Author Archives: jaynecoster

September 28: Know Madison: Annual Vocational Fellowship Day Highlights

Photo 1: Breese Stevens Field; Photo 2: Children’s Theater of Madison at MYARTS

Instead of our regular meeting at the Park Hotel, members enjoyed an opportunity to get to know one another better in small groups as they toured and learned about various Madison area businesses.

Photo 1: RISE Wisconsin; Photo 2: WI Historical Society

The idea behind this annual luncheon goes back to the founding of the organization in 1905 when Paul Harris met with three friends to discuss an idea that he had been developing.  From this discussion came the concept of a business club to promote fellowship and, by rotating weekly meetings at their various places of business, become better acquainted with one another’s vocations.  This practice of rotating meetings is how Rotary got its name.

Photo 1: Holy Wisdom Monastery; Photo 2: Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District

In this spirit, club members and guests visited one of eight sites this week.  Our Vocational Day Sub-Committee wishes to thank the following hosts: 

  • Mark Clear – Breese Stevens Field
  • Allen Ebert – Children’s Theater of Madison at MYARTS
  • Jason Ilstrup – Dane County Airport
  • Bob Dinndorf & Charles McLimans – Holy Wisdom Monastery
  • Michael Mucha – Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District
  • Scott Strong – RISE Wisconsin
  • Christian Overland – WI Historical Society
  • Terry Anderson – WI State Senate


Photo 1: Dane County Airport; Photo 2: WI State Senate

Some comments from club members:

“It was an amazing tour! A continuation of excellent programs this year!”

“The presentation and tour were instructive, well organized and fascinating! Good food too!”

Visit our club’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages for more photos.

September 21: Report on South Madison Renaissance

–submitted by Ellsworth Brown

Ruben Anthony, Alex Gee, and Karen Menendez Coller presented a well-coordinated report on Madison’s dynamic South Madison Renaissance in a series of five-minute presentations and sequenced responses to queries by Past President Teresa Holmes. 

The South Park Street development, totaling $150 million dollars and with construction well underway, will change the face of South Park Street, a key freeway entrance to Madison, a central street through the community and bring dramatic affirmation to the area’s residents and businesses. 

Karen emphasized especially Centro Hispano’s greatly expanded new quarters at Cypress and Hughes Place, its affirmative effect on a fast-growing population and a heightened level of community collaboration. 

Alex noted that the initiatives complement combined leadership, a sentiment mentioned by all three panelists and an emphasis on a reaffirmed Black culture of great depth as an offset to increasing area gentrification. 

Rubin spoke about the Black Business Hub now being erected, combining new offices for established organizations with parallel training facilities for the workforce and for new initiatives. 

As one panelist said, “Madison deserves this.”  A standing ovation by a roomful of Rotarians signaled agreement!

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

September 14: A Lesson on Beethoven’s 9th

–submitted by Ellsworth Brown

A Rotary program like none we’ve experienced before, presented with words and at keyboard by Maestro John DeMain with violin, clarinet, and bass—

Identifying revolutionary combinations of symphonic themes, new compositional approaches, and an unforgettably powerful last movement, the work of a deaf composer—

Discussing the Beethoven’s veiled human agenda on behalf of freedom, expressed not only in music, but also in word.

DeMain, renowned Madison Symphony Musical Director of 28 years, and a miniature orchestra explained and illustrated the four movements of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony:

  • The first, of longing and musical disputes
  • The second, a “farce” (so labeled by Beethoven), motor-driven in rhythm by three, then two opening notes, then a return to three
  • The third movement, a strong, slow melody of “excessive tenderness”
  • The fourth, unforgettable “Ode to Joy” with chorus to provide words calling for freedom, using as its anchor Friedrich Schiller’s poem of that name when music alone would not suffice

The program closed with the entire Rotary audience, using the language of “la, la, la”, singing the tune all seemed to know, accompanied by the four instruments.

For further information, please use this link about the symphony and the poem by Schiller:

September 7: “Teach Like Democracy Depends on It”

–submitted by Janet Piraino

UW School of Education Dean Diana Hess told Rotarians on September 7th that political education teaches students how to present their arguments and engage with people who have views different from their own.  It helps students assess the difference between propaganda and the truth.  It teaches them how to select strong leaders and develop opinions on issues.  It also builds a healthy democracy and helps create meaningful solutions to today’s issues. 

But because it’s not required, 30% of Wisconsin school districts don’t teach civics.  Instead of engaging their kids in thoughtful analyses of multiple competing views, many parents want the curriculum to mirror their views. And many schools shy away from controversy, which is the lifeblood of democracy. 

