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Charles Tubbs Receives 2021 Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award

Introduced by Steve Goldberg

Top left: Steve Goldberg and Charles Tubbs; Top right: Bob Dinndorf, Charles Tubbs and Charles McLimans

Charles Tubbs is the Director of Dane County Emergency Management, but that’s just part of his story. Charles has been a model of humanitarian service and leadership throughout his entire career, leveraging his skills as a peace-maker, a problem solver, a healer, a mentor, an innovator and a bridge-builder way beyond his profession and across many communities. His lifelong career has been in the field of law enforcement and public safety, and he has approached all of his jobs in this field in much the same way Rabbi Swarsensky would have done.

For example, he has always insisted on treating incarcerated individuals with dignity and respect. That’s what the Rabbi would have done. He places a high priority on protecting the most vulnerable, marginalized citizens in our community and throughout the country. That’s what the Rabbi did. He uses his special talents and insight on mental health and addiction issues to lead local and national initiatives addressing those complex challenges. That’s what the Rabbi would have done.

Ten years ago, Charles placed himself at the center of the prolonged demonstration in and around the State Capitol building to provide a calming influence during a volatile, tense time — much as the Rabbi did during the Vietnam War protests in the sixties. And just like the Rabbi, he places the highest value on each person entrusted to his care. And today this man plays a key role in leading us through the pandemic.

He’s served in leadership roles with local human service organizations, including 100 Black Men of Madison, Journey Mental Health Center, Restoring Roots, Madison’s NAACP Chapter, and many others. 

His nominators wrote: “Charles is engaged in the same fierce pursuit of justice and mercy that made Rabbi Swarsensky such a remarkable gift to our Rotary Club, to the community and to the world. Indeed he lives the very qualities that led our club to establish the Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award.”

He’s the type of humanitarian Rabbi Swarsensky would have been proud to know; proud to work with; and proud to walk with. So it is in that spirit that the Rotary Club of Madison presents the 40th annual Manfred Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award to Charles Tubbs.   

Along with this award, a $2,500 grant is presented by the Madison Rotary Foundation to an agency of the recipient’s choice.  Charles Tubbs has chosen Restoring Roots to receive this grant.  

The Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award was established in 1982 and identifies individuals who have, through their voluntary efforts, made a particularly outstanding contribution to the humanitarian service in the greater Madison community, in the tradition so well exemplified by the life of Rabbi Swarsensky.   The award-winning documentary video, “A Portrait:  Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky,” that was created and produced by Rotarian Dick Goldberg with assistance by Wisconsin Public Television, provides background on Manfred Swarsensky and can be viewed on YouTube, and the Rotary office also has a copy of the video for any member wishing to view it.

The Housing Mixtape: Madison, WI       

November 17, 2021 Rotary Guest Speaker

–submitted by Ellsworth Brown

Justice Castaneda a man on a mission, delivered a distillation of his academic work with the passion and intensity of a community advocate.  He cares deeply about Madison, a city in which he was raised and moved many times before concluding his teenage years.  Castaneda knows intimately the challenges that caused and perpetuate the strictures of redlining, covenants and zoning.  He concluded his presentation with a summary that gives this complex subject a frame:

  • Contemporary housing patterns are limited by historical and contemporary land use policies and practices that contribute significantly to housing volatility, absence of strong community ties, and family cohesiveness.
  • Volatility in housing tenure—sometimes 50% turnover a year—is an undercurrent in pathological associations with concentrated poverty.  For example, affordability of land available for development in Madison is limited to former redline sections that are depressed and underserved, formerly redline sections of the city.  Purchase of this lower-priced land for economic development often removes the availability of affordable housing.
  • Impediments in access to democratic processes and institutions are detrimental to collective efficacy.
  • The structure of local governments, their deliberate pace extending through two or three administrations, limits the use of long-term mitigation strategies.

Castaneda added that the absence in Madison of viable, efficient transportation routes between neighborhoods, services and sources of employment in historically redlined, covenant restricted areas continues to contribute to ongoing volatility of housing.

UW Support of Military Connected Students                                            

–submitted by Bill Haight

Rotary Guest Speakers on November 10, 2021

Joe Rasmussen, Director of University Veteran Services and UW student Brooke Villella addressed the club on the status of veteran students. 

Since the average veteran is 6 years older than the typical student, they are often left  out of the mainstream of campus life. The Veteran Services Office is  moving from a role of being simply a facilitator of benefits, to one of reaching out to make Veterans more inclusive.  Veterans are now a part of the University’s “Identity and Inclusion” initiative, which includes other minority populations. This puts the Veteran Services Office in a more visible position than in recent years. However Veterans have yet to be assigned a dedicated meeting place on campus, a goal the Rotary Veterans Fellowship is helping them attain. 

