Category Archives: Rotary Weekly Guest Speaker

Carson Gulley’s Legacy

–submitted by Moses Altsech

5130078da3521-imageWhat happens when you live in a society where the government and the majority of the people show a complete disregard for social and civil rights? Well, if you’re Carson Gulley you defiantly march on in the face of adversity and accomplish greatness against all odds.

The son of a former slave from Arkansas, Carson Gulley came to Madison in 1926 at a time when Jews and people of color were not allowed to join fraternities or sororities, hotels and restaurants banned African Americans, and there were even restrictions on trying on clothes at a department store if you were a person of color.

Thirty years later Carson Gulley had become one of the first instructors of c
olor at the University of Wisconsin, had written cookbooks, and had become a celebrity chef with his very own radio and television programs co-hosted with his wife Beatrice. He traveled across Wisconsin and to neighboring states for speaking engagements, having to drive home right away because usually the town would not have a hotel that allowed people of color to stay there.

seyforth-scott-2-1-2017As Scott Seyforth noted, in 1954, Gulley was a speaker at our [then all-white] Rotary Club. It’s natural to think of Carson Gulley’s odyssey with admiration for his courage, yet one can’t help but think of the torment that he endured during a lifetime of discrimination.

Although he retired from the University after 27 years of service and after having been routinely passed over for promotion, he became the first African American to have a building named after him at the University in 1965, three years after his death.

If Carson Gulley’s life story is inspirational, let it also be a call to action to stand up against all forms of discrimination and make our country better tomorrow than it was yesterday–just as he did. That’s Carson Gulley’s legacy and that should be ours as well.

You can watch the YouTube video, “The Life and Times of Carson Gulley,” here.

Alexander Hamilton – A “Hot Topic”

–submitted by Roger Phelps; photo by Mike Engelberger

kaminski-john-12-7-16Alexander Hamilton is a “hot topic” these days.  With the incredible success of Hamilton: An American Musical, there is a lot of review and interpretation of this founding father and his role in history.  According to today’s speaker – Professor John Kaminski – Hamilton was a pivotal player at a pivotal time in our history’s foundation and early years.  However, the play offers a somewhat skewed image of Alexander Hamilton.  It mainly focuses on his positive attributes and contribution without offering much offsetting insight into this patriot’s well-established contrarian views in supporting a strong central government, active central government financial controls, and related topics.

Hamilton’s background as an orphaned illegitimate child and his minimal education continued to plague him throughout his career and contributed to his “fear of concealing his background.”  It has an impact on his personal philosophies and his resulting cautious approach to career advancement.  Hamilton’s personal introspection followed him all his life.

He played a key role in the Revolutionary War and joined President Washington’s cabinet as Treasury Secretary.  In that role, he and Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State, developed major conflicts on a number of topics.  Most of them involved a different vision of the role and structure of the United States government.  Hamilton preferred a strong Presidency and a strong congress.  He looked to Britain as the model.  He had earlier advocated for a President for Life and Senators for Life – concepts that were rejected by Jefferson, Madison and others in drafting the Constitution.   Jefferson, on the other hand, was more optimistic about the individual states and their citizens to guide the government’s role in shaping this new nation.

Perhaps Alexander Hamilton’s best writing can be found in the Federalist Papers that he authored with James Madison and John Jay.  This set of essays has been instrumental in revealing the insight that went into the wording of the Constitution.

Hamilton played a critical role in the Presidential Election of 1800.  Although he was not officially a candidate, he helped manipulate the process including trying to change the way the Electoral College picked a winner.  This was typical of Hamilton who used manipulation throughout his career to advance his own ideas.  Ultimately the US House of Representatives chose Thomas Jefferson as the winner.

In 1804, Hamilton and Aaron Burr fought a duel over personal honor.  Hamilton was mortally wounded.

Professor Kaminski’s review of Hamilton’s life clearly described a patriot who was radical and revolutionary – a risk taker who had a huge stake in the formation and early years of the US government.  We Rotarians owe him a debt of gratitude to shine light on this important founding father.

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


Milwaukee Bucks Remake

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Jeff Smith


A complete transformation of our state’s professional basketball team, the Milwaukee Bucks, should lead not only to an eventual NBA championship but also a turnaround for a significant portion of the downtown Milwaukee area.

At the September 21 Rotary Club of Madison meeting, Milwaukee Bucks Team President Peter Feigin characterized the Buck’s current development and construction project as one that is “30 percent about the Bucks, and 70% about getting people to be in downtown Milwaukee.”

Feigin outlined construction projects of a 30-acre neglected downtown Milwaukee area to include a new 16,500-seat arena (to replace the old Bradley arena that eventually will be demolished), a practice facility, a health center, parking areas, and an entertainment block featuring a plaza, a potential hotel, and restaurants. The arena will also double as a venue to attract big-name concerts that have eluded the state in recent years.

