President Greg rang the Rotary bell, signally the opening of the meeting. He nodded to Katie Bauer, who came to the podium to deliver the Inspiration — and a stunner it was. “One hundred years ago the fighting in World War I ended,” Katie began. She then read quotes from Presidents Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy, among others, in commemoration of the centenary of Armistice Day (when our Club was only two years old). On November 11, 1919, on the first anniversary of the Armistice, Wilson issued an address to the American people; its third paragraph captured the hopes of millions for the future:
“Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.”
Of course, intervening years would reveal the vulnerabilities of that peace and lead to another world war, but in the U.S. thoughts turned to commemorate all those who have served in our armed forces. Veteran’s Day would be celebrated nationally for the first time in 1947, and in 1954 the holiday would be established by Congress.
After Katie’s address, Greg announced that she would be selling HOOLA jewelry again outside the ballroom when we meet on December 5. “All proceeds will go to the Rotary Endowment,” Katie declared. It will be a great opportunity to acquire beautifully designed jewelry ahead of the holidays.
Our highly energetic song leader, Don Devine, then lead us in lively renditions of Great War stalwarts “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile,” of 1915, when the world realized the fighting wouldn’t be over by Christmas, and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” As Don pointed out, “You know, Snoopy revived these songs in his dogfights with the Red Baron.” In addition to Snoopy’s fierce determination and nonchalant fatalism evinced in the television special “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” the songs would again garner public acclaim as a result of Blake Edwards’ 1970 film, “Darling Lily.” In the opening music hall scene, Julie Andrews’ character restores the spirits of her audience during a nighttime Zeppelin raid. No doubt spirits were high among the Rotarians as they belted out the tunes.
Greg then asked Past President Ashish Sarkar to come up to the podium. Ashish would speak to the topic of “Leveraging International Grants for Dummies,” as well as bestow an award to a very special Rotarian. It wouldn’t be long before his listeners would learn the name of the recipient — Past President Karen Kerry. “On behalf of the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor,” Ashish began, “it is my privilege to award the Distinguished Service Award to an individual I have known, respected and worked with for the last several years. This individual is totally dependable, charming and easy to work with…Her optimism and love of life is contagious…She is the eldest of 5 children and grew up in Ann Arbor attending public schools…After graduation from Huron High School…she attended Duke University…on an academic scholarship. She returned to Ann Arbor to attend University of Michigan Dental School…she worked for a well-known dentist in town before for a few years before joining her mother’s practice. By now, most of you should have guessed that our awardee today is our club’s Past President Karen Kerry.”
Ashish went on to cite Karen’s manifold accomplishments, including her sporting competitiveness — “an avid bicyclist…but her real passion is volleyball” — her loving marriage to Brad and their pride in their “four beautiful daughters, as well as Karen’s superb leadership as president (“I called her Boss Lady”), and as point-person for many philanthropic endeavors; perhaps most notably, the establishment of the annual “Stories of Service” veteran celebration which has led to the imminent groundbreaking for Michigan’s first Fisher House. In recognizing this achievement, which is underscored by the raising of $3.4 million, Ashish noted, “I know it would not have been possible for anyone other than Karen to achieve this goal.” All voiced their approbation and stood as Ashish concluded his remarks, “So with deepest gratitude, it is my pleasure to present this DSA to my friend, the Boss Lady, our fearless leader, the General and the Renaissance Woman, Dr. Karen D. Kerry.”
“This is the most amazing thing that has ever happened in my life,” Karen expressed to the assembly. “I love my mom and dad, and Brad, you’re the best…and I know who gave the interview!” Ashish then presented the award, signed by District Governor Jane MacManus, and accompanied by a citation from Governor Snyder. Husband and fellow-Rotarian, Brad Chick, would come to the podium to emphasize the importance of the Fisher House: “It was really born in this club.” As for the annual Stories of Service commemoration, Brad said “They begin with a presentation by Art Holst, his ‘Freedom Isn’t Free,’ which you have all heard. A few years ago, our [Rotary meeting] speaker, Kim Barnes Arico [U-M Women’s Basketball Head Coach], couldn’t even give her speech she was so moved.”
Art Holst came up next. “I treasure the friendship I have with Karen,” he began. “And she chose a great husband.” He then asked: “What was the first project this club did, in 1916? It was to buy a mule for Colonel Peck, who was going to World War I.” Now, some say the mule was actually a horse, but no matter, the point was made. Art’s message of sacrifice, of Service Above Self, was spotlighted by his reminiscence of his good friend, Bob Kemp, “who I went to school with and served with — he was killed in 1944…No, freedom isn’t free.”
Shelley MacMillan, fellow-Rotarian, Glacier Hills Foundation director, and all-round actor-singer, announced the next Wine, Women & Song: “Thursday, January 24th, at 7:30 p.m., at Kerrytown Concert House. Fliers are on the table outside.” Reservations can be taken by Social Committee members, including this reporter.
Past President Maurita Holland, visiting from the UP, described her move back home: “What we do in Rotary is really needed up there.” As we would all expect, Maurita is a catalyst for much humanitarian work in the Upper Peninsula, an embodiment of Service Above Self. Bravo, Maurita!
Speaker: PP John Ackenhusen came forward next to introduce our speaker: “Alfred O. Hero is the John H. Holland (yes, of our own Maurita) Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and the R. Jamison and Betty Williams Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan. Al has won several awards from the U-M in engineering. He is also quite a musician. I look forward to his remarks on the junction of music and data science.”
Hearty applause greeted Dr. Hero as he made his way to the podium. “Thank you, John, my colleague, for explaining data science in your introduction. And it’s great to see another colleague, Fred Beutler. Tom Strode actually helped me to sing again, when my voice broke at age 12!” Dr. Hero then established what many in the audience have long believed: “The relationship between math and music is longstanding. As Pythagoras said, ‘There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.’ There is Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’… but the link with data science is resent. We’re basically using data science to to quantify world music traditions. [This can] be [of assistance] in teaching music composition and improvisation, and can [highlight] where they intersect with other media that convey sensitivities.” A prime focus, according to Hero, is “understanding how the brain processes music, such as Bach’s sonatas.” One way this is being done is by “translating” musical performance by using data, and translating that to mathematical representation. He cited research by Danny Forger of the U-M Mathematics Department, and John Kibbee, an organist also at the U-M. Actually, both are musicians. They are studying, among other things, performance styles, which they graph. One heading was titled “Understanding and Mining Patterns of Auditory Engagement and Creative Collaboration in Large-scale Crowdsourced Music Performance.” “These studies are conducted in stadiums,” Hero noted.
A fascinating aspect of the research is a kind of forensic “application of machine learning with song” that may allow for the reconstruction of lost passages of music: “Sometimes a segment of a piece is missing.” Dr. Hero pointed out that each facet of research will be highlighted in a music performance.
Greg thanked our speaker warmly, then repeated the line attributed to John Wayne in the film “Sands of Iwo Jima”: “Life is tough. But it’s tougher when you’re stupid!” He then wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving. And remember — there is no meeting next Wednesday.