Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

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.

MSO Celebrates 25 Years

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Margaret Murphy

John DeMain 9 19 18

From left: Club President Jason Beren, club member Perry Henderson and John DeMain

Madison Symphony Orchestra conductor John DeMain joined us in his first event to celebrate the 25th year of his leadership here in Madison. Twenty-five years is an extraordinary time for a modern conductor to stay with an orchestra. We have been lucky to have him here for a quarter century.

John began by very generously crediting his predecessor, Roland Johnson, for his long service to the MSO and as creator of the Madison Opera as part of the MSO. He credited Mr. Johnson with making the orchestra professional and with recruiting the services of UW faculty and students. John also explained the changes that he has brought. At one time, the orchestra performed eight single concerts a year. When Roland Johnson passed the baton to John, he urged him to build on his work developing an audience. John has tripled the audience during his tenure. Today, the season consists of a series of eight concerts, each performed three times, on Friday and Saturday evening and on Sunday afternoon. The MSO has done more than increase its audience and its string section (now full-sized). In his first year, John initiated blind auditions for prospective musicians. UW faculty joined the orchestra, which encouraged their students to participate as well. The result was fine musicianship. [Anyone who has heard the MSO will agree that it is shockingly good. Its string section is vibrant and its sound has a sheen.]

John also thanked Pleasant and Jerry Frautschi for their astounding gift of the Overture Center, including Overture Hall, which has a splendid acoustic that allows us to hear how beautifully the MSO plays. John also spoke of the several associated organizations and programs affiliated with the MSO.

John concluded on a somewhat somber note. Former UW Chancellor John Wiley was in attendance. He upgraded the School of Music during his tenure. Some of his work is being undone because of funding woes: many of the faculty are no longer tenure-track. They and their students are less likely to join the MSO. However, fine musicians from elsewhere are maintaining the orchestra’s excellence.

The Maestro made one last point: Madisonians should include the MSO in their entertainment options. This reviewer agrees. As an old ad in New York once proclaimed: “Try It, You’ll Like It.”

We express a special thanks to the MSO: The Rhapsodie Quartet: Susanne Beia, Laura Burns, Chris Dozoryst and Karl Lavine.  The quartet performed a movement from the American String Quartet written by Antonin Dvořák.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative Targets Neighborhoods

submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by Margaret Murphy

Vicent Cryns 9 12 2018

“Virtually every organ in the body is adversely affected by obesity,” Dr. Vincent Cryns, the Marian A. and Rodney P. Burgenske Chair and Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Rotarians on September 12.

Not only are people’s individual bodies affected negatively by obesity, according to Dr. Cryns, but obesity also has a negative effect on society as a whole.  The cost of the obesity epidemic to American society is equal to 4 to 8 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, with disadvantaged communities affected disproportionately.  The even more discouraging news is that there have been three-fold increases of obesity and overweight in the past forty years.  Dr. Cryns cited several causes, including less physical activity due to factors like increasing screen time and the marketing of “tasty inexpensive calorie-dense foods.”

Dr. Cryns is involved with the Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative (OPI), which is compiling and analyzing “zip-code-level data” to design positive interventions and coaching to help deal with this crisis.  OPI is currently working with two community partners, the Menominee Nation and Marathon County, to come up with place-based solutions to the problems posed by widespread obesity.  Possible solutions include incorporating nutritious foods like wild rice into traditional activities like community feasts and improving pedestrian and bike access so that people who would like to walk and bike more can do so safely.  Dr. Cryns encouraged his audience to find out their individual Body Mass Index (BMI; weight divided by height squared) and modify eating and exercise until it reaches healthy levels.

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

“Show Your Rotary Pride”

submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo by Karl Wellensiek

DG Bill Hoel 8 29 2018

Bill Hoel, Rotary District 6250 Governor, inspired Rotary Club of Madison members to show their Rotary pride. Hoel suggested that Rotary is recognized worldwide for the success of its many programs carried out by its more than 35,000 clubs and 1.2 million members in over 200 countries. He further explained that the clubs are grouped into 529 districts and 34 zones. Rotary continues to grow in numbers, more in other continents than in North America. The  Rotary International website showcases projects that have been completed around the world.

The biggest project ever undertaken by Rotary is the Polio Eradication program that has a goal of total eradication of the polio virus.  No other major project will be undertaken until no more cases are reported and until no virus can be identified in samples of wastewater for at least three years. Although isolated cases are still being found in a few countries in Asia and Africa, occasional cases are reported in the U.S. One such case was recently reported in Minnesota from a boy who had visited a Canadian Amish settlement that had not received the polio vaccine.

Hoel also emphasized that cooperation between Rotary clubs and other organizations is important. Rotary has permanent representatives in the United Nations and indirectly with its subsidiaries such as the World Health Organization and the World Food Program. He described two efforts that involved Wisconsin clubs, one in 1986 and one in 1989. The first involved a period of starvation in Ethiopia, in which a concerted effort enabled tons of dried whole milk to be sent by planeload and cargo ship.  The second, called Hands Across the Heartland, sent food to Moscow during a period of famine.

Hoel suggested that Rotary Pride for all its accomplishments should inspire others to think of becoming a Rotarian. Because of its manpower, Rotary Club of Madison has many accomplishments to be proud of, but it may be able to do even more by collaborating with other clubs in the district.  He invited members to attend the 2019 District Conference, June 7-8, at the La Crosse Center.

If you missed our meeting this week, 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.