Matching the NBA’s global reach as is evident in over 100 international athletes playing for NBA teams and games being broadcast in 215 different nations, Feigin announced the Bucks’ “mission to be the most successful and respected sports and entertainment company in the world.” This new mission originates in a new ownership group “that just purchased a 50-year-old team that we are treating as a start-up venture.” As concerns a specific vision for the competitive prospects within the N.B.A., Feigin boldly proclaimed the goal to win a world championship rather than just “being a winning team.”

The mentality of a start-up, according to Feigin, is needed because “we have lost a generation of fans….we have been a bit dormant.” He added that Wisconsin, based on UW’s recent basketball successes and otherwise long-standing traditions, “has a basketball culture we need to nurture.”

When reminded by Club members of significant incentives offered by the state, city, and county, Feigin anticipates four-fold returns on such public investments in the forms of new jobs and associated income tax revenue as well as increases in property values and associated increases in property tax revenues.

When asked by Club members of the team’s social responsibilities and obligations, Feigin referred to Milwaukee as “one of the most racist and segregated cities I have seen,” citing a need for better practices in inclusion, diversity, and leadership. “We are determined to get involved.”

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video here.

“Everything He Knew, He Learned in 1721”

–submitted by Linda Baldwin; photo by Mary O’Brien


Stephen Coss 7 13 16

It was a pivotal year for the American colonies, for modern medicine and for Benjamin Franklin, then an apprentice in his brother’s Boston print shop. Professor Stephen Coss discussed his book, “The Fever of 1721.”

According to Coss, in 1721, Massachusetts colonists participated in the first successful rebellion in the colonies against England, the first independent newspaper, The New England Courant, was published, western medicine’s first inoculation experiment was conducted on smallpox victims, and Franklin arrived on the scene as his brother’s printer’s apprentice.

Quite a year. Read the book.

In Boston, the first political challenge to English authority was led by Boston businessman Elisha Cooke Jr. The Boston Caucus, led by Cooke, convinced locals to oust the very unpopular English governor, thus accomplishing the first overthrow of a royal appointee.

While newspapers had been published in Boston and in the colonies under the authority of the crown, James Franklin started the New England Courant with his 12 year old brother Ben as an independent voice, the first in the colonies.

Not a successful business venture, James decided to exploit the inoculation of smallpox controversy to raise readership. Thus began a tradition of independent voices in the press discussing social, philosophical and political issues…social issues poked fun at by Silence DoGood, the pen name of teenager, Ben Franklin. Professor Coss tells us that James didn’t know that Ben was writing the DoGood articles and was outraged when he found out.  This “freedom” of the press was later enshrined in the 1st amendment of the US Constitution.

As small pox raged through the population, New Englander Cotton Mather began promoting inoculation as a way to combat the disease. Together with Dr. Boyleston, through much criticism, small pox inoculation was attempted and thus began vaccination as a successful tool against diseases like small pox.

For Ben Franklin, this was a time of intense education in politics, journalism and public medicine.  He was greatly influenced by Mather in promoting that community service, trying to do good, was a more valuable effort by men in our society than the accumulation of wealth and power. Later, Franklin formed the “Junta” in Philadelphia; a do-gooder group which was a model for Rotary to come.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video on our YouTube Channel here.

Which Way WARF?

–submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Mike Engelberger

Kevin Walters 3The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is a household word to many Madisonians, but few know the story about how a clash of two titanic egos during 1959 and 1960 shaped today’s organization. Kevin Walters, a historian in residence at WARF, unfurled this little-known story in a talk titled “How to Handle Harry Steenbock.”

Created in 1925 as a private non-profit organization, WARF’s mission was to support scientific research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by securing and commercializing patents from the discoveries of UW researchers and then making their royalty income available for further research—what Walters called a “cycle of innovation.”

But two talented men, Harry Steenbock and Thomas Brittingham, had very different visions on how WARF should evolve.   In 1923, Steenbock, a brilliant biochemist, invented a process to increase the Vitamin D content of food by irradiating it with ultraviolet light; he was confident that this process could eliminate a crippling bone disease called rickets.  Eager to realize this potential, he secured a patent and gave it to WARF.   This was WARF’s first big money-maker.

Thomas Brittingham, a UW-grad and the heir to a lumber fortune, became WARF’s first vice-president, and used his investment talents to multiply WARF’s royalty income and his position to shape policy.

During WARF’s first decades, Steenbock and Brittingham got along, but then Steenbock insisted that WARF’s revenues should be limited to scientific research.  Brittingham thought the organization should support the best interests of the university including the construction of campus buildings.