This link takes you to information about veteran benefits available on campus: This link takes you to a research study on veterans in higher education: VETWAYS – The Veteran Education to Workforce Affinity and Success Study (

If you missed our meeting last week, you can view it here:

Nelson Cummings Receives Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award

Introduced by Renee Moe on October 20, 2021

Nelson Cummings pictured here with Renee Moe (left) and Club President Teresa Holmes (right)

Our club’s Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award is granted in recognition of outstanding club service in the Rotary tradition of “Service Above Self.”  Joseph G. Werner was a committed Rotarian.  He chaired many significant committees, both before and after serving as club president in 1953-54.  He served as district governor and became the second member of this club to serve as director of Rotary International.  He later served Rotary International in many other positions.  Following his death, in 1974, the club established the Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award as the club’s highest recognition for club service.  The Werner honor is not an annual event, but is given under special circumstances when warranted.

Today we are going to recognize Nelson Cummings, a valued member that we all adore, with this prestigious award.  We are pleased that his four sons and other family members are in the audience today as we recognize Nelson.

Nelson was born in Springfield, Illinois on August 18, 1934.  He received an A.B. Degree from Texas College and holds a Master’s Degree from St. Francis College. 

He came to Madison in 1968 to become the first Director of the Madison Urban League.  He later became a counselor at Beloit School System and worked for Madison Public Schools and Wisconsin Education Association.

Within the community, Nelson has served on the boards of Catholic Charities, Dane County Mental Health Center, Madison Hospital Foundation and Four Lakes Council of the Boy Scouts.  He also was a member of the Madison Redevelopment Authority for 10 years.

In 1969, Nelson was the first African American to join our Rotary Club.  He maintained 100% attendance starting in 1973 until the pandemic caused us to stop holding in-person meetings last year.  In fact, Nelson holds the third longest record of 100% attendance in our club, and he has enjoyed seeing 52 club presidents up here at our podium.

He was on our club’s bowling team and led the Civic Bowling League for 40 years.  He bowled every year until he retired.  Nelson says that even though it was sometimes lonely because others in the league did not look like him, he was accepted and enjoyed the company of so many Rotarians.  He says “I love Rotary!  You meet so many fine people you would not otherwise meet.  I come to meetings because I enjoy it. It has broadened my opportunities, and it is educational.”  He takes Rotary’s Four-Way Test to heart, and he is especially proud of the scholarship program and the many students we are able to assist each year in obtaining a college education. Nelson says the greatest Rotary event he recalls is when women were allowed to join in 1987.  Nelson has been a long-time volunteer of our annual Rotary Ethics Symposium, and he loves greeting the students and helping them feel welcome at our event.  Nelson has also served on our Club Board of Directors. 

Nelson is a pillar of our Rotary Club.  He is always a friendly face in our audience, and he makes everyone he meets feel welcomed.  We enjoy his company, and the recognition we are providing to him today is so well deserved.

It gives me great pleasure to recognize Nelson Cummings as our 30th recipient of the Rotary Club of Madison Joseph G Werner Meritorious Service Award.   Congratulations, Nelson!

Nelson Cummings pictured here with his four sons.

Club President Teresa Holmes: In Her Own Words

Today is our official kickoff to the Rotary year so I wanted to share a bit on my personal background, Rotary journey, and what you can expect from me during the evolving aspects of our year together. 

I am the oldest of three children born to a mother who worked in various areas of law enforcement and a father who served in the Navy.  Over the years, I’ve tried to make it a habit of asking for what I need so if I sounds like I’m telling you instead, please don’t take it personally; giving others instructions is a part of my history.  I’m a native of Milwaukee and for years lived one block away from the core of the original site where Juneteenth Day is celebrated. Most of my family members still live in Milwaukee so my other home is not far away.

I often refer to myself as a twice transplant to Madison, as I initially moved here in 1989 to work for what was is now Alliant Energy but moved back to Milwaukee after only 5 years. At that time, I would’ve been known as a Gen Z, and my mom, who by then had transitioned into the Human Services field, encouraged me to follow my heart knowing that I had aspirations for changing the dynamics of how users experienced working with computing professionals.  By the time I was 23, I had several experiences with initiating change within teams, systems and corporations in the US and in other countries through the use of my natural gift to simplify tedious processes whether manual or technological.  I had no idea that I’d return to Madison 20 years later after creating my own firm, now Exponential Endeavors. I lead a team of Solution Architects, who have backgrounds in either engineering, technology or creative arts and are identifying efficient and innovative ways to transform manual processes thru technology or reduce the time it takes to implement technology engagements.  I can speak tech English, folks! Right before the pandemic, I was asked to utilize my business model to assist a company in Madison with rapid redesign of its entire technology infrastructure and because of the need to pivot quickly when the stay-at-home order began in March of last year, my team and I were able to do the same for companies locally and throughout the Midwest while leading them into resiliency during the COVID year.  So, change and doing things sooner than initially planned is ‘in my lane’.  Did you know that I was supposed to be your president – next year?  

