduciary Advisor, I serve the traditional function as a trust officer/advisor for high net worth individuals and family clientele of the Private Bank. In that role, I act as strategic focal point for trust administration on behalf of the Private Bank. I work with the trust creators and the trust beneficiaries to meet the goals of the trust and for the family, as a whole.

I also serve the larger role as a wealth management advisor from the fiduciary point of view. In that role, I work with current client families and prospective client families on regularly evaluating their wealth management needs (estate planning, wealth transfer, specialized asset management, unique beneficiary concerns, philanthropy, family dynamics) and coordinate those investment and fiduciary services the Private Bank offers.

A client thanked me for bringing a soulful approach to the intersection of banking and law and I think that’s an apt description of how I go about things.

My family and I moved here in June 2017 from San Francisco (Yes, I’m a great husband).  My wife, Nicole, and I have an eight year old boy (Sam) and twin 4 year old girls (Margot and Esme).  We live in Hope Valley.

Program Report: UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt

Just in the last few days, U.S. News and World Report ranked many of UNC’s graduate programs as among the “best” in the country.  The School of Medicine’s primary care program ranks first.  Other rankings are too numerous to enumerate but they range from nursing to business to education to public affairs to the sciences.  According to Chancellor Folt, among all universities UNC ranks sixth in the dollar volume of research conducted by faculty and students.  This year UNC attracted more than one billion dollars in grants and contracts for research.  One of her goals is to continue growing collaborative research projects with other area universities.  One such program is a joint UNC-NC State biomedical engineering department.   Duke is the biggest collaborator in programs and research. 

Chancellor Folt made the interesting point that the role of universities changed dramatically after World War II.  From being seen as finishing schools, research universities began functioning increasingly as groundbreaking innovators and drivers in society and the economy.  Startups that emerged from UNC contribute $10 billion to the economy. [Read more…]

Bulls Baseball Season About to Begin

Our hosts at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park staffed a table at the back of the meeting room with information on ticket packages for the coming season. Director of Ticket Sales for the Bulls, Brian Simorka talked briefly about the beginning of the new season and invited us to attend often.  Opening day is April 5…let’s hope for better weather than we’ve been having. Go Bulls!

Ticket information in on this page on the Bulls website

New Member: Ashleigh Backert

Please introduce yourself and welcome new member Ashleigh Backert. Ashleigh is the Executive Director of the Durham Sports Commission and was sponsored by Rotarian Shelly Green.

From the Sports Commission’s website, here are 5 things to know about Ashleigh in her own words:

  1. Played varsity softball at the University of Connecticut – as a lefty catcher.
  2. Highlight of my collegiate athletic marketing career was assisting to create a sellout for the Louisville vs. UConn Women’s Basketball game – which also won the NCAA Pack the House Challenge in 2007.
  3. Have raced in over 10 half marathons and one full marathon.
  4. Played a high school state championship softball playoff game at the Historic Durham Bulls Park.
  5. I’m addicted to Starbucks!

New Member: Kim Blair

Please introduce yourself  and welcome Kim Blair into membership in the club. Kim was sponsored by Indira Everett.

Kim’s desire to be deeply connected to the Durham community lead her to the Durham Rotary. From her first visit, Kim knew she was home.  The welcoming smiles on so many familiar faces of nonprofit and business leaders in the room made her feel like she was at a family gathering.

Kim grew up in Olney, Maryland (north of DC) and lived in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, for 13 years.  In 2009, Kim moved to Durham to be closer to her sister and her family who live in Cary.

Kim is married to Brett Blair, life coach and Best Life Movement pioneer.  Brett has three adult children who live in Colorado and Texas.  Kim and Brett travel to see them or take trips with the “kids” multiple times a year.

Kim has over 20 years of professional experience in the corporate world, working primarily in a variety of marketing and community relations roles.  She graduated with a BS in Business from Towson University, outside of Baltimore, and an MBA from the University of North Florida.  Kim’s appreciation of community and interest in helping people, combined with her entrepreneurial drive, ultimately attracted her to the real estate profession.   Kim is a residential real estate broker with Hunter Rowe, a mid-sized agency leading innovative practices in the real estate profession.

Kim has served on nonprofit boards in a variety of ways and is currently the Board Chair for a nonprofit organization in Durham, SEEDS.

Program Report: Todd Taylor and the Rangers Ripple Effect


You can always expect a lively and well-prepared presentation from President Designate Todd Taylor and this one was no exception. For many years Todd has chaired the Education Committee, which over that time grew to incorporate not just the Reading Rangers project but everything several sub-groups had been doing.

For this review of the accomplishments of the Committee Todd used the “ripple effect” as a metaphor for the progression of our involvement with the schools. The first drop as Todd described it was the review of a grant request to add some books to a school library. During that process we learned that something like 44% of DPS kids couldn’t read at grade level. This raised the question, “Why provide books to kids that couldn’t read.”

The initial grant request, or the initial drop, evolved into the first ripple, a Foundation Grant and turned $2000 into almost $12,000 and provided about $4,000 worth of books to three different schools.

To solve the reading problem the third ripple became the Reading Rangers, a theme created by Todd and introduced by him in cowboy fashion, which appeared often when he gave updates or was recruiting new Rangers.

We have amassed thousands of hours of tutoring, most of it at Y.E. Smith Elementary on East Main Street. The numbers are important, but the experience is more important and Todd turned the podium over to two past presidents and tutors for all six years of the program, Susan Ross and Don Stanger. Don’s participation has been unique because besides being a regular tutor at Y.E. Smith he began tutoring a young 6th grader at Neal Middle School as well and shared the experience of the friendship developed as they read together a book called the “The Other Wes Moore” about the divergent fates of two boys with the same name.

[Read more…]