From the Desk of Harpoon News Reporter, Ed Hoffman
President Greg rang the Rotary bell; members and guests rose in unison to sing a spirited “Star-Spangled Banner.” As Tom Strode’s regal piano began to fade, Katie Bauer came to the podium for the Inspiration. And what an Inspiration! Clearly tailoring her words to our distinguished speaker, Katie spoke of being inspired in life by, among other things, The Four-Way Test, and closed with a quote: “Spread love wherever you go: Don’t let anyone leave you less happy [than when they came to you].”
Jim Irwin bounded up next, brimming with energy, though he must have been cold, for he had buttoned his jacket to the chin. He began, as usual, with a joke; in this case, something having to do with Bach: “He was born in 1685. Now, as a student, I didn’t play Bach…often!” Some moments simply cannot be captured in words, or should be. Jim’s jest, of course, was a wordplay of names — Bach and Offenbach. Now, Jim is a wonderful humorist, and a true wordsmith, but, frankly, this is exactly the sort of thing that makes your reporter want to play Russian roulette with Chris Walken in Vietnam. The Vaudville, however, wasn’t over yet. All of a sudden Jim revealed the purpose of his cinched jacket, for he tore it off with more elan than a Chippendale: His shirt underneath was a veritable spilled martini of Maize and Blue. This seemed to energize him even more as he grasped his air baton and led the assembly in singing “We’re Wolverines” (to the tune of “Hey, Look Me Over”). This was followed seamlessly by a vigorous “The Victors.” If such enthusiastic, quasi-religious incantations can assure victory on the East Lansing gridiron, this one was sure to accomplish the goal. In the canon of Irwin-Strode asterisk performances, the above was a tour de force.
Greg then greeted all members, guests, and volunteers. He especially noted the coming week’s birthdays, quipping to Fred Beutler, “Fred, remember it’s Sue’s birthday,” to which the veteran photographer of all-things-Rotary answered with a snap of his G-clef suspenders.
Joanne Pierson came up for an announcement. “I’m here to tell you about the Purple Pinky Project against polio. It was begun in 1995. Last year, there were eleven new cases of polio in the world; this year it’s up to 13. Now, most of us can’t match what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [distributes for polio eradication], but we can contribute. Next week we’re going to paint your pinky purple as a show of solidarity, so make sure you come to Rotary next Wednesday!
Greg returned to the podium, and added “As a piece of polio trivia, the campaign for polio eradication began under FDR with The March of Dimes. That’s why Roosevelt’s profile appears on the dime. Now, I don’t know what that has to do with what Joanne just said, but….” Everybody got the point — and appreciated it. Thanks, Greg and Joanne.
Laura Thomas, PR/Branding Committee chair, spoke next. She informed the assembly, in her subtle way, of a major gift of art to Concordia University from Jim and Millie Irwin. The collection, comprising many paintings of historic Ann Arbor buildings — commercial, domestic, public, and of the U-M — was commissioned by Jim from a talented young artist. This artist worked from photographs from the Bentley Library and from onsite observation. Those in the audience who had had the privilege of seeing the paintings in Jim’s offices recalled the stunning colors, the fidelity to architecture, even the attention given to background details. In sum, the collection provides a vibrant tableau of the vision of Ann Arbor’s founders, of their early dwellings and gathering places, and charts the prosperity and cultural development of a unique city — one that Jim and Millie Irwin clearly love. Laura imparted heartfelt thanks, as did the whole room. Go Blue!
Rotaract chair Brandon Black exclaimed, when he had reached the dais, “We must have one of the coolest clubs in the country!” He then announced that “our Rotaractors are busy, and will represent Ann Arbor at a state event — a screening for World Polio.” Brandon also informed us that Erin Wright, “former Rotaract president a couple years ago, established a volunteer [assistance program] for a school in Guatamala. Our Rotaractors are still Skyping with the students, three years later.” He then summed up the pride felt by the whole Club toward these young leaders: “We love them. They’re doing so much for our community…One last thing, remember to Rent-A-Rotaractor [for household chores and cleanup projects]. They do like to have a week’s notice.”
