President John struck the Rotary bell, and all stood to sing “God Bless America.” Phil Klintworth came forward and delivered a splendid Inspiration centered on the double
anniversaries of the Battle of Midway, in 1942, and of D-Day two years later. Fought and won by the U.S. only six months after Pear Harbor, Midway provided America with a much needed decisive victory against the Imperial Japanese Navy. One month before, in early May, American and Australian forces had won a strategic victory against Japan in the Coral Sea. In that battle, though the allies lost more ships, they damaged Japanese aircraft carriers to the extent they could not take part at Midway. Sacrifice and resilience in the face of adversity: these were Phil’s watchwords. He brought this home in his reading of a letter, written by Audrey Winchell, “a newly-married Navy wife,” to her sister-in-law in mid-June, 1942: “‘Dear Winnie, Suppose you have heard by now about Walt, and this is going to be short as I just don’t feel like writing. The wire was the usual thing. The Navy Dept. deeply regrets etc. — missing in action. I hold no hope, though, that he is still alive, miracles just don’t happen to us….” But Phil informed his expectant audience that “Audrey Winchell got her miracle. Her husband and his gunner were able to ditch their crippled aircraft. After 17 days in a life raft they were finally rescued — two days after her letter to Winnie was written…I actually held that letter in my hands.”
Phil’s great Inspiration was, for your reporter, made more cogent (if possible) by the fact that he was sitting next to Art Holst.
Song: Jim Irwin and “our own Rotary maestro, Tom Strode” led us in singing all the U.S. armed forces service songs. This became particularly moving when those members who have served stood, at Jim’s request, during their service anthem. Members and guests witnessed a wonderful scene — the RCAA’s Greatest Generations, spanning 60 years of service.
John returned to the podium for a special commemoration. “This is to recognize Jim Irwin and his longstanding generosity as a Rotary donor,” John declared. Jim, standing next to John, looked a little uncomfortable with all the attention. This is part and parcel for Jim, as anyone who knows him can attest. (He is always more interested in knowing what YOU are doing.) John did point out that Jim has singularly funded several Rotary projects, which generated much acclamation, applause, and not a few rebel yells from the assembly. Bravo, Jim Irwin, and thank you!
Public Image Committee chair, Laura Thomas, came up next. “A long time ago we began a process called ‘the website,'” she began. “I want to thank Steve Schram [immediate past PI chair] and Dinesh Cyanam for all their leadership and work on the project. Ken Wilson has joined us as webmaster…but we need an associate webmaster. If you are knowledgeable of [Wordpress and Windows] to assist Ken, please let me know.”
President John then announced that Nick Lacy has been reinstated to membership. Also, “dues are due one week from today.” He asked Lauren Heinonen to address the assembly on this year’s New Member Project, and the location of the trees they donated. Utilizing Google satellite images, she explained how donors can look up their names and find their corresponding tree by zooming in. Members applauded Lauren’s informative and engaging presentation.
Rob Shiff then reported on the Tiny Homes Work Project completed last week in Detroit. “Here we are,” Rob remarked as photos came up on the scree. “We cleared debris from the work sites, and, thanks to Jim Egerdal who brought a commercial-grade wood chipper, we were able to clean up quite a bit.” Rob pointed out that “the houses will be occupied by August — there’s Ed Wier’s Victorian house. During the clean-up we were approached by a young man who lived in one of the new houses. He explained that he had aged-out of foster care. He said, pointing to a nearby house, ‘That’s my house. That’s my home.’ This project was important to him.”
John read a list of “Webers 100 percenters”: those members who have attended every meeting at Webers since last month. It was an impressive roster.
Don Deatrick came to the podium to introduce our speaker: “Dr. Rose Bellanca has led Washtenaw Community College for seven years. She is only the fourth president since the College’s founding in 1965. She oversees a budget of $100,000,000, and has successfully run millage, scholarship, and grants campaigns totaling $15 million. WCC’s training programs provide internships to students, and the economic impact to our community is $20 million a year. Please give a warm welcome to Dr. Rose Bellanca.”
Dr. Bellanca came to the podium amid a barrage of applause. “It is great to be back,” she declared, smiling. She immediately congratulated our Club “for everything you do…$20,000 in scholarships this year! Your support of students makes a real imprint on their lives.” Dr. Bellanca summed up the collaboration of Rotary and WCC succinctly — “When you support one student, you end up supporting a whole family; maybe not the one they have now, but the one they will [establish] later.”
“Who is ‘the WCC student’?” she asked her audience. “They are younger than Lauren [Heinonen] and older than I am.” She described the attraction of Washtenaw C.C. classes, “any time of day, anywhere”, to professionals: “We had a practicing lawyer who took baking classes. He came back to education because he wanted to learn a new skill.” Clearly a point of pride for Bellanca is the College’s high standing with four-year colleges, particularly the University of Michigan. “Our Master Transfer Agreement with Michigan colleges assures that 30 credits will be accepted from WCC students. That’s a big deal. It means they [the colleges] have a very high regard for the education our students receive.” In terms of the U-M, this agreement means “that 30 credits you earned at Washtenaw are equal to those at the U-M.”
Dr. Bellanca then gave a short review of the history of community colleges. “In 1900 community colleges were first established. Prior to that, only the privileged could attend college. Leaders said, ‘We can’t have a country with this kind of a situation’, so they created a new kind of school.” Indeed, for Bellanca, the prime justification for community colleges is “so people can keep learning.” To accomplish this she cited the College’s efforts to contain student costs: “What’s a major expense for students? That’s right, books. WCC faculty have pooled together to place their own books online. Students can ‘buy’ a book for $40, and read it online whenever they want, instead of paying hundreds.” In addition to informing her listeners that students aged sixty-five and older can attend classes for free, she highlighted the school’s Excellence in Nursing certification, which she is “99% sure” will be approved, placing the College among the elite nursing schools in the country. “Nurses are in such demand,” she asserts, “and we have the resources and simulation labs that assists training.” Other high demand skills taught at WCC are welding, plumbing, and auto repair. “We can’t even keep our welding students in class — they’re hired immediately after they have learned certain things.” Affordability, convenience, relevance: these are certainly words to describe a Washtenaw Community College education. There are challenges, however. The recession hit community colleges hard, Bellanca observed, “but where general enrollment in community colleges declined 31%, we declined 19%. Maintaining enrollment and quality, that’s perhaps the biggest challenge.”
Dr. Bellanca received a vigorous ovation as John stepped forward to thank her for her presentation. He then reminded everybody of JET: “Join leaders, Exchange ideas, Take action. The meeting is adjourned.”