Category Archives: 2. Meetings

“Adversity — An Opportunity for Growth”

submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Melvin Juette 12 11 19

Club President Andrea Kaminski pictured here with Melvin Juette

The presenter at our December 11 meeting is the Director of Dane Counties District Attorney’s Office of Deferred Prosecution, Melvin Juette.  He gave a very inspirational presentation starting with a brief history of his life from the time he was paralyzed by a gunshot wound at 16 on the south side of Chicago.  As he says, “My life went from earning respect by intimidating others to earning it by hard work.”

Wheelchair basketball inspired him and carried him to two gold medals in the Para-Olympics before moving to Dane County.  His story is about those who positively affected his life and helped him realize it’s ability that counts, not disability.

In 2008 he authored Wheelchair Warrior.  Melvin says, “I can control how I react to adversity.  Adversity is an opportunity for growth.”  He and his wife have been foster parents to 82 children, seven of whom they have adopted.  He uses his life experiences in his work with those who choose differed prosecution to help them realize that it’s not about blaming others but about using adversity to become a better person.

He used the story of his life to inspire us, and his life is truly inspirational.  Melvin can be proud of his life, and we can be proud to have him as a part of our community where he serves others.

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

Brad Hutter Talks About Sharks at 4th Annual Bring Your Child/Grandchild to Rotary Day

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Mike Engelberger

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Fellow Rotarian Bradley Hutter, “The Accidental Shark Diver”, gave an illustrated talk (lots of pictures and video!) about his unique experiences while scuba diving with sharks, including Tigers, Bulls, Hammerheads and Great Whites.

Brad Hutter 7 24 2019   Brad got into swimming with sharks “by accident” — he was scuba diving in Stuart Cove, Nassau, Bahamas, and was asked to be a safety diver by the staff of the Discovery Channel who were there filming sharks in the area.

Brad shared that sharks are typically shy and avoid humans. Sharks are in the fish family and half the species are under 39” long; some sharks can rotate their eyes backwards but they cannot swim backwards – so if they are coming towards you, just guide them along past you; some sharks have up to 30,000 teeth in a lifetime; and some deep cold water species can live to be 1,000 years old!  Sharks are apex predators and are very important to sea life balance.

He gave the audience some “tourist based shark rules” to follow if we ever find ourselves in the water with a shark nearby:

  • Don’t swim away, in fact, lean forward, even just a little bit.
  • Put your hands up in a blocking mode.
  • Look the shark in the eye! If you avert your eyes you become vulnerable; Respect sharks.
  • Swivel your head while keeping your eyes on the shark’s eyes.
  • Don’t swim in cloudy water – you may be mistaken for something sharks actually like to eat, like a seal.
  • Avoid dolphins as sharks may be in the area and about to feed on them.

Brad shared that on average, 10 people per year are killed by sharks (because the shark mistook the person as food they eat or the person got in the way of sharks feeding) and by comparison, 725,000 people per year are killed by mosquitos and 25,000 are killed by dogs.  Humans kill ~100,000 sharks per year and some species are down to 5% left.

Mismanaged plastic waste is a big concern for our oceans with China being the biggest polluter. Work needs to be done to stop countries like China from putting plastics in the ocean and laws are needed to outlaw fishing for fins.

Brad has enjoyed learning about sharks over the past seven years as he’s worked with experts seen regularly on Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week”, National Geographic, and Animal Planet. It’s a family affair as Brad’s daughters are now avid shark divers themselves.

Brad has a saying – “Live every week like it’s shark week.”

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

How to Make Time for What Matters…

submitted by Linda Baldwin; photo by Mike Engelberger


From let: Club President Andrea Kaminski, John Zeratsky and Past President Jason Beren

How many times have you thought what happened to my week?  Why didn’t I accomplish what I wanted?

John Zeratsky would say that defaults have taken over your life.  It’s not your lack of self-control or willpower.  It’s all of the electronic distractions, calendars, meetings, etc…the defaults that prevent you for making time for what matters.

Taking your guilt out of the picture, Zeratsky shares his journey from list maker- organizer extraordinaire to living a life making time for what matters.

He highlighted his personal journey from Green Lake to UW-Madison to the high-tech Google world.   He and his partner wrote a book sharing methods for getting out from under the daily milieu, “Make Time.” The book shares 87 tactics to make time everyday for what’s important.

Four Daily Steps:

  1. What’s the highlight of your day?  Write it down on a sticky note.  What’s your top focus of activity today?
  2. Create barriers to distraction.  For example, put that phone away.  Turn off or delete aps that demand your attention.
  3. Build energy to enjoy the moments and interactions that matter.
  4. One day at a time.  Each day you can choose to spend time differently.

