For the first time, President Greg Stejskal struck the Rotary bell. Ninety Rotarians and their guests stood to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” after which Club Administrator John White came to the podium. “It is my honor to deliver the inspiration on this momentous day in the Rotary calendar for our club,” John began. “It’s a day that represents the celebration of the past year and the exhilaration of new beginnings for the next one. I have been privileged to serve directly under your past 14 presidents. I have learned a lot from each one and hope that I have contributed to their success by providing institutional knowledge, supplying support and guidance and helping them avoid pitfalls and roadblocks.”
John then shared “the story of the creation of our 4 Way Test…Imagine you are Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor, a 39 year-old business executive in Chicago in 1932. It’s in the depths of the Depression and you have been asked by creditors of the Club Aluminum Company to save it from bankruptcy.” Taylor, John described, in assessing the situation, realized “the company [was] no different from its competitors in terms of quality of product…and the capabilities of its personnel….” Then it hit him — “You need an edge…[that] along with other honorable qualities like justice, friendship and helpfulness, you come up with the 24 words in the four principles we see on the wall today.” So, what was the result? — “The company applied the test in all aspects of its operation and, as you expected, recovered from bankruptcy and prospered. I’m sure most of us have enjoyed beef stew cooked in a Club Aluminum pot.”
John informed his audience that Herbert Taylor “went on to become RI President in 1954-55 and was featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine.” In conclusion, John described a ‘Three-Way Test’ he had learned about during his research: “‘Is it fun? Can I get hurt? Might anyone find out?'” All humor aside, though, perhaps the most important and uplifting aspect of John’s inspiration was John himself, for suddenly everybody in the packed ballroom rose as one and imparted all the thanks and goodwill an ovation can express.
A smiling man bedecked in bowler hat and outlandish green shirt — a shirt sporting a confetti of Rotary wheels — stood next to President Greg. In a moment he was at the piano, hammering away as if in a scene from “The Cheyenne Social Club”. The man was, of course, our immediate past president, John Ackenhusen. He sang a song of his own composition called “John the Prez” (to the tune of “Mack the Knife”), a joyful summation of his administration. It went something like this:
“When I first joined Rotary, dear
A committee I did seek;
Bob Buchanan made a plea here,
“Treasurer sought, really quick!
I told myself quietly, babe
‘John, this here is your big chance…
You don’t need no damn committee–
Do the Treasurer song & dance.’
Spent a year with late Jim Lester
Learning finance as my trade.
Sixteen years then did I pester
Club and Boardroom when I played.
I did rap and Billy Joel
Patter songs from Broadway shows…
To distract from ‘Where’d our funds go?’
So the club’s board never knows.
Then the club got sick and weary
Of him who its savings spent;
Hired the tempress Karen Kerry
Kicked him up to President.
Gin and tonic was her weapon
And she served it till I dropped
All resistance — I consented
Thus the Treasurer was stopped!
On my term I’m reminiscing–
Opened up the Grand Playground.
But our funds are strangely missing
And now Johnieeee’s leaving town!!”
Song-master Jim Irwin then took the podium. “Today’s Rotary orchestra is none other than our own Tom Strode!” After the applause Jim regaled the audience with a story in honor of our speaker: “At an early age I noticed the difference between country and city speech. My home town is Detroit, and I would say ‘Woodward Avenue.’ My grandfather, on the other hand, would say ‘Woooward Avenue.’ We’re going to sing ‘The Farmer in Detroit — Go Detroit!”
“…The far-mer tills the ground,
With traf-fic all a-round,
Hi-ho! A-way we go,
The far-mer tills the ground.
…The far-mer in De-troit,
His work is so adroit,
Hi-ho! A-way he goes,
A he-ro of Detroit!”
Greg returned to the podium. “I come from Nebraska, so I wouldn’t have thought of rhyming Detroit with adroit!” He then welcomed member Rotarians, visiting Rotarians — “we only have one today, B Yawson, from the Northside” — and guests. He noted three people in particular: “My friends Tom and his wife. Tom’s a fellow FBI agent and a Vietnam veteran. He was an advisor to South Vietnamese forces, so he was in harm’s way. And last, but certainly not least, my wife, Pat Stejskal. For your information, we do share a bed.”
John Ackenhusen then made the announcement, “And now, The Passing of the Shirt!” This was the moment everybody was waiting for, the removal of a Rotary shirt unwashed since its purchase in 1982, “in Hawaii.” John continued: “I wore it on a date and at the Grotto last night. It has never been washed; it can stand on its own.” With that, John placed the green shirt with the viscous patina and Rotary wheels on Greg. Or tried to. ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must…’ but you get the idea. Though looking a shade uncomfortable, as if beginning a Hulk transformation, Greg turned to John, and said graciously, “I’ve been congratulated all week, but I think they should go to John.” The applause were loud and long.
Speaker: B Yawson returned to the podium to introduce our speaker, Mike Score, president of Hantz Farms. “Thank you for having me today. Thank you, B, for that introduction. And the music…wow! People want to live in Ann Arbor. Detroit is my home town, but I understand the outsider’s perspective, that it’s not a livable city. I don’t listen to the news [anymore], where words like these are used to describe Detroit: ‘Most Obese,’ ‘Most Murders,’ ‘Most Dilapidated,’ etc. But the people who live there don’t look out their windows and see an awful place. The truth is, Detroit sits on the Detroit River, at one of the biggest crossroads. Our water and many services come from there — so you can’t remove Detroit from the equation.”
“Most people notice the blight,” Mike continued. “How to fix that, that’s the question.” He then showed a clip from a documentary highlighting the efforts of financier John Hantz to revitalize a portion of the City around by establishing a large farm; a tree farm, specifically, “to remove blight, and replace it with beauty.” Since 2014, this work, of growing hardwood trees in straight rows, gives Detroiters “a sense of purpose.” For Mike it was always personal: “Before I joined John [Hantz], I’d wanted to do something for my old town…You need to work with people with what they’ve got — Detroit needs a large farm if you’re going to remove the blight.” He emphasized this point as he had come to realize that small, neighborhood plot farms weren’t enough. Indeed, only a big footprint could provide the community with that most important ingredient, “a sense of entrepreneurship. Actually, getting rid of the blight’s the easy part. Without a community sense of entrepreneurship, it won’t work.” Mike then showed another clip; in this one students were fashioning holiday wreathes from the hydra network of grapevines overlaying blighted lots. They were beautiful. “Grapevine wreathes from free wood that most people would throw away — what was waste, of no value, now has a margin.” Now that’s creating value, a market. It might just be the path to Detroit’s revitalization, if John Hantz and Mike Score have anything to say about it.
Greg thanked Mike warmly, then declared to the assembly, “The life you lead is the lesson you teach!”
…………And from the fun social hour at the Session Room Wednesday evening, the three Hair Club Amigos, now Present President Greg, Past President John, and Past Perfect President Collyer (who is officially off the Board after serving 5 years, welcomes the Future with:
President Elect Rosemarie Rowney
Congratulations President Elect Rosemarie Rowney!!!!