The meeting began with a ringing of the Rotary bell by President John. Tom Strode hammered out our national anthem, with the assembly, a hundred strong in Weber’s ballroom, fighting lustily to keep up.
Joyce Hunter came to the podium. “For my Inspiration, I’m going to read a poem, ‘The Carpenter’, to you,” she explained. An anonymous work, the poem begins, “An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans…He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire…/The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.”
Joyce then provided the kicker: “When the carpenter finished his work the employer came to inspect the house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. ‘This is your house,’ he said, ‘My gift to you.’/The carpenter was shocked! What a shame! If he had known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently./So it is with us. We build our lives, one day at a time…If we could do it over, we’d do it differently. But we cannot go back.” Joyce concluded thus: “‘You are the carpenter. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, erect a wall…Your attitudes and the choices you make today build the ‘house’ you may live in tomorrow. Build wisely!'”
Shelley MacMillan came up next, accompanied by Steve Pierce. “Because a simple eye exam turned out not to be so simple, my eyes are dilated, so Steve is here to help!” She didn’t miss a beat — with Steve holding the music, Shelley led us in singing “Michigan Radio is Here to Stay,” a parody of the Gershwin’s “Our Love is Here to Stay.” A tribute, of course, to our speaker, the last line said it all: “In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble — they’re only made of clay — But Michigan Radio is here to stay.” Bravo!
Following warm greetings to all, including visiting Rotarians and guests, John’s voice lowered. “I regret to inform you of the passing of Lyndon Welch. Please stand for a moment of silence.” This the assembly did in solemn tribute to fellow Rotarian, ‘Lyn’, who joined our club in 1978.
Lauren Heinonen is recruiting the next wave of Rotary volunteers for Tiny Houses lot clean-up #3, so listen up: “Please let me know if you would like to help. We’ll [clear another lot] in Detroit, and have a fun day!” Lauren even volunteered to drive members, but no doubt many will want to help.
John then asked Dan Romanchik to come to the podium “for a special announcement.” “Hi, everyone, I’m arranging for Rotary to march in the 4th of July parade in Ann Arbor. If you’ve been there for the parade, you know it’s a big deal, and that it attracts a lot of people. We should be there, like a ‘real’ organization [burst of laughter]. So, join me in marching, and if you’d like to be one of the people holding the Rotary banner, I’ll get you that spot!” Dan noted that parade participants meet around State and William streets at 8:30 a.m. “We’ve got a great looking banner,” Dan added.[Your reporter can usually be found ensconced in a classic car on parade day, waving to the crowd and throwing candy, but this year he’ll forfeit his seat in exchange for marching with Dan and his fellow Rotarians. See you there!]
Past President Maurita Holland came to the podium next for a special presentation. She began with that declaration, coined during her presidency, that has ever since characterized the attitude of this club: “It’s a great day to be a Rotarian!” She thanked PP Norman Herbert “for his tireless work with our Foundation,” citing the importance of legacy gifts to our club’s foundation. “Another way we Rotarians support Rotary is through Paul Harris Fellowships,” she continued. “They are earned through our gifts of $1,000 to the Rotary International Foundation, including the Polio Plus campaign.” Maurita explained that the gifts “earn bonus points that allow us to gift an honoray Paul Harris Fellow award to others.” To her surprise, she realized that she had accrued four PH awards to distribute. “One of them I’m using as a challenge to my Upper Peninsula Rotary club; the member who brings in the most new members will receive the award,” Maurita noted. The remainder were given to her family members, daughter Manja Peterson Holland (“a passionate…environmentalist [who] manages regional educational programs for the National Wildlife Federation…her Yale Ph.D. study of frogs deformation in New England, Manja developed her understanding of the natural world and discovered her passion for helping others…”); to her husband, Kevin Thompson, a two-time Cornell master’s degree-holder, who, after Peace Corps work in Ghana, “joined IBM, where he established the Corporate Service Corps, an ‘internal Peace Corps'”; and to their son, Nels Holland Thompson, who asked that his gift “be made to his school in order to establish pollinator and rain gardens,” then directed their planting.
“This is my family,” Maurita asserted, proudly. “And I know family is so very important to all of us Rotarians. We are a Rotary family…Let’s gift Rotary…Paul Harris Fellowships are one way…to the next generation of ‘Service Above Self.’ It’s a Great Day to be a Rotarian!”