In 1959 the simmering feud between the two men turned personal and ugly.  Then on April 16, 1960 a massive heart attack felled Brittingham, just 61.  His death softened Steenbock’s ire, but not his fundamental position.

In the wake of this confrontation, UW leaders realized that both concepts were necessary for WARF and the UW-Madison to realize their extraordinary potential.   Today, WARF is nationally esteemed as a highly successful engine of technology transfer and a “margin of excellence” for the UW-Madison.   And, according to Walters, the Steenbock-Brittingham clash 55 years ago deserves some of the credit.

Click HERE to watch the video presentation.

Prescription Pain Killer Abuse in Wisconsin; Sharing a Dose of Reality

–submitted by Mary Borland; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Attorney General Brad Schimel (right) pictured here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Attorney General Brad Schimel (right) pictured here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel spoke with Rotarians on September 30 about why the Wisconsin Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and partners across the State, have launched a $1.7 million campaign titled A DOSE OF REALITY, which is working to prevent prescription painkiller abuse in Wisconsin.

Brad explained, when prescribed and used properly, prescription opioid painkillers can offer relief; however, anyone is at risk of becoming addicted, especially our young people ages 12-25. Deaths and hospitalizations from overdoses are increasing, and four out of five heroin addicts start by abusing prescription painkillers.

Brad went on to share that this problem is impacting tens of thousands of families in Wisconsin and it is now declared a public health crisis.

  • The fear of death is not strong enough to stop people from using these drugs.
  • Opiate overdoses have more than doubled in less than a decade and now exceed motor vehicle deaths!
  • Many myths on this topic, most notably the myth that only “bad” kids and only “other” families or neighborhoods are affected. The fact is, all walks of life and communities are affected by this problem.  If not for prescription opiate abuse, we may not have a heroin problem at all.
  • Most people abusing opiate drugs obtain the drugs from a family member or friend – this presents a great opportunity!
  • Addictions to opiate drugs are driving spikes in most other crimes.
  • Wisconsin is number 2 in America for pharmacy robberies, with Indiana being number 1. Brad stressed that legal enforcement alone will not solve this problem.
  • Treatment is a critical piece to the solution. 163,000 people in Wisconsin are abuins opiates.

The three key messages of the campaign to address abuse of prescription medications are:

  1. Use medications only as prescribed to you and as directed
  2. Store medications safely and securely
  3. Dispose of medications properly by dropping them off at a designated site

What can you do in addition to the three key messages above?  Check out the website and

  • Take the Pledge to Save Lives
  • Spread the word
  • Talk to your kids/grandkids about the dangers of opiate abuse
  • Ask your health care providers if there are alternative therapies available instead of taking an opiate drug. In the United States, we readily reimburse for drugs but are not good at covering addictions.  Advocate for changing this.
  • Keep track of the number of pills in your bottles
  • Dispose of unused meds promptly and safely. October 17 is Drug Take Back Day.  Last Take Back Day yielded over 20 tons of medications.  Find a medication return unit close to you to use anytime by visiting:

Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  CLICK to view the video.

A New View for Downtown Madison

–submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Jeff Smith

Brad Binkowski (right) seated here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Brad Binkowski (right) seated here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Brad Binkowski, who with Thomas Neujahr, is co-founder of Urban Land Interests, gave an overview of current developments on and around the Capitol Square.

ULI’s next project is a complete redevelopment of the Anchor Bank building, removing its dated precast panels, and adding a glass and stainless steel façade which will be “unlike anything you’ve seen in Madison,” said Binkowski.

In the Anchor project, as well as ULI’s Block 89 development, an essential component for success is replacing above grade parking with underground. Because of limited developable land and height restrictions, it’s impossible to create structures with street level energy and activity if above-ground parking is incorporated, said Binkowski. The Anchor project will have five levels of underground parking, extending under Carroll Street. Besides the Anchor property, there are only three more large sites downtown suitable for underground parking: the Judge Doyle Square development, The American Exchange Bank property, and the Braydon lot.

Epic is a significant driver of Madison’s growth, but it isn’t the only factor said Binkowski. Madison’s quality of life has attracted other firms, like office software company Zendesk, because it can find an ample workforce, without the extreme competition for talent and expense of cities like San Francisco. Among ULI’s residential tenants 56 percent came from outside Madison and their average age is 34. But just 26 percent work for Epic.

In 2011, 70 percent of ULI’s business tenants were from the legal, finance or government sectors. By 2015 that percentage has dropped to 64 percent, not because the traditional industries are shrinking, but because other sectors are growing much more rapidly. Restaurant tenants are up 29 percent and technology 143 percent. Those percentage changes, even from a smaller base, illustrate the shifting opportunity for growth, said Binkowski.

CLICK to view the video on our club’s YouTube Channel.