Feeling a need to disconnect from the world of carryout, Uber and Amazon, he and his wife then embarked on a sailing adventure from SF south through the Panama Canal and then up through the Caribbean to Key West.  On this trip, they were able to disengage from their frenetic world and decided to begin again in Milwaukee…”relearning the value of belonging.”

Zeratsky ends his presentation describing his journey in “self-care” (on their voyage) to the realization that his greater need was contributing to the bigger world.  He ends with “the threads of connection can’t replace that feeling of belonging – that you are meant to be somewhere.”  In his case, Milwaukee.

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



How to Save the World

submitted by Jessica Giesen; photo by Mike Engelberger

Niraj Nijhawan 7 10 2019We are living in the information generation – constantly bombarded by new information and larger and larger amounts of data. In fact, the world is changing so rapidly that the future has become a complete unknown. That unknown is creating anxiety and interrupting everyone’s ability to live happy lives. Through his pursuit of the science of happiness, Dr. Niraj Nijhawan has uncovered specific root causes of unhappiness and developed steps that people can take to reprogram their brains and escape this crisis.

People need to allow their neural networks to thrive and to grow, which can continue to happen until the day we die. In order to support that growth, people must look to time, focus and emotion. The more feedback we allow ourselves to take in and tolerate on a daily basis, the more growth we will see.

Dr. Nijhawan spoke about our negative ties to self-esteem and the “social brainwashing” we have all undergone that tells us that we need to be X or do well in Y or choose career path Z in order to be ‘good’. We learn that status, money, power and educational degrees are the things that must be sought after and achieved in order for someone to be happy. However, according to Dr. Nijhawan, that is not the case and should not matter in life if happiness is the goal. Rather than look to external motivations – such as economic or emotional rewards or penalties, which cause stress hormones to spike and people to remain on “a roller coaster of destruction” – we must flip our mindsets to a radical growth mindset.

The solution is to become higher brain dominant, which can shift a person’s mindset within days and alleviate depression, anxiety and sleep difficulties while increasing psychological well-being and overall quality of life. The three steps Dr. Nijhawan proposes a person follow to secure their own happiness are to 1) Remove oneself from the roller coaster of destruction by realizing that self-esteem and “status” markers we are socially taught to exalt are not important, 2) Get on to the rocket ship of the higher brain and 3) Teach to others these learnings and ultimately . . . save the world.

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

A Roast or A Toast?

submitted by Ellie Schatz; photos by Mary Ellen O’Brien and Mike Engelberger

HO7A1947  HO7A2022  HO7A2024

President Jason Beren joined the Rotary Past President’s Club, riding out of office with respect, appreciation and fond memories of his leadership experiences. In his year in office he was impressed with the breadth of work of our club committees and endeavored to fulfill his intention of being a person of action who would help the club grow. In order to meet the challenges of the office, he noted that he exchanged 1400 emails with Pat Jenkins.

The Roast Committee paid tribute to Jason by telling his story “Otto Preminger style: as if all the world’s a stage and this one man plays a major part.” Establishing the scene as a courtroom of Rotarian lawyers and judges, Jason’s fellow Rotarians were asked to sit in judgement of his year.

The prosecution began by stating 4 violations of Rotary law made by Jason:

  1. High crimes in the gross mispronunciation of last names.
  2. Obsession with aquatic activities.
  3. Engaging in geeky mechanical engineering behaviors.
  4. Having an overt desire to be roasted.

The accused pled not guilty. The prosecution set out to prove that this person who began life as a child of promise took the road less traveled. The first witness called was Pat Jenkins (played by Heidi Frankson), who proclaimed she had to phonetically spell out most words in his weekly notes. It cost her valuable time in preparing what should have been 1-2 page documents but became 250 page tomes. When asked if by speaking nothing but the Rotarian truth he admitted to these elocution crimes, Jason refused to answer “on the grounds it might ’incinerate’ me.”  It was brought to the jury’s attention that his difficulty with pronunciation might be a by-product of his other hobby/misdemeanor: wine. Jason then named several of his favorites, attesting to the fact that he has impeccable pronunciation when it comes to wine.

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Photo 1: “Jason Beren” played by Mark Westover; Photo 2: Judge Stephen Ehlke played by Judge Stephen Ehlke; Photo 3: Prosecuting Attorney Ken Kraus played by Ken Kraus; Photo 4: “Pat Jenkins” played by Heidi Frankson

Regarding his second violation, the prosecution stated that Jason was obsessed with controlling events as life “saver” at his swimming pool. One example is when he tells swimmers, “Don’t mess with the whistle!” In rebuttal, the defense avers he is simply a trained professional whose motto is: “When I guard, I guard hard.”