Speaker: Assistant District Governor Anne Nauts came forward to introduce our speaker, District Governor Jane McManus. One of the fascinating biographical facts Anne shared was that Jane had created her own company, Microworks Computing, 31 years ago, “in her house.” A service company for the IT industry, Microworks is based in Brighton, and has grown considerably. Anne also announced the following happy news: “Jane has again organized, by popular demand, a river cruise to celebrate Women in Rotary. She then welcomed Jane McManus and her husband, adding “both are multiple Paul Harris Fellows.”
“It’s an honor and privilege to meet with you,” Jane began. “I thank you for what you do here and in communities around the world.” The DG then described a wonderful recent trip to Africa: “I wanted to plan a photographic journey to Africa, and visited an elephant rescue preserve [probably Kenya, if your reporter heard correctly].” This seems to have been a transformative experience for Jane, for it showed what can be done for wildlife and the environment when people work together. “We — Rotarians — are active in creating lasting change around the world and within ourselves. As 2018-19 Rotary International President, Barry Rassin, says ‘Be the Inspiration.'” She then cited as example a particularly engaged Rotarian from the Birmingham club: “His passion was literacy. And he was a great listener; he thought a great deal before saying anything, which I appreciated. Well, one day he says ‘One of these AGs has to step up.'” This Rotarian became instrumental (with Jane) in creating a new Rotary club in Southfield. An older club there had “dwindled to about three members who didn’t do anything.” They met with entrepreneur John Barfield, “who started as a U-M janitor, and went on to create a multi-billion dollar company.” The impetus for all this effort was that 2014 DG George Hedgespeth, who had died suddenly in office, had as his goal the establishment of a new Southfield club. After meeting with Brandon Marsh, our former member, at a Panera for lunch to work out details, Jane proudly declared “the new RC of Southfield was chartered last September!”
Jane went on to emphasize that the realization of a Southfield club was precisely what Barry Rassin calls for — ‘Leaping into Leadership.’ “It’s important to lead by example. We’re all Rotarians. I can’t ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself.” And she does, as she says, “walk the walk.” A case in point are innovative ideas like starting a “Rotary Passport — a District 6380 Rewards Program, similar to what stores offer.” Rotarians would earn points by “getting people you meet [on Rotary business and conventions] to sign your book. The person with the most signatures at the end of the year gets the prize.” Along these lines, Jane urged her audience to attend the RI conference in Hamburg, Germany, as well as the District Conference May 3-4. “When we ‘sell’ Rotary, maybe we should ask what Rotary means to [the prospect]. In other words, get your ASK in gear. What are people looking for? Rotary may be the vehicle for their passion. We are what change can be in this world!”
Jane then turned to Greg and handed him a banner. Emblazoned across the silk was the motto “Be the Inspiration.” “Greg,” she said, looking up, “because you ARE the inspiration.”
Questions after Jane’s presentation were cogent, and they came from the heavies. Past President Ashish Sarkar asked about women in Rotary leadership. “How are we going to change the face of Rotary? Once again, they chose another [male RI president] 76 year-old…A lot of women are dropping out [of Rotary].” Jane equivocated here, stating that women can’t reach leadership positions simply “because they’re women. They need to walk the walk.” She did acknowledge that “it’s about time [for a woman RI president]…We need to get to the Nominating Committee.”But the women-in-leadership issue wouldn’t be put to sleep just yet. Another PP, Jim Irwin, stood up and reminisced about a significant moment in RCAA history: “During my presidency in 1983-4, we [men] were talking round the table about women in Rotary. ‘How many of you would like to see this?’ I asked. Almost all of them wanted it — 15 years before it happened.”
It fell to Greg to close the issue. After thanking Jane warmly, he turned to the audience. “My closing remark is from Bo: ‘The Team, the Team, the Team. No man, no player, no coach is greater than the Team!'”