Hess believes we should double down on political education rather than quieting down.  At a time when our democracy is at risk, our schools should be a building block of diverse thinking and not a mirror that reflects a community’s dominant political views.

She recommends teachers “Teach like democracy depends on it. Because it does!”

Our thanks to WisEye for videotaping our meeting this week. You can watch it here: WisEYE Sept 14

August 31: Getting to Know the Inter-Workings of the Madison Fire Department

–submitted by Rich Leffler

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Our speaker on August 31 was Chief of the Madison Fire Department Chris Carbon. (His grandfather, Max Carbon, was, for many years, a member of our club.) He offered a general overview of the Department, noting that there are 35,000 requests for service every year; the vast majority of which are not to put out fires. The department has many special-service teams to handle the different kinds of service people require. He emphasized two. The Community Paramedic Program aims to identify peoples’ needs and to build relationships with the public. There is a partnership with UW Health and Meriter. One of the primary goals is to reduce return visits to the ER and enable greater independence of patients. 

The CARE program is a collaboration with the police to deal with mental-health crises. In non-violent situations, mental health professionals and paramedics try to resolve the situation. Calls for this service have increased since its inception; there have been 900 calls so far. An analysis is going on to determine how well the program is working. 

This fall, the department will begin a recruitment process. One hope is to improve the diversity of the department: the goal is to recruit people who are compassionate and understand the complexity of the Madison community. In response to a question about how to inspire Latinx and other minority people to become fire fighters, Chief Carbon said that the recruiting team will seek to establish partnerships with community groups to help in the effort, and he invited the questioner to meet with him to talk further. 

The Chief had to leave at 12:45pm, and Assistant Chief Ché Stedman continued answering questions. He said that response teams of health professionals and paramedics were key to dealing with people suffering from dementia; to resolve a critical situation; and to know how to find additional help. The most challenging calls were those involving children in distress. He explained that fire fighters work two consecutive twenty-four-hour shifts per week, which leaves time for family and also for socializing with the families of their colleagues. He explained that when a crisis involves an armed person, that becomes a matter for the police to handle. But of the 900 calls for the CARE program, only two percent of the cases required police action. 

This was a terrifically informative and encouraging program. Not only did the Chiefs explain the department, but they also gave evidence that they and their colleagues were public servants truly dedicated to serving the people of Madison.

NOTE: This week’s Rotary meeting was not videotaped.

August 24: Ben Schumaker’s Talk about The Memory Project—Portraits of Kindness, he Founded, Likely Will Stay in Rotarians’ Memories for a Long Time

–submitted by Sharyn Alden

It’s hard to imagine how you might feel if someone you’ve never met drew a beautiful likeness of your face based only from a photo. It’s a special gift from a high school art student from across the world.

Art can be a connector of kindness throughout the world even during times of extraordinary stress. That’s one of the main takeaways from Ben Schumaker’s memorable program.

In 2003, as a graduate student at UW-Madison, Ben traveled to Guatemala as a volunteer to work in an orphanage. When he returned to Madison the seed of an excellent globally beneficial idea was formed.

Schumaker thought if young artists could draw a child in a disenfranchised country and give them a portrait of their face it could foster kindness, joy and hope throughout the world.

“It’s just that simple,” said Schumaker. “Many of the portrait recipients have never seen a photo of themselves much less have someone take the time to draw their portrait.”

The results of that simple idea are staggering. Since the Memory Project was born 18 years ago, it has connected 300,000 people in 56 countries. Even the State Department in Washington D.C. recognized the value of the project via a portrait presentation. 

The Project connects high school artists in the U.S. with youth living in challenging situations. High school art departments receive photos of young people in other countries that have been collected by the Memory Project. On the back of the portrait the art student draws one of their own hands. It’s another connector when the recipient puts their hand on top of the artist.

For 12 years the program focused on connecting with orphanages, but in 2017, it began including refugee camps.

Shumaker shared a personal story of getting to know a widow in Kabul, Afghanistan, with three children. “This is one of the hardest countries in the world to just be a girl,” Schumaker said. After the Taliban took control last August his heart sank knowing the two young girls in this family would not get be able to go to back to school.

The family asked if he could help them in their dangerous attempt to flee to Pakistan. “I told them I didn’t know what I could do but I’d try,” he said. He connected with a contact in Pakistan who helped them out but they arrived with no documents. Basically, they were stuck.

“But then, you won’t believe who got involved,” he said. A photo of the Malala Fund was shown on screen; the international, non-profit organization, co-founded by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.

The family eventually reached Canada where Schumaker met up with them. “They all gave me a hug,” he said.  “Women in their faith and culture can only hug men who are family members. “Without question, this meant a lot to me,” he said.

If you missed last week’s Rotary meeting, you can watch the video here: