Category Archives: Weekly Rotary Guest Speaker

Ten-Year Journey of the Wisconsin Union

–submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by Pete Christianson

Mark Guthier 10 18 2017

Rotarian Eric Salisbury with Mark Guthier (center) and Rotarian Mary Ellen O’Brien

Mark Guthier, Director of the Wisconsin Union at UW-Madison, filled Rotarians in on the 10-year journey of reflection and growth that has resulted in restored, renovated and enhanced facilities for Memorial Union and Union South. He emphasized that the project was “our journey” because there were so many people, including students and many Rotarians, involved in its completion.

The Master Plan for the project was completed in 2004 and announced at the Memorial Union’s 75th Anniversary. Two years later a student referendum approved a student fee of $96 per student per semester in support of the project, and a capital campaign was launched in 2007. Operating revenues will cover the remainder of the $220 million budget.

In 2012 the Wisconsin Union Theater, Hoofers and Craft Shop facilities were closed. The “saddest period in the Union’s history” was when the Terrace was closed for several months, Guthier said. But now all of these facilities – and more – are open and operating and serving the University community. The crowning event was the recent opening of Alumni Park.

There were three goals for the project: infrastructure improvements to update deteriorating or obsolete facilities and meet new student expectations; increased space for student programming, meeting rooms, food service and production storage; and mission enhancements to serve the entire campus better and re-energize the Union’s status as a membership organization.

The project had a new Design Committee appointed annually, including nine students, two alumni, two faculty and two staff members. The Committee was always led by a student and Guthier himself had just one vote. In addition there were multiple advisory groups to ensure that the new facilities would meet the needs of the community.

The Committee abided by design principles that ensured the buildings will be “people magnets,” will advance student programming, and will be timeless and enduring. They strived for green construction and sustainability. Their goal was to achieve LEED Silver status for both buildings, and the prospects look good. Union South has received LEED Gold status, and they are still awaiting the rating for Memorial Union. In addition, the project aimed at making the buildings complementary of each other and welcoming of all University community members. Finally, they wanted the buildings to tell the story of the Union, student leadership on campus, and the state of Wisconsin.

Goals for ongoing operations are to “make every day an event,” operate according to sustainable principles and build community for the entire campus. The Unions must have a customer-first perspective because they rely on program revenue for their existence.

Guthier closed his presentation with a slide show of the renovated facilities and the many celebrations that marked the Union’s 10-year journey. He invited Rotarians to attend two upcoming events: a November 10 celebration of the Memorial Union being on the National Register of Historic Places and the November 11 re-dedication of the Gold Star Honor Roll.

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

Will Madison Win the Nation’s F-35 Competition?

–submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Col Erik Peterson 8 2 2017

Col. Erik Peterson with Club President Donna Hurd

Will Madison be selected as one of two Air National Guard bases where the nation’s newest and most expensive fighter jet, the F-35, will be stationed?  That was the question that Colonel Erik Peterson, the Commander of the 115th  Fighter Wing at Truax Field, addressed in his talk to Rotarians.  Already Madison made the first cut from 18 Air Guard bases to today’s five.

Peterson argued that Madison meets and exceeds all Air Force criteria for this major strategic decision.  We have the capacity to handle F-35s with today’s F-16 hangers and support facilities.  We have cost advantages over other sites because just four minutes away—at F-36 speeds!—are 30,000 square miles of practice air space and a target range.  Four minutes may not seem important, but for an aircraft that costs $40,000 an hour to fly, having everything nearby will be a strong cost argument for locating the squadron here. Another cost advantage is that we already own the necessary hangers and support facilities.  We will not adversely affect air quality and the F-35’s will be no noisier than today’s F-16s.  Finally, Madison has always given the 115th Fighter Wing strong community support.  That’s a strong resume, said Peterson.

Zach Brandon, the President of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and a project supporter who attended the meeting, reminded everyone that Madison has been an Air Force town since Truax was founded during World War II.  Remember, Brandon continued, when 9-11 happened, it was F-16s from Truax that scrambled to protect O’Hare Airport.  This is the proud job of the National Guard.

Peterson said that if the F-35 wing is stationed at Truax, its economic impact based on payrolls and purchased services will be $100 million per year.  Another benefit that few realize is that the Air Force pays for the fire-rescue program at Dane County Regional Airport.

