Category Archives: 2. Meetings

November 30: Dr Niraj Nijhawan on Recent Brain Science Discoveries

–submitted by Larry Larrabee

Dr. Niraj Nijhawan’s presentation, Brain Science Discoveries to Boost Resilience and Character, revealed the role brain neurology plays in communication of “the lower brain,” largely the limbic system and “the higher brain,” largely the orbital prefrontal cortex, i.e., our selfish side and our better character side.

He described how the Life Ecology Organization (LEO) teaches individuals in groups “Hope Narratives” that can control or limit the effects of the “Destructive Narratives” we get from our “lower brain.”  Data was presented showing the positive effect of LEO with adults and teens in the areas of meaning, love and purpose, while significantly reducing suicidality, anger and selfishness.

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

November 9: Women Veterans Then and Now

–submitted by Janet Piraino

Jodi Barnett, Women’s Veteran Coordinator at the State Department of Veterans Affairs,  spoke to the club about the challenges of being a woman in the military.  She talked about the discrimination she faced, such as the time she was told at a veterans’ meeting that the women’s auxiliary met on Tuesdays.  Or, the time she was told at the VA Hospital that she could not sign in for her husband.  

She also highlighted the gains women veterans are making as the fastest growing demographic of veterans. She credited State DVA Secretary Mary Kolar (the first female Wisconsin DVA secretary) as helping her and other women veterans break the glass ceiling. She praised the election of Verona Veteran Denise Rohan as the American Legion’s first female national commander in the group’s 100+ year history.  She also applauded the first all-female Wisconsin Honor Flight that took 88 women veterans to Washington, D.C. in May to visit the nation’s war memorials.

Barnett praised Wisconsin services for veterans and encouraged club members to check out the I Am Not Invisible campaign currently traveling around Wisconsin to increase awareness of and facilitate dialogue about women veterans. 

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

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.

August 10: At the 50-Year Mark, the Dane County Farmers’ Market is Still Going Strong!

–submitted by Sharyn Alden

During the August 10 Rotary meeting, Market Manager Jamie Bugel provided an interesting history and updates about the iconic market on the Capitol Square.

When Jamie Bugel talked about the ‘Dane County Farmers’ Market, a fixture on the Capitol Square since 1972, she knew her stats.

“Fifty years ago the market started with 11 farmers, but by the next weekend 85 farmers showed up,” she said.

It didn’t take long for one of Madison’s best-kept secrets to start growing exponentially. Bugel pointed out last week there’s a major difference in how and where vendors are located on the Square compared to when the market first opened.

In its early years, vendors just showed up and took the best spots around the Square they could find. “Sometimes they would arrive at 4 in the morning and sleep on the Square to save a spot and secure the best foot traffic.”

Since 1991, though, that method of ‘finders keepers’ went away. The model since the early 90s the location is based on how many years a vendor has been part of the market.

Bugel said there are currently 230 members (farmers/vendors) of the Dane County Farmers’ Market, yet her staff is “just two and a half’ associates. On an average Saturday on the Square there are about 100 vendors offering products.”  When asked how a business can become a Farmers’ Market vendor she said, “You don’t have to milk the cows that supply milk for your cheese, but you do have to be the owner of the business you represent, and you must be active in the production of the food or goods you sell.”

As the number of vendors has grown, today’s Dane County Farmer’s Market is a unique repository of food and other products that are grown and made locally. Sometimes they are new to shoppers on the Square.

Bugel gave an example of some of the market’s unusual products. “Black currants, which are more common in Europe are now one of the products you might find when you’re at the market,” she said.

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

July 20: The Power of a Grand Civic Vision: Monona Terrace

–submitted by Ellsworth Brown

Who knew that 115 years ago Madisonian John Olin, believing that Madison was a special place, engaged John Nolen, a preeminent city planner from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to produce a 1911 plan for Madison that became a preeminent example of the urban landscape movement?  And who knew that John Nolen,  author of projects for well over a dozen cities, created plans as well for the Tenney Park-Yahara River Parkway, the UW, and Wisconsin’s state park system?  And especially, who knew that the track of Nolen’s plans affirmed a four-generation vision for Madison that inspired the city, county, state, non-profit organizations and private funding to give us Monona Terrace and leave its traces in a Downtown 2000 Master Plan including 1.7 miles of Lake Monona waterfront, a six-fold increase in the tiff valuation since 1995, a new State Museum, the Overture Center, hotels that will soon double room numbers within two blocks of Monona Terrace, and an affirmed self-confidence in Madison’s common future? 

George Austin knew, and he shared it with us on Wednesday, July 20.  The exceptional attendance at Wednesday’s meeting honored his 23-year career with the city, including 15 years as Planning and Development Director and leader of the Monona Terrace project; and now the Wisconsin History Center’s project manager. 

This is one of Madison’s greatest stories, told to us by the successor to the visions that preceded him.

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

“As Rotarians, We Stand Up”

–submitted by 2022-23 Club President Paul Hoffmann

It is the beginning of our Rotary year and I am looking forward to my year as president of the Rotary Club of Madison. I am truly honored.

Let’s put the challenges of the pandemic behind us and rediscover what we love about Rotary.

While we have an incredible club, my goal is to leave the club even stronger with our members even more engaged.