John returned to the podium amid deafening applause. “This member has changed the workings of our club –,” he exclaimed, “[has given us] an active framework — Maurita Holland, our Distinguished Service Award recipient!” John went over to Maurita, now seated at her table with husband Roger Chard, to present the award. Citing Maurita’s musicianship, John also noted “Roger, as you all know, is a Fabulous vocalist!”
The cheering ebbed only when Barbara Niess-May came up to introduce our speaker. “Steve Schram is a wonderful person. I’ve had the pleasure to sit next to him at lunch many times. And he is also my neighbor as he and Laurie have just built their new house near mine. I don’t want to take up too much time, so I’m just going to say, it is my pleasure to introduce Michigan Radio director, Steve Schram.”
“Barbara is indeed my neighbor, about half an hour away. Thank you for that wonderful introduction, Barb,” Steve began. After a brief pause — an opportunity, really, for his listeners to grip their seats — Steve launched into a fabulous homily on the history of Michigan Radio/WUOM, and what it has meant to our region. “On July 25th WUOM will be 70 years old! I discovered WUOM in school. We couldn’t afford a music teacher, so we would tune into a show, “Festival of Song,” hosted by Edith Albert, a music teacher, on WUOM. The school purchased the [music] books from the station.” After that, and after the mesmerizing experience of listening to favorite radio hosts, Steve was hooked. He started as a reporter, even doing stints as a DJ, when he realized “it’s better to be a general manager than a news reporter.”
Okay, NPR. Steve asked outright: “What is it; how do you find it? It’s 917 member signals in the U.S. WUOM? It’s a public radio service that gets its content from NPR.” He then showed the first of several charts, in this case a map of the U.S., replete with red dots showing the many NPR affiliate stations. Indeed, the huge red daubs around urban centers were so concentrated they looked like a gangster’s chest after the last stand. To put NPR’s reach in perspective, Steve observed “The NPR combined audience is greater than the 64 largest newspapers…There are 17 foreign bureaus, from Beijing to Shanghai to Dakar to Istanbul, and 17 domestic. Satellites are crucial to up-to-the-minute news,” he asserted.
Another chart listed the NPR affiliates in our area, with WUOM-Michigan Radio being the largest by far. “With 510,000 weekly listeners, we can fill Michigan Stadium five times!” His Rotary audience was clearly impressed. “We’re there when you are, with 24/7 audio streaming.” Steve then described the many popular shows on Michigan Radio, from Morning Edition, “with 14.7 million weekly listeners, it’s the largest news program in the country…and All Things Considered, the second most listened-to program.” Steve then cited a special relationship — “The BBC has been broadcast on WUOM since 1948. It used to come in on a 200-pound short wave [unit], but now it’s through satellite, and the BBC hosts sound like they’re in the room with us.” In fact, for Steve the BBC is a source of endless admiration. He described visiting the BBC’s London offices a couple years ago when a terrorist attack in Egypt came over the wires. “James Menendez was on. All of a sudden he got the word in his headset and the programming switched over to the coverage instantly.” That ability of host and programming to turn on a dime in the face of crisis would inspire Steve. He then went on to highlight the different shows on WUOM, from Joshua Johnson’s 1A, successor show to Diane Rehm, to Fresh Air with Terri Gross — “She’s about 4’9″, but is larger than life,” Steve exclaimed, to Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson. About Terri Gross, Steve added, “When conducting an interview, she doesn’t use all her notes. She has a natural curiosity. She just listens, eyes closed, in a dark studio. Normally her guests are on the phone, and they often say things they’ve never revealed to an interviewer before.”
With simply too much information to impart in one report to his patient readers, your reporter will skip a bit to some points Steve would want you to know. Namely, “Please attend the Michigan Radio Open House on June 23, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.” to commemorate the 70th anniversary. Also, “60% of our funds come from YOU, and 24% from corporations.” Then, to close, Steve pointed out, “Michigan Radio is heard in every state, except North Dakota. I feel like traveling there just to get one listener!” And no doubt he will. Congratulations, Steve, and the whole WUOM family!
Applause resounded through the room as John reminded us of JET: “Join leaders, Exchange ideas, Take action! The meeting is adjourned.”
Photos by Fred Beutler