With geeky behaviors, such as wearing a pocket protector not to be denied, Jason proceeded to declare his desire was not to be roasted but just to be Rotary President because of his love of his fellow Rotarians. His proof: photos he’s taken of Rotarians at their weekly luncheons.

Although the defense declared the charges preposterous and thanked Jason for being an exemplary Rotarian, his peers declared him guilty. His sentence? One glass of Carlo Rossi burgundy and 50% attendance in the upcoming Rotary year.

Thank you Jason, enjoy a glass on us in appreciation of your year of outstanding Rotary leadership.

   Our thanks to Ken Kraus and new members of the Roast Committee for providing an entertaining program; to Mary Ellen O’Brien and Mike Engelberger for serving as photographers; to Brian Basken and Paul Ranola for serving as videographers  and to Ellie Schatz for preparing this review article.   Visit our club’s Facebook Page for more photos.

Overture: Now and Tomorrow

submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Sandra Gajic 4 17 2019

From left: Club President Jason Beren, Sandra Gajic and Loretta Himmelsbach

Sandra Gajic, President and CEO of the Overture Center, treated Rotarians on Wednesday to a whirlwind overview of the history of Overture and plans for its future.  The Overture Center, Gajic said, “was built to last 300 years,” but it needs renovations, citing a leaking roof and front doors so heavy that many people have trouble opening them.

The Overture Center, she said, is three ages in one (the original Capitol Theater, built in 1928; the Oscar Mayer Theater, built in 1974; and the Overture Center, which opened in 2004, funded by a $200 million gift from Jerry Frautschi & Pleasant Roland).  The current facility “reminds me of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women,” Gajic said.

Despite the challenges of its complicated history and aging infrastructure, “over 12 million people have come to Overture over the years,” she said, citing both its impact on our ecomony and our community. In order to “meet its civic mandate and preserve the facility,” leaders of the Overture Center are pursuing a long-term goal to fund a $30 million endowment to make it “fully accessible for generations to come.”  Ongoing and future initiatives include maximizing equity, innovation and inclusion by looking closely at policies such as recruiting ushers and removing barriers for people of limited means.

One future program involves arts-career exploration for high school and middle school students.  As a student, Gajic studied piano and economics.  “I absolutely love the arts,” she said, and she enjoys Overture’s diverse arts presentations, including Kids in the Rotunda, Duck Soup Cinema, Broadway shows, concerts, plays and art exhibits.

“A 55 Year Old Start Up”

submitted by Linda Baldwin’ photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Joel Plant 4 10 2019

From left: Joel Plant, Herb Frank, Renee Frank and Club President Jason Beren

That’s how Joel Plant, Frank Productions CEO, describes their company.  Indeed, Herb and Sylvia (who The Sylvee is named for) Frank came to Madison in 1964 to manage operations for the Capitol and Majestic theaters.  And the rest is history…now Frank Productions booked 214 shows in 148 cities in North America in 2018, with plans for more than 1800 shows this year across the nation.

Here in Madison, the Frank family, including patriarch Herb, sons, Fred and Larry, daughter-in-law Marla and granddaughter Renee all work in the family business with a staff of 55 overseen by Plant.  Their mission statement is “Connecting artists with fans and helping them have fun!”  With their recent merger with the Majestic Theatre, acquisition of the High Noon Saloon and the opening of The Sylvee, Frank Productions will reach even more fans.  Frank Productions also owns facilities in Columbia, Missouri, Nashville, Tennesee, and books 15 more exclusive venues in North America.

The brand new Sylvee is a state of the art venue with a capacity of 2500 and seating for 150.   Situated right in the middle of Madison’s burgeoning Capitol East neighborhood, The Sylvee is right where the action is, and, in the first six months, they sold 70,000 tickets to 53 shows and 34 special events, averaging 1700 patrons a show.  And poured 167 thousand ounces of Spotted Cow!  Plant joked “and it wasn’t even our best seller.”

Frank Productions take pride in their relations with the neighborhood and law enforcement.  “We want to make sure that our business doesn’t have a negative impact on the neighborhood and community.”  While some in Madison have had concerns about other venues suffering with Frank’s expansion, Plant says all indications are that other venues are doing better as well.  And he notes that their presence has had a positive economic impact on the restaurants and other businesses in the area.

What’s next…do more shows…sell more tickets and beer!