  1. As I was thinking about Rotary and my comments today, I was thinking about what I love about Rotary.
    1. Well, there are so many things…the typical things came to mind.
      1. Our scholarships, our community grants, our exchange programs, our service projects, and of course connecting with so many people from our community. I also love to hear our speakers each week.
  • One unique thing that I love about Rotary is that we STAND UP!
    • Think back to when you first joined Rotary. One of the things that always impressed me about our club is how often we stand up.
    • As a Catholic, I can say Rotarians stand up even more often!
  • We stand up to start our meeting.
    • We stand up, united as Rotarians.
    • We stand up, out of respect for each other.
    • Out of respect for Rotary.
    • Out of respect for our country.
    • We stand up. Recite our 4-way pledge. Sing a patriotic song. Greet each other from across the table and even across the room. Smile and wave.
  • We stand up to recognize our new members. Remember how good that felt to be welcomed to the club!
    • Not just with some nice, polite clapping.
    • No, we vigorously stand up to show our respect.
    • To show them we recognize their accomplishments.
    • To say “Welcome to our club.”
    • To demonstrate we are grateful to have you join us.
    • Grateful to have your help to create lasting change.
    • I love that we honor all our new members by standing up!
  • We stand up to recognize people receiving awards from our club.
    • Whether it is for outstanding senior service, service to our club, service to our community or anytime we feel someone deserves recognition – WE STAND UP!
    • We stand up to say “I am with you”, “I recognize you”, and “I appreciate you”.
    • I love that it is not something we have to be asked to do.
    • We all just scramble to stand up and recognize someone because they provide “service above self.”
  • You get my point, as Rotarians, we stand up.
    • Not just physically, but we stand up against injustice in our community and our world.
    • We stand up by teaching young students an ethical framework to make moral decisions in their lives.
    • We stand up by providing over $750,000 a year to create lasting change.
    • We stand up and serve to make our world a better place.
  • We stand up in so many ways as Rotarians…and that is one of reasons I love being a Rotarian.
  • As I think about how we can be a stronger club, I feel it is by re-engaging you as members to help you rediscover what brought you to Rotary in the first place…and maybe has kept you in Rotary since.
  • We don’t need any more members of our club.
    • Yes, I said it. We don’t “need” any more members.
    • It would be awesome, but it is not necessary.
    • Think about it. We are a top 10 club in the world.
      • We already have 426 members of our club.
      • Amazing people. Incredible people. Interesting people. Generous people.
      • Members united because they want to serve.
      • Members connecting and building a community.
      • Members growing because of all we have to offer as a club.
      • Members that imagine the world can be a better place.
  • Let’s focus on engaging with the members we already have.
    • Let’s focus on making our members count; not counting our members.
      • Let’s connect and welcome the members we already have.
      • Let’s focus on making our club even stronger, more welcoming, more effective and more fun.
  • Let’s focus on welcoming and engaging our members.
    • I have a challenge for all of you.
      • First of all, come to our meetings when you can.  Put it back on your schedules.
        • Of course, you don’t have to. We don’t have an attendance requirement anymore.
        • But, come to the meetings to see your friends.
        • Come to the meeting to hear great speakers and learn something new.
        • Come to the meetings to meet new people.
          • I have an idea – what if you made it your goal to meet someone new at every meeting.
            • Maybe it is someone you are waiting in the buffet line with. Invite them to sit at your table.
            • Introduce yourself. Purposely, try to connect with someone.
            • I can guarantee you will end up meeting them again – at a meeting or out in the community.
            • Let’s make our meetings a welcoming place to be.
          • I have another idea. Let’s all try to get to your tables by noon – sitting down by noon.
            • Yes, the meeting will still start at 12:10 pm.
            • Give yourself at least 10 minutes to greet all the people at your table.
            • Give yourself at least 10 minutes to eat and share a meal with interesting people.
            • Please, don’t short-change your Rotary experience!
  • Let’s focus on re-engaging by doing what our club does even better.
    • For example, each year we award 25 new four-year scholarships.
      • Who in the room thinks that is amazing?
      • Now, who in the room thinks that is enough?
        • We do scholarships well. Really well. It is one of the best things we do.
        • We just might do scholarships better than any other organization in this community.
        • We get amazing scholars. We provide them with mentors.
      • What if we imagined doing it even better? We can do it.
    • Let’s bring back our Rotary Ethics Symposium and make it even better.
    • Let’s focus on making our community grants process even better.
  • Let’s re-engage as members of our club. Let’s re-engage as Rotarians.
    • Please commit to participating in a service project this year.
      • Invite your friends along to help us do a service project.
      • People will come to know us as by the good work we do.
    • Please commit to attending at least 50% of our meetings.
      • Thank you for coming to our lunch meeting today.
      • Every week our numbers are growing and it is fun to be here.
      • Invite someone to come have lunch and learn something new!
    • Please commit to go to a fellowship group, to connect with other members over a glass of wine, an amazing meal, an interesting book, a beautiful hike or bike ride, a fun day shooting clays, or helping to serve our veterans.
    • Please commit to re-engage.
      • And when we re-engage, we will naturally attract new members.
    • Let’s grow our club by making it a welcoming place – for everyone.
  • So, what do you love about Rotary?
    • And I am asking you to rediscover Rotary all over again this year.
    • I am asking you to re-engage as Rotarians.
    • Come out of your pandemic fog and let’s have some fun.
  1. Together, let’s make the Rotary Club of Madison even stronger for generations to come.
    1. Be proud you are a Rotarian.
    1. And not just any Rotarian.
    1. You are a member of the Rotary Club of Madison.
  • I look forward to a great Rotary year with all your help.
  • Thank you for being Rotarians!