“Make It Big and Make It Loud”

–submitted by Linda Baldwin-O’Hern; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

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From left: Andrew Sewell, Club President Donna Hurd and Mark Cantrell

Andrew Sewell, Artistic Director of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, recalls this advice when he came to Madison 17 years ago.  Sewell discovered that the audience at the Concerts on the Square were huge, unique and a tough crowd.  More than 40,000 weekly concert goers are there to enjoy a picnic, their friends, the beautiful setting AND the music.   Music selections are carefully chosen to entertain this diverse and loyal crowd.  And week after week, audiences flock to the Capital grounds to take in the wonderful performances of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

As Mark Cantrell, Executive Director of the WCO, points out, these concerts are free to the public but not free to present.  Each event costs $180,000 and Mark thanked the donors and patrons who support WCO for enabling these amazing community events.  Cantrell reminds us that we are lucky to live in a community where great art takes place.  Madison produces concerts and arts events at way above its size.  And Concerts on the Square and events at Overture and the many other venues around the city build community by bringing people together to enjoy, be uplifted and learn.

The Concert this week is a special one celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Capitol building…and of course, audiences will enjoy Tchaikovsky’s  rousing 1812 Overture…cannons and all.  Sewell recalls an early concert when he cued the cannons and ….nothing !!!  Trying it again, Sewell got his cannons and the show went on.

Cantrell and Sewell celebrated the Madison arts community, citing their own collaborations with other organizations and the arts community in general for doing a terrific job in bringing high quality performances to the community.

So this 4th of July celebration continues the centuries’ old tradition of bringing classical music to holidays and community celebrations.

As Gerald Bartell often said, “The Arts are for Everyone…Support and enjoy.”

The U.S. Supreme Court and Its History

Submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Valerie Johnson

Ryan Owens 4 26 2017Professor Ryan Owens, a member of the UW Department of Political Science and an Affiliate Faculty of the Law School (and who is developing the Tommy Thompson Center on Public Leadership) spoke to the Club about “The Past, Present, and Future of the U.S. Supreme Court.” He began with an interesting “Thought Experiment.” With the addition of Neil Gorsuch to the Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy continues to be the middle or the median justice, often called the swing vote. But what happens if he retires, and if President Trump appoints a solid conservative such as Paul Clement, who is perhaps more conservative than Samuel Alito? In that case, the new median justice becomes Chief Justice John Roberts, who would then become the most powerful [influential?] Chief Justice since John Marshall. [Though he would be a very distant second.] If Ruth Bader Ginsburg were then to retire, Justice Alito would become the median justice. On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton had been elected, Justice Stephen Breyer might be the swing vote, etc. Very easily, a 6-3 conservative court under Trump might have been a 6-3 liberal court under Clinton. The presidential election of 2016 was, then, a very consequential election.

Professor Owens then wondered whether this was not a time for reforms to the Court. Two that he suggested were age limits on the justices, and perhaps requiring them to “ride the circuit,” as was once the case. The U.S. is the only common-law country without some limits on judicial tenure.

An age limit would remove the incentive for judges to retire “strategically,” so as to assure a like-minded jurist were appointed. It would also reduce the likelihood of justices serving while suffering from dementia. Attending circuit courts would let the justices see the consequences of their decisions and let the people see them in action close-up. It might also encourage the justices to retire earlier. [But would it also discourage people from taking an appointment?]

In answer to a question, Professor Owens said that he and a colleague were doing research on the age issue by studying oral arguments over the years to see if there is any evidence of dementia in sitting justices. He also questioned whether the Senate’s refusal to consider Merrick Garland’s nomination would not lead to further retaliation beyond the recent filibuster. He expects the Trinity Lutheran case, probably Justice Gorsuch’s first major opinion, to be an important decision.

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

Animals Need Heroes Too

–submitted by Stan Inhorn

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Dr. Mark Markel, Dean of the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) described the current status of the School, as well as the plans for expansion currently underway. One of the newer veterinary schools in the U.S., the SVM has become one of the premier schools in the country. During the past 10 years, the SVM has been rated in the top five research schools in the country. The SVM is particularly known for its research in infectious diseases – viral, bacterial, and parasitic.

The SVM is also highly rated for its teaching innovations. Each year, the School receives over 1,300 applications and selects 90 bachelor-degree students into the four-year program. It also maintains a large graduate-degree program. Over half the veterinarians in Wisconsin are graduates of the UW School. About 50% of graduates limit their practices to small animals, 25% include large animals, and 25% go into other aspects of practice, including government service, research, and industry. The SVM is an innovator in creating close to 200 teaching modules that permit self-learning, which will be made available to other schools

The SVM operate a large clinical facility, as it sees more than 25,000 patients a year from throughout the Midwest and beyond. With practitioners in more than 20 specialties, an animal with a primary disease may also be seen for other medical conditions at the same hospital visit.

