Notes by Ed Hoffman; Photos by Fred Beutler
President John struck the Rotary bell a good one, and a full Anderson Room rose to sing the national anthem with real gravitas. Joan Knoertzer set the pace beautifully, making Rotary’s little upright sound like an orchestra.
Rosemarie Rowney came to the podium and delivered a truly interesting – and germane – homily on the symbolic anchor of our Club, the Rotary bell. “Today’s Inspiration is the history of the Rotary bell…In 1922 the [nation’s various Rotary] clubs decided to have an attendance contest. The New York City club won. The prize was a bell from a harbor boat, mounted on plank from H.M.S. Victory, Admiral Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar. We are going to move our bell in three weeks, from the Michigan Union to Weber’s. Tom Millard will speak today about the history of RCAA; next week John White will talk about the food at Weber’s; then there will be the final move of the bell.” Rosemarie’s message of fellowship, tradition, and continuity was embraced by her audience. Yes, this Club will relocate for two years, but it will never be displaced. Where our bell goeth, so follow we, with joy. Take heart from the aftermath of the great Westminster Palace fire of 1834: MPs and Lords would return to an even more beautiful building, a neo-gothic masterpiece, courtesy of architects Barry and Pugin, but it would take 17 years for both houses to sit in session. For us, by contrast, we’ll enjoy free parking and great Weber’s salads for two years (with, perhaps, an occasional steak?).
Don Devine then led us in song with the aforementioned Joan Knoertzer in accompaniment. The assembly crooned a lyrical “April Showers,” followed by Andrew Sterling’s and Harry Von Tilzer’s 1905 hit, “Wait ‘till the Sun Shines, Nellie.” Von Tilzer, a prolific composer (and Detroit native), left a musical legacy to Rotary of a host of beguiling tunes. Don informed us that, regardless of the ‘Von Tilzer,’ his real surname was Gumbinsky, aka Gumm, and so “was Judy Garland’s uncle.” Bravo, Don and Joanie!
Next occurred a ceremony so unusual, so arcane, that its practice was long thought to have been erased in Michigan, at least since the snuffing-out of the Strang “monarchy.” President John asked PP Jim Irwin to come to the podium. This proved a mistake. Out of nowhere Jim brandished a formidable scissors and, under the pretext of marking “the next three weeks till the move to Webers,” proceeded to shear off the lower third of John’s tie. By the way, it was a Rotary tie, doubtless purchased online, on the Rotary website, and you know they’re not cheap. Jim might have snipped John’s jugular for all the consternation this produced. Really, after this kind of display, what’s next; an Aztec bypass to commemorate RYLA?
Apparently with his composure regained, John returned to the podium to greet fellow-Rotarians and guests. Among the many distinguished guest was Timothy Harrison, son of our beloved Nancy and Tim, who was introduced by his mother: “It is my pleasure to introduce my son, Timothy Harrison, Jr.,” Nancy declared with pride. Now, that was an inspiration to everyone in the room!
Jim Irwin then returned to the podium, obviously suppressing his Sweeny Toddish proclivities. But this was serious – an incredibly moving tribute to Tim Harrison. “We mourn the passing of Tim Harrison. Timothy Edward Albert Harrison – he had four names. Tim grew up in Ypsilanti. His father owned the Food and Drug Mart, where Tim could be seen working while going to school. Tim [became] a complete pharmacist: Do you remember how pharmacists used to be, filling prescriptions, yes, but doing the cleaning too?” [Your reporter thought immediately of Mr. Gower, Jimmy Stewart’s boss in It’s a Wonderful Life, but that was erroneous. Tim was never like that.] Jim then regaled his listeners with stories of Tim’s athletic prowess on the tennis court and in the U-M swimming pool: “He was a strong swimmer, a member of ‘The Founders.’ Tim would play water polo, which [he convinced me] to try, which I did – once.” Then, his courtship of Nancy – “His first date with Nancy was to go scuba diving in Lake St. Claire. Tim dropped off the boat, backwards, and landed in three feet of water! The boat sped away, leaving Tim standing on a bar, feeling a bit embarrassed.” Then Jim reminded us of a familiar “’Tim-ism’: When he agreed with you, his eyes would sparkle and he’d wag his finger at you.” The resounding ahs throughout the room confirmed Jim’s recollection. “Tim was a founder of the Briarwood Rotary Club, which would merge with us. I believe Tim lived the 4-Way Test.” Amen to that. Thank you, Jim, from us all.
John then asked for a moment of silence. The old Anderson Room, no doubt, experienced a surge in temperature during that quiet interlude.
Susan Smith Gray and Norma Sarkar came up to highlight the upcoming District 6380 ‘Spring Fling,’ taking place on Thursday, May 3rd, at the Yankee Air Museum (5:30-8:30 p.m.) As Norma and Susan explained, “the District and the Social Committee joined forces for this event,” a synergy made possible by a suggestion by Rosemarie Rowney. For the next two weeks the Committee will be taking reservations. Tickets are $50, and include a reception “with heavy hors d’oeuvres and docents available for questions.” This is a great opportunity to meet with fellow Rotarians, and to attend the District 6380 Conference at the Marriott Eagle Crest. Norma outlined the fascinating program, highlighting speaker topics such as the environmental threat of ag runoff algae “blooms;” how to protect our water resources; and of the crucial role of trees.
Tom Millard came forward next and gave a wonderful presentation on the history of RCAA, particularly its residence at the Michigan Union for its weekly meetings since 1916. Apparently, the first years were truncated by various events, such as use of the building during WWI as a barracks. By 1922 luncheon meetings were occurring on a regular basis. So, as Tom observed reassuringly, “Our tenure has been interrupted before, but we always come back!”
