Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

Human Genome Editing

submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Mike Engelberger

Alta Charo 12 5 2018The recent claim by Chinese scientist  He Jianjui that he successfully altered the DNA of twin girls to build up the twins’ HIV resistance served as a backdrop of the Rotary Club of Madison’s weekly meeting, whose guest speaker Dr. Alta Charo, a UW-Madison professor of law and bioethics, offered as a broad outline of ethical considerations concerning Human Genome Editing.

Jianjui’s actions have drawn wide condemnation by the medical, ethical, and research community as there are allegations that his work lacked an ethical compass that according to Charo at this point in time should be guided by the thought that “other than prevention or treatment” human genome editing “should not proceed.”

Genome editing, according to Dr. Charo, is best explained by “adding, deleting, inactivating, or making targeted alterations” of DNA. Genome editing is acceptable practice in research laboratories. Somatic gene therapy, in which therapeutic DNA is integrated in the genome, is a process used to treat disease that is highly regulated. “Somatic gene therapy should only be employed for treatment and prevention but not for enhancement,” said Dr. Charo. Gene therapy cancer vaccines are being developed , but among the most common uses today of somatic gene therapy are to treat cystic fibrosis, heart disease, hemophilia and AIDS.

If human genome editing is pursued for purposes of enhancement, there are obviously significant risks. Among the medical concerns rising to the very top is the potential of newly introduced genes not interacting with the existing gene structure. Dr. Charo characterized the ethical concerns revolving around the idea that human mankind may be closer to “making a step toward designer babies.” Other ethical concerns in Jianjui’s work is “the lack of consent by the affected person” and circumventing the traditional medical peer review process, instead publicizing his work directly with popular media sources. In summarizing Jianjui’s work, Dr. Charo said “two edited baby girls have been born.”

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

Stu Levitan Tells Rotarians About Madison and Club Members in the Sixties

submitted by Jerry Thain

Stu LevitanThe 1960s were a tumultuous decade in the United States and certainly in Madison.  Club member Stu Levitan drew on his new book “Madison in the Sixties” to illustrate his talk to the Club on November 7th.  The book, whose genesis was 34,000 articles from Madison newspapers of the decade reviewed by Stu by digital scanning (followed by more in depth research) focuses on five major issues of the time –civil rights, University of Wisconsin, urban renewal, Monona Terrace and student unrest – but Stu’s remarks to the Club dealt with the involvement of Club members in the 1960s, not only appropriate to the audience but also a natural theme given the prominence of so many Rotarians in the life of Madison then, as always.  Space does not allow for more than a few examples of the highlights of the presentation so for a full listing one will just have to buy the book!

Among the Rotarians prominent in the chronicle of Madison in the 1960s were current member Mitch Javid, the physician who treated UW boxer Charlie Mohr after his injury, ultimately fatal, in the ring at the NCAA boxing tourney in Madison.  Two mayors during the decade were Rotarians – Henry Reynolds & Bill Dyke.  Pat Lucey, who eventually would be elected Governor, was a Rotarian and prominent realtor in the city.  He was the only realtor to speak in favor of a fair housing ordinance which eventually passed.  Other Rotarians of the time included the two Madison police chiefs of the decade and the UW football coach, Ivy Williamson.  Rotarian Arlie Mucks advocated, initially unsuccessfully, for admission of Jews to the Madison Club in the nid-1960s.  Current member Nelson Cummings joined the Club in that decade as the leader of the Madison Urban League and, as older Club members know, was able to find housing for his family in the city only after a long struggle to do so.

Rotarian Judge Joe Jackson was the presiding jurist at the trial of students charged in the disturbances related to protests of Dow Chemical conducting interviews on campus.  Jackson also was the judge in the trial of the female performers who danced nude in a psychedelic theatrical version of Peter Pan.  Rotarian James Boll was the prosecuting attorney in each instance.

Among those speaking to the Club in the 1960s were General Lewis Hershey, head of the draft, whose presence drew many protestors, and Warren Knowles, whose remarks denouncing student activism on the Madison campus apparently were well received, and came less than a month before his re-election as Governor of Wisconsin.

For greater detail, see the book!