Since clinical space is not adequate, the SVM is planning a $150 million expansion. More space is also needed for research and teaching in order to bring all parts of the School’s mission into one facility and to allow new teaching and research programs to expand. An example of a new service-teaching program is called WisCare, which offers animal care to homeless people. An expanding research program is one that permits the influenza and viral disease experts to study  zika and other emerging viral epidemics.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.

World Dairy Expo Celebrates 50 Years

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Valerie Johnson

Scott BentleyIf you consider Wisconsin’s $44 billion dairy business to be all about big business, you might be surprised to find out that 96 percent of all of Wisconsin’s dairy farms are actually family-owned.

That family touch also is discernible in the World Dairy Expo that this year will celebrate its 50th anniversary when more than 70,000 visitors will attend the exposition October 4 through 8 here in Madison at the Alliant Energy Center campus.

Scott Bentley, general manager of the World Dairy Expo since 2013, told members of the Rotary Club of Madison at its June 1 Club meeting that the exposition represents the 25th largest trade show in the U.S. and generates an economic impact of more than $30 million. But yet the Expo holds on to its humble beginnings by including a commitment to provide educational efforts for the state’s youth and including various competitions. All this is accomplished with a small staff that relies on an army of volunteers, many of whom are affiliated with the Badger Dairy Club of the University of Wisconsin.

“We are the world’s finest dairy trade show,” Bentley said. “The focus is on dairy equipment, products and cattle.” Indeed, 2,500 heads of cattle from 40 different states “attend” as well.

The Expo attracts attendees from 95 different countries, and among the 850 commercial exhibitors, 30 different nations are represented.

Wisconsin, which trails California in actual milk production (but according to Bentley, California’s status is threatened by the potential of future water shortages), is a natural home for the World Expo. In recent years, Wisconsin has dominated the cheese competitions, taking 38 percent of all international cheese competitions.  There are 45,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin.

A trend that is now growing in the U.S. and here in Wisconsin and that has been in the making for decades in Europe is “automated milking,” a process whereby robotic technology in individual milking stalls recognizes the cows by sophisticated technology and accordingly milks the cows. Cows typically produce between 50 and 75 pounds of milk per day twice a day for an annual lactation period of 305 days.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.

Seventh Generation Land Ethics

–submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo by Karl Wellensiek

Patty Loew

Past President Tim Stadelman and Patty Loew

Patty Loew, an Ojibwe scholar and UW Professor, described insights developed over many years of study of Native practices and beliefs regarding the land on which they live. These insights are common to members from all 12 Wisconsin Native nations. The unifying theme of land stewardship is that there is a spiritual connection with the land, the waters, the animals and the plants. They live close to the land, so they can be the first to recognize changes resulting from human practices and industry.

Christians, Moslems and Jews regard holy places such as churches as sacred, but they also have portable holy items such the Rosary or the Star of David. These followers of the Abrahamic religions have a disconnect in identifying certain bodies of water or wild rice as being sacred. The  entire society of the Ojibwe and Menomonee nations recognize that wild rice lasts forever and is therefore a super food when other sources are not available. In essence, Native peoples pray for sacred spaces that are necessary for assuring the continuation of life on earth.

When Europeans landed in America, it was necessary for treaties to be negotiated in order to preserve the right to hunt and fish. Restricted to Reservations of limited acreage, Natives knew that the Reservation would not sustain the people, so that hunting and fishing outside the boundaries would  be required. In recent years, other more dangerous intrusions have threatened the Natives existence. One example is the proposal for large open-pit taconite mines. The processing of this low-grade iron ore would result in sulfuric acid flowing into wild rice fields and potentially even into Lake Superior. The long-range vision of the Native religion considers how any decision would affect the seventh generation in the future.

The Ho-Chunk Nation in particular is concerned that Frac-Sand Mining is contaminating the air, the land and the water — all of which are considered sacred sites. Lung disease has been attributed to this form of mining. The Red Cliff Ojibwe are concerned that large industrial animal installations possess a real threat of manure contamination of land and streams.  The latest proposed legislation dealing with commercial land development that disturbs the Ho-Chunk nation regards the authority to excavate sacred burial mounds to determine if human skeletons are truly present. Unless one recognizes the religious beliefs and ethics of Native Americans, one cannot appreciate their viewpoint in opposing legislation that affects not only their interests but the welfare of the environment that includes all of us.

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