On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Doug Moe, local author extraordinaire, regaled Rotarians with stories from his new book on Kit Saunders-Nordeen and her advocacy of equality in women’s sports. Title IX, which forbid discrimination on the basis of sex for any activity receiving federal funds, started a sea change in women’s sports, but was initially met with resistance and legal challenges. Two years after enactment of Title IX, when Kit was named UW-Madison’s first director of women’s athletics, the sports editor of the Wisconsin State Journal advised her “don’t be a bitch,” and said he would never put news of women’s sports on his sports page. As late as the 1950’s, women were prohibited from running distance races for fear their uteruses might fall out. Even today, local ski jump Olympian Anna Hoffman said despite concerns over women jumping from highest ski jumps, she had gone off the highest jump many times and bragged that she was “still intact.” Doug advised that while we should celebrate this momentous anniversary, there was still much to be done to ensure that our daughters have the same athletic opportunities as our sons.
Our club’s Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award is granted in recognition of outstanding club service in the Rotary tradition of “Service Above Self.” Joseph G. Werner was a committed Rotarian. He chaired many significant committees, both before and after serving as club president in 1953-54. He served as district governor and became the second member of this club to serve as director of Rotary International. He later served Rotary International in many other positions. Following his death, in 1974, the club established the Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award as the club’s highest recognition for club service. The Werner honor is not an annual event, but is given under special circumstances when warranted.
Today we are going to recognize Nelson Cummings, a valued member that we all adore, with this prestigious award. We are pleased that his four sons and other family members are in the audience today as we recognize Nelson.
Nelson was born in Springfield, Illinois on August 18, 1934. He received an A.B. Degree from Texas College and holds a Master’s Degree from St. Francis College.
He came to Madison in 1968 to become the first Director of the Madison Urban League. He later became a counselor at Beloit School System and worked for Madison Public Schools and Wisconsin Education Association.
Within the community, Nelson has served on the boards of Catholic Charities, Dane County Mental Health Center, Madison Hospital Foundation and Four Lakes Council of the Boy Scouts. He also was a member of the Madison Redevelopment Authority for 10 years.
In 1969, Nelson was the first African American to join our Rotary Club. He maintained 100% attendance starting in 1973 until the pandemic caused us to stop holding in-person meetings last year. In fact, Nelson holds the third longest record of 100% attendance in our club, and he has enjoyed seeing 52 club presidents up here at our podium.
He was on our club’s bowling team and led the Civic Bowling League for 40 years. He bowled every year until he retired. Nelson says that even though it was sometimes lonely because others in the league did not look like him, he was accepted and enjoyed the company of so many Rotarians. He says “I love Rotary! You meet so many fine people you would not otherwise meet. I come to meetings because I enjoy it. It has broadened my opportunities, and it is educational.” He takes Rotary’s Four-Way Test to heart, and he is especially proud of the scholarship program and the many students we are able to assist each year in obtaining a college education. Nelson says the greatest Rotary event he recalls is when women were allowed to join in 1987. Nelson has been a long-time volunteer of our annual Rotary Ethics Symposium, and he loves greeting the students and helping them feel welcome at our event. Nelson has also served on our Club Board of Directors.
Nelson is a pillar of our Rotary Club. He is always a friendly face in our audience, and he makes everyone he meets feel welcomed. We enjoy his company, and the recognition we are providing to him today is so well deserved.
It gives me great pleasure to recognize Nelson Cummings as our 30th recipient of the Rotary Club of Madison Joseph G Werner Meritorious Service Award. Congratulations, Nelson!
The impetus for Eleanor Burgess’s play “The Niceties” was a 2015 incident at Yale, Eleanor’s Alma mater, that involved a disagreement between faculty, administrators and students about whether Yale should be setting guidelines about which Halloween costumes are appropriate. Those in favor of guidance were trying to ward off controversies over students seen in black face, or stereotypical Native American costumes. Those opposed believed one of the purposes of college is for kids to learn to self regulate and make their own decisions.
Friends lost the ability to talk to each other as the controversy continued. While this is common today, it was unique in 2015. People felt the need to pick a side: the university doesn’t have the responsibility to coddle whining snowflakes vs. there should be consequences of making students of color feel uncomfortable.
After two months of obsessively reading op/eds about the incident in her pajamas, Eleanor realized this incident should become a play.