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

Lessons from Business Empress Martha Matilda Harper

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Pete Christianson

Jane Plitt 10 17 2018

From left: Rotarian Mary Borland, Guest Speaker Jane Plitt & Rotarian Joan Collins

Rotary and Martha Matilda Harper both want to make the world a better place, said October 17 Rotary speaker Jane Plitt.  Plitt highlighted how Harper, a poor Canadian servant for 25 years, became the American pioneer of modern retail franchising with 500 Harper Method Hair shops around the world catering to world royalty, US presidents, along with suffragettes.

Harper was born in Canada and put into servitude at age 7.  As she grew, she learned several business lessons.

Dream. She dreamed of success and marrying, although marriage would not release her from being a servant.

Stick to your Goals.  Her last employer was kind. He taught her about a product he designed to make hair stronger.  On his death bed, he bequeathed her the hair tonic formula.  With that formula, she believed she has the passport to change her life.  She moves to Rochester, New York, home to suffragists, entrepreneurs, and Quakers, a hot bed of activists. With about $300 in savings, she’s denied a building lease, until hiring a lawyer.

Capitalize on Your Assets. Her floor length hair, pictured on the door, drew in mothers of piano students from next door.  She offered them chairs, then drew them into to hear about her hair tonic.

 Understand and Delight the Customer.  Harper created the first reclining barber chair; this meant no soap in customers’ eyes and clothes were protected.

Create Buzz.  Famous customers such as Grace Coolidge and Bertha Palmer kicked off her fame.  Bertha drew her to open a second store in Chicago.

Commit the Customer.  Harper asked Palmer to come back with a list of 25 friends on a petition for her to come to Chicago.

Thinking Outside the Box.  Today we call this franchising, from the French “free yourself from servitude.”  After success franchising, she rethinks her anti-male beliefs and marries at 63 to a 39-year-old. She ends up with 500+ shops, two in Madison, five training schools, one also in Madison, and two manufacturing centers.

Treat Your Staff Well.  She advised franchisees to start staff meetings listening.  She believed it important to celebrate achievements.

In 1935, when Fortune Magazine was saying “a woman’s place is not in the executive chair,” Harper was proving she could make real money and success for her organization and her franchisees.

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

“…Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water”

submitted by Jocelyn Riley

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This week’s Rotary meeting opened with the singing of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, a suitable lead-in to UW-Madison Professor Emeritus Ken Potter’s presentation, “Responding to Increasing Yahara Lakes Flood Risk.”

Professor Potter pointed out that this past summer was the “wettest summer since I came here over forty years ago.”

He said that what he called “extreme rainfall” is only one aspect of alleviating flooding risks in Dane County.  Urbanization is even a more important factor, he said, pointing out that in 2017 there was twice as much development in the Yahara Lakes watershed as there was in 1970.  “But most of the Yahara Lakes watershed is not yet developed,” he said, and made the case that we need to oversee more thoughtful development that will improve water movement in the area.  “We are not going to stop urbanization,” he said, “but we need to find ways to plan development more strategically.”

There are some state regulations and laws in place currently that are helpful, but Dr. Potter also pointed out that some state laws recently passed undermine efforts to control flooding.

In answer to a question of what we as individuals can do to help with flood control, Dr. Potter made some specific suggestions, including constructing rain gardens and moving downspouts to send water onto grass or a garden area and not onto a driveway.  The goal should be to “keep as much water as you can on your property.”

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

Straight Talk on Civil Discourse

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Margaret Murphy

Michael Schuler 9 26 2018

Pastor Michael Schuler pictured here with Club President Jason Beren

Rotary’s Sept 26 guest speaker, Michael Schuler, asked, “Is there is an antidote to toxic talk?”

Schuler recently retired as senior minister of the First Unitarian Society of Madison.

Researchers gather data, test hypothesis, operate on provisional truths, demanding scientists have open minds.  However, even scientist succumb to civil discourse.  Debate over what killed dinosaurs is one example.

The book, “Politics of Resentment” by Kathy Cramer documents this resentment.  People in common conversation treat each other like enemies, even in rural America known for niceness.  Cramer contends political leaders are often to blame for our divided experience.  For example, trash talk, and rowdy events held by Trump’s campaign where dissenters were ejected.  “This is fun,” Trump said.  We are receptive to this bravado.