My Rotary journey began only 5 years ago in May of 2016 after being invited to attend the Scholarship luncheon by then Rotarian Derrick Van Mell.  I had been asked to join the organization before but declined because of what I believed was not present in the room.  Attending one luncheon can make all the difference and after seeing the scholarships awarded to 25 local students – I said Yes without hesitancy.  Service is a part of my DNA as I come from a long line of WI and Texan public servants and prior to that experience lacked the awareness I now have of the Rotary Club of Madison.  

My first year of my Rotary service, I attended the international convention held in Atlanta, Georgia, and couldn’t believe what Rotarians were doing locally and internationally and have dug in my heels since then to Connect, Grow and Serve where led and often asked to do so. I’m a person with a deep sense of Faith and belief in the ability to dream and live well throughout the process of evolving circumstances.  A few of you have cautioned me not to use the podium as my ‘pulpit’, fret not. I don’t need a pulpit when an expansive mission field is right before me.

The accelerated transition to VP caused me to get to know many of you in ways that I’ve enjoyed while also growing in the understanding of the traditions this club and Rotary International hold near and dear. I’m looking forward to spending time with many of you, while walking, dining, at local activities that combine those two or a fellowship or community event.

As we serve, the evolving aspect of changes we’ll all be affected by and journey through are not intended to harm or hinder our organization from continued success and service – rather meant to create more continuity within the organization while better positioning our service teams – our committees to execute their creative ideas throughout our community.  The ideas presented and approved by leaders w/in this club are meant to be seen and experienced far beyond a single term of the presidency so our club’s VP-Paul Hoffman and others who follow him will carry the torch of ideas forward and brightly! Throughout the year, I’ll lead the way in communicating and navigating the various aspects of how we’ll enhance what we’re doing.

Being President of our club wasn’t what I thought I’d be doing at the end of my board term.  As I reflect while dreaming, I realize it has become an extended part of my journey of Service above Self!  I’m honored and humbled to serve as our club president. Thank you for such an opportunity!

Highlights: Year End Rotary Meeting June 30, 2021


   The Changing of the Guard, (or as Andrea Kaminski put it, Jorge’s transition to the “famed Past President’s Club and to oblivion, disrespect, benign neglect, etc.”) had elements of commendation, praise, pins, and a plaque . . . Past President’s pin and plaque presented by Jason Beren, Paul Harris Fellow pin AND a heavy gift bag that Past President presenter Donna Moreland hoped was as good as the one she received, the new President’s pin presented by Jorge Hidalgo to Teresa Holmes (comes with a gavel and a big bell), and the Vice President’s pin that Teresa presented to Paul Hoffmann.

   President Jorge held the stage as long as he could, although for the better, sharing the podium with others.  Dawn Crim, Madison Rotary Foundation Vice President, summarize the past year’s work of the Foundation, which provided $749,000 in community support. $45,000 was also raised from our members for the Rotary International Foundation annual campaign.

   Jorge introduced Jenni Jeffress, chair of our Community Projects Committee, who provided highlights of six volunteer opportunities by 51 members, many for more than one project.

   Jorge pointed out that Jenni is among 40 members of the club who served as chairs of committees in the past year and that the majority of the club members made good use of technology to continue participation, as did over half of the 29 fellowship groups that met online.

   Best of all, both Jorge and Teresa shared a few thoughts.  Teresa’s were prospective, promising fun, change, and even better food—and more information will be shared in her inaugural speech on July 14th

   Jorge’s view was retrospective:  full of thanks for committee chairs and many hands of help and especially for Jason Beren and Brian Basken for their heroic video work for every virtual meeting.  (Jorge failed to thank them for their thoughtful documentation of Jorge Bloopers we were shown). 

   In his “swan song” (thankfully he didn’t actually sing), Jorge attempted to salvage his reputation, citing a few reasons why he should be remembered and proclaiming himself to be our Club’s “best . . . “ (wait for it) . . .”virtual president”.  He closed with his plans for the future, including making cold calling to sell Medicare supplemental insurance and reverse mortgages for retirees. 

   Thank you, Past President Jorge, for a challenging job well done.  And congratulations, President Teresa, on the promise of your vision and your willingness to serve.

   Our thanks to Ellsworth Brown for serving as photographer and summary article writer. Visit our club’s blog and facebook page for more photos.