“Our passion is medical education”
Dr. Dave Schmidt then introduced our speaker, Dr. John Cropsey: “John is a specialist in a favored [field of medicine], ophthalmology. A native of Ann Arbor, John attended the University of Michigan…He formed a team of physicians in different specialties to serve in Africa. His life exemplifies what every Rotarian believes: Service Above Self.”
“I am delighted to be here with you today,” Dr. Cropsey began, standing by the projection equipment and gesturing to the screen. “From 1993 to 2006 there was civil war in Burundi and Rwanda, between the Hutus and Tutsis, you remember. One and a half million people died. Hope Africa University [the humanitarian organization with which he would become affiliated] was the first post-civil war university established in Burundi — a country having three doctors per 100,000 people. These doctors didn’t have any hospital intern experience; they were just sent [into the fray].” Dr. Cropsey then shared with his audience what could be considered his medical team’s mission statement: “Our team’s passion is medical education.” He then gestured to the screen, where he had displayed two maps of the world. “This is from GoogleEarth — the first is a population map showing where people live.” Indeed it did. Clearly evident were the Earth’s most populous continents, Asia and Africa, appearing like the bloated politicians and industrial moguls fleeing from the mob in a Thomas Nast cartoon. “This second map shows where doctors live –” What the audience then saw was a complete reversal of the first image; a map indescribably top-heavy with doctors living in the worlds most prosperous countries, the United States, eastern China, and in various western European countries. The contrast was truly shocking.
“My father was a physician,” Cropsey continued. “His dream was to be a missionary doctor.” This goal would be realized by his son. “In 2007, I and a group of physician friends from Knox Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor decided to Africa. We lived in Kenya first, from 2009-11. In 2011 we moved to Burundi.” He described Burundi as a small land-locked country sandwiched between Rwanda and Tanzania: “Because it has the highest population density of any country in Africa, and is so small, demand for land is very great. Most of the people are farmers, so the demand for land is one thing that led to the civil war.” In 2011 the doctors, and their growing families, went to France for language study. During their French sojourn the families continued to expand. The Anderson Room was buzzing with admiration for this immensely dedicated community of physicians, sticking together for a major humanitarian endeavor. Dr. Cropsey continued: “In 2013 we returned to Burundi.” They set to work building Kibuye — the region’s first teaching hospital — from the ground up. He showed before-and-after arial photos of the site. The changes made over a short period of a few years was astounding. “Nothing is more sustainable than education,” Cropsey asserted. “In Africa, for Africans.”
Prior to the team’s arrival, medical care in Burundi was dispensed, primarily, across a desk. “A doctor would meet with you in his office — one doctor for a population the size of Ann Arbor. You’d tell him what you were feeling, and he would write out a prescription. That was it.” REACH, RENEW, RESTORE. “We provide care with skill and compassion. We now have a medical school with a residency program.” However, he pointed out a major challenge — to retain physicians: “The challenge is to keep trained physicians in the country. As you would expect, many want to come here and raise their families in security and comfort.” But Kibuye is making progress in this regard, one step at a time. “We have 100 students at any given time,” noted Cropsey. One especial victory has been in the field of eye care. Blindness is rampant in Burundi; a result of disease and sun exposure. Many go blind from cataracts. Perhaps his most moving story concerned a woman who had become completely blind by the time she had given birth. She explained in a video how, in Burundi, people with disabilities are abused and marginalized. So she stayed at home. “People would ask me why my husband came home so often during the day,” she described. It was to help care for her and their baby. “When my child was born, I could not see her face.” However, following cataract surgery (“a ten minute operation,” said Cropsey), she could see again. You could hear the relief expressed through the Anderson Room. “We want to transform health care here,” he declared. “Where people are treated with respect, and don’t have to pay a bribe to get care.” Kibuye teaching hospital, and Dr. John Cropsey and his team, is doing a heroic job of accomplishing just that.
After a rapturous standing ovation, John thanked Dr. Cropsey (and yes, he is a related to the iconic Hudson River School painter, Jasper Francis Cropsey). He then reminded us of JET: “Join leaders; Exchange ideas; Take action. The meeting is adjourned.”
by John White
Weekly Meeting Statistics
A total of 105 Rotarians were captivated by John Cropsey’s presentation on his medical missionary work in Burundi. We also had two visiting Rotarians (Tim Saddoris of Toledo and B. Yawson of Ann Arbor North) and seven guests. Six (!) committees met in conjunction with lunch; International Humanitarian Projects, Interact, Membership, Social, STRIVE and Touch-a-Truck. A total of 46 members participated. Also reported was the Rotaract Senior Sendoff Party (eight Rotarians) on April 7, seven VITA sessions by two Rotarians in March and April and nine members discussing administrative and financial issues on April 13.
Makeup Cards for Roving Rotarians
Jim Miller (Green Valley AZ on March 13)
District 6380 Assembly 2018
On Saturday, April 14, five representatives from our club joined about 100 other District 6380 Rotarians in the annual District Assembly. The event was a forum for training in a number of key areas, especially grants. Other topics included My Rotary, Visioning, Polio, Membership, Club Administration, Polio, Public Relations and Youth Service. The lessons learned, the resources provided and the contacts made will benefit our club’s operations as we approach the 2018-2019 Rotary Year.
Gay Rotarians in San Francisco form first LGBTQ+ Club
On March 25, the Rotary Club of San Francisco Castro celebrated its new official status as the first LGBTQ+ Rotary Club in the world. This new Rotary club joins eight others in the city. The membership chair notes that while the club identifies with its specific community, all potential members are welcome. This milestone in Rotary history was reached about 30 years since women were first admitted.