Rural citizens interviewed by Kramer felt their communities were losing to urban communities, despite data showing otherwise.  Perception matters, and politicians exploit this.  Polls focus on winning and losing, so voters overinvest in winning.  We need to focus less on winning and focus more on what government is doing for everyone.

Schuler outlined strategies to increase the quality of our conversations:

  1. Step out of our comfort zone. Invite interaction with people who don’t share your moral narrative.
  2. Think like a good scientist. Hold your ideas as a tentative theory rather than a final fact.  Apparently, it could well be, it seems, are all good phrases to use.
  3. Be more curious. Ask more questions rather than share your convictions.
  4. Be patient. Sit with discomfort until you have more clarity.
  5. Become more self-aware. Is your tone inviting or challenging?

Michael Schuler served 30 years as senior minister of First Unitarian Society of Madison, one of the largest UU churches in North America.

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

StartingBlock: Imagine the Opportunity

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Margaret Murphy

Chandra Miller Fienen 9 5 2018

Chandra Miller Fienen pictured here with club member Charles Tubbs

Chandra Miller Fienen, Director of Operations & Programs at StartingBlock Madison, spoke to Downtown Rotary about what StartingBlock is and how it helps support and foster innovation entrepreneurs.

Recently opened in June 2018, StartingBlock Madison is supported by Madison Gas & Electric, American Family Insurance and the City of Madison.  In collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, StartingBlock Madison seeks to launch early-stage companies by creating a home base for innovation entrepreneurs.  Resources provided include affordable and flexible workspace, speakers on relevant topics, introduction to the startup scene, mentorships, and refining sales and marketing messages.

StartingBlock also helps fledgling companies grow by assisting with finding talent through an onsite recruiter, matching students for internships and paid positions, connecting with professional advisors and mentors, and workshops on financing and operating a business.  There are currently 20 companies, 7 partner organizations, and two venture capital funds involved with StartingBlock.

Innovation is further fostered by showcasing new ideas, collaboration with members of StartingBlock, connecting with investors and advisors, and working with experienced entrepreneurs to bring ideas to reality.

Last, StartingBlock seeks to cultivate a sense of giving back by encouraging supportive practices for employees and the community, staying in Madison once they are successful, and having a positive social conscience and impact.

Summing it all up, StartingBlock Madison’s vision statement is:  Creating intersections that cultivate entrepreneurs, build innovative companies, and drive ideas into reality.

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

Madison to Launch Professional Soccer Team

submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Karl Wellensiek

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Peter Wilt, managing director of Madison’s newly forming professional soccer team told Rotarians why Madison is ready for its own pro team.

Soccer is popular with young people and approximately 50% of Madison’s population is under the age of 30. Soccer has become the second most popular sport among the 12-24 age range and 4th among all ages. The Madison area has 40 youth soccer clubs and 20,000 registered participants.

People who began playing soccer in the 1980’s when youth soccer began to take off in the U.S. are now among community leaders and decision makers. A sustainable pro team will need passionate fans, a tribal culture, and community pride, said Wilt. Madison is ready.

The team’s name and head coach will be named very shortly and the team’s first of 14 regular home games is planned for April, 2019. The new team will be part of a Tier III division, with teams from mid-sized cities such as Tucson and Toronto.

The team is owned by Big Top Events, which operates the Madison Mallards baseball team and concerts at Breese Stevens Field, also the home of the new soccer team.

Investment in Breese Stevens by the City of Madison and Big Top Events will eventually bring capacity to 5,000 and add suites, upgraded restrooms, club seating, a rooftop deck and enhanced food and beverage options. A season ticket will be in the neighborhood of $274, with game tickets comparable to movie prices, noted Wilt.

Players are being recruited internationally and will also feature local and state players, said Wilt. The new team’s players will be mostly in the 21-25 age range and will be full-time Madison residents, unlike Mallard players who stay with local housing hosts during the season.

The sizable and growing Madison soccer fan base is finally getting a hometown team of its own.

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