Eleanor said she naively thought the play would be out of date by the time it was produced. But in today’s era of Trump, and the killing of George Floyd, we are still having these conversations. The difference is, in the play, the professor and student have faith and admiration for each other and believe they can change each other’s minds if they just make the right arguments. Today, we would back out of those conversations much faster and realize it’s hopeless.
Eleanor hopes we can learn to talk together again – to thread the needle and realize that two things can both be true at the same time. In the play, the professor says, “no matter how much we disagree, we’re still stuck in a country together.” But today, we don’t even share the same reality or set of facts. Eleanor believes we can’t live this way forever. Restoring our capacity to have conversations with people we disagree with is not just a nicety, it is a fundamental necessity.
Our thanks to Eleanor Burgess for speaking this week and to club member Julie Swenson who interviewed her. We also thank Janet Piraino for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/SkGEtyy_sCE.
UW Economics Professor Noah Williams is the founding Director of the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy (CROWE) and gave a report on the economic situation since the start of the pandemic lockdown in March 2020 through November 2020. He also gave some insight on economic trends and expectations for 2021.
He examined the impact by looking at labor market statistics from official government sources (State of Wisconsin, Bureau of Labor Statistics), as well as private data collectors that utilize cell phone data and offer employment and business services that can produce data on a more contemporaneous basis.
Professor Williams started by saying the economy is secondary to the course of virus spread and infection. As the virus spread in March, April and May unemployment claims increased dramatically to a peak of over 300,000 compared to approximately 80,000 in 2019. New claims are at the rate of 15,000 per week compared to 5,000 last year. Continued unemployment has declined since the peak but there are still over three times the number of unemployed than there were in 2019. However, this only measures persons eligible for unemployment insurance. It is estimated that the actual number of unemployed individuals is double when you include ineligible and those who have stopped looking for work. In terms of raw numbers that translates to around 205,000 fewer employed than the same time last year.
The impact of job losses has been varied across sectors of the economy. The hardest hit has been Leisure and Hospitality with a 50% drop in employment at the peak in April. While it has recovered somewhat to about a 20% loss year-over-year it is still a dire situation as events, attractions and restaurants have been hampered or outlawed to curb the spread of the virus. Manufacturing and Retail employment took a dip in April (15%), as well, but is now only down from 3.0-4.5% as of October.
Changes in spending patterns and economic activity have been dramatic. For example, Madison has not fared as well due to the absence of students on campus. Foot traffic, measured by cell phone tracking, is down about 40% in Madison, compared to Milwaukee at 26% down and the rest of the state at 30% down. Also, there has been a shift from local and small business to large business and online: Retail purchases are down around 7% and online is up over 20%.
For 2021, the good news is that highly effective vaccines have been developed but we should expect continued economic headwinds (probably at least six months) as it will take many months to get enough people vaccinated. And, while negative surprises were on the downside and recovery surprises were on the upside the rate of improvement has slowed as government support programs are coming to an end. While the most dire of projections have not borne out, the economic consequences of the pandemic will continue to be a challenge.
Our thanks to Prof. Noah Williams for his presentation this week and to Kevin Hoffman for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/WkOzn3reDmI.
Dr. Floyd Rose was chosen to receive this year’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award for his decades-long contribution to education in Madison. The November 18th Rotary meeting will be allocated to this award, and Floyd Rose will be presenting the Rotary program that day. We look forward to his presentation on November 18.
This year’s Swarsensky Award Selection Committee was impressed by the caliber of this year’s nominees, and below is a listing and brief summary of each of these candidates who are also building bridges in our community:
Paul T. Ashe: If you wonder, “what can one person do?” think of Paul T. Ashe. In 1979, while he was in his mid-20s, he began distributing sandwiches to people in need out of a small Christian bookstore above a convenience store on Gorham Street. That was a band-aid on a systemic problem. From that, he formed a partnership with St. Paul’s University Catholic Center on State Street to secure space for a noon meal. He reached out to leaders of a wide range of faith communities to recruit small teams of volunteers to cook and serve balanced hot meals. Soon more than 50 faith communities were participating. This became the Community Meal Program that welcomes strangers. The Community Meal Program grew to meet the growing needs of the community. Through the benevolence of the community, and without any government support, a commercial building was purchased and rehabilitated and became Luke House which serves guests 9 meals each week—4 noon meals and 5 evening meals. Here meals are shared at round tables—family style. After Mr. Ashe’s retirement, the program remains, as the model of dignified hospitality that Paul established. This nomination submitted by Ernie Stetenfeld.
Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron Salazar: Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron Salazar immigrated to the United States in 1993 and settled in Madison. She practices medicine at the Wingra Clinic and serves a very diverse and underserved population and reaches out into the community to help build bridges for the Latinx community. She serves people, primarily Latinx, with limited access to healthcare services by maintaining extensive involvement across a variety of different healthcare organizations that include counseling at Agrace about end of life care issues; educating about nutrition and healthy eating with Centro Hispano, healthcare and family planning; serving as medical director for the Latino health summit, Teen Health Bash, and chronic disease summit; and caring for the geriatric population. She also supports other organizations in the community including Latino advisory council to the United Way; Chair of Dane County Latino Health Council; advisory to UW-Madison professional association for Latinos for medical school; and the Metropolitan Madison School District Multilingual Guiding Coalition. This nomination submitted by Ron Luskin.
Becky Steinhoff: Becky Steinhoff is recognized for her vision to address an underserved area of Madison with a community center—and with her belief that people will come together to do the right thing. Through her tenacity, the eastside of Madison has the Goodman Community Center. She found supporters and philanthropists and marshalled other organization to create a state-of-the-art community center from the bones of vacant historical industrial buildings. She grew the size of the staff from 3 to more than 100 to meet the needs of the 35,000 people who use the Goodman Community Center. Becky and her staff maintain a safe place where conflict is addressed honestly and in good faith—and joy reigns. Becky retires after 31 years of leadership, but her legacy and the foundation of a healthy community center survives. This nomination submitted by Linda Baldwin O’Hern.
Nancy Young: Nancy Young exemplifies volunteerism. As a professional mental health counselor skilled in conflict resolution, she uses her training in any way that it is needed. She has consulted with community adolescent programs and worked on women’s and poverty issues to help women achieve their potential as leaders, and she is active in several capacities in her church. Her most profound humanitarian contributions have been her service to the American Red Cross where she has been deployed to 14 national disasters that include multiple mass casualties. The American Red Cross selected Nancy as one of only four mental health professionals in the country to be deployed to the Sandy Hook shooting. Nancy and her husband Ed host children of Chernobyl each year who come to Madison for relief from the aftermath of the contamination of the nuclear accident in 1986. In addition, they have opened their home to host numerous international students attending the UW. She also volunteers for the Madison Symphony Orchestra League and serving on its Board. This nomination submitted by Mary Helen Becker.
Due to Covid-19 we’ve been unable to meet in person since March, and we’re unlikely to resume in-person luncheons before at least January. Even then, many members may prefer to wait longer to return.
Most members have been paying dues that include the cost of weekly meals, but many of us may not know that 46% of pre-paid meals are not actually consumed by members which helped fund our club’s operating expenses each year. The board recognized that continuing to charge members for meals they can’t consume is not sustainable, but we know that without the surplus generated by meals, the club would have an insurmountable operating deficit. That’s why an ad-hoc committee was formed to study this and make actionable recommendations. The committee included the following members: Jason Beren, Jorge Hidalgo, Teresa Holmes, Jason Ilstrup, Andrea Kaminski, Charles McLimans, Mark Moody (chair), Valerie Renk, Haley Saalsaa Miller, Susan Schmitz, Rob Stroud and Rob Van den Berg.
The new approved dues structure reflects the true costs of the club and spreads them more equitably among the different types of members. Lower dues for Exempt and Life members will continue, in recognition for their many years of service and financial support to the club. Standard members will pay $390 for dues per six months, and this is retroactive to July 1, 2020; Exempt members will see an increase in dues effective for the next billing cycle of January – June of 2021 from $185.50 to $235; and Life members will change to $225 starting July 1, 2021.
The Board acted under emergency authority to approve these changes. Once the pandemic emergency has subsided to the point where a membership vote is possible, the revised dues structure will be put to a vote of the members. We believe these changes to our dues structure are necessary and appropriate to assure the financial viability of the club. We agree that the elimination of the meals subsidy was overdue and necessary, and the dues now reflect the true cost of operation of the club.
Our ad-hoc committee will hold a Zoom Q&A on August 20that noon for interested members who have questions or want to hear more background. A letter about this new dues structure was mailed to members on August 11, and a link to the August 20 Zoom meeting is included in the Friday, August 14 email from the Rotary office.