Tag Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

May 18: WI Sec. of Agriculture Randy Romanski

–submitted by Janet Piraino

WI Sec. of Agriculture Randy Romanski gave Rotarians an overview of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and discussed the impact of agriculture on Wisconsin’s economy.

In addition to advising and providing financial support to farmers, DATCP regulates food safety, animal health, consumer protection laws and the meat packing industry. Agriculture is critical to our economy, with one in nine Wisconsinites employed in agriculture. Wisconsin is fourth in the world in cheese production.

Romanski’s presentation included a visit from Alice in Dairyland, who promotes Wisconsin agriculture products. He gave shoutouts to past Alices in attendance, including our own Carol Koby.

If you missed our Rotary meeting last week, you can watch the video here. (Our thanks to WisEye for videotaping our guest speaker last week and for allowing us to post it on our club’s YouTube channel.)


May 11: Mike Falbo on UW System Leadership Transition

–submitted by Valerie Renk

Mike Falbo shared a path to university system success on May 11; 37,000 degrees will be granted this year by the UW System. Falbo is the interim president of the University of Wisconsin System.  He was a regent for 11 years, being appointed twice. 

Jay Rothman takes over the helm as system president June 1, following a national search that started in January. Falbo served on the search and screen committee when he visited all UW campuses and talked with many stakeholders. Rothman led Foley & Lardner, where he developed his leadership skills. Rothman grew up on a farm in the Wausau area. 

Falbo originally told Rothman, “You have zero chances of getting this job, but you’ll learn a lot from the process.”  While he has no academic experience, Falbo described Roth’s qualifications, saying a good leader knows their strengths, a great leader knows their weaknesses. 

The UW System is big business, with 40,000 employees, a $6 billion budget, and 165,000 students.  Falbo said the system is trying to leverage positives such as the Chancellor group, making it campus driven. They are building into a strategic plan in a short time frame, finishing by end of 2022.  He found separate groups during the campus visits, so team building is important. 

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHpAC9x0XYo.

May 4: Ukraine/Poland Border in 48 Hours

submitted by Valerie Renk

Alan Klugman and Joe Shumow shared details May 4 of their humanitarian visit to the border of Poland and Ukraine.  They visited four refugee centers, meeting with volunteers and some of Poland’s three million Ukraine refugees as part of a Jewish Federation delegation. 

Their visit lasted only 48 hours, but they heard stories of a lifetime. They met a refugee who told of meeting family with a son paralyzed from the neck down. The family took turns carrying him for three days, finally collapsing. With help from many, they were able to finally emigrate safely to Warsaw.   

Another moving story was an 87-year-old-woman, left at the border with volunteers by her son who went back for family. This made the elderly woman relive World War II memories.  Happily, her son was able to reunite her and his family.

It was powerful, they said, to sit in Warsaw and feel safe, as this is an historically war-torn

area. The Polish government paid for two of the refugee centers and other resources. Over three million refugees have been accepted in Poland; 300,000 Poles have opened their homes to offer safety at their own cost.

What can we do to help?  Giving is paramount. Many groups are raising money, including Jewish Federation (www.jewishmadison.org) , and Rotary international (https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-responds-ukraine-crisis).   

Volunteering is also needed; local volunteers were all races and religions of people who had a previous connection to Ukraine who wanted to give back. They were often sharing a sweater, a blanket, a cup of coffee, and a hug.  Volunteers are needed who speak Russian.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zeu_VSr5Uo&t=1504s.

April 27: 2022 Youth Awards Program

–submitted by Rich Leffler

Today was our club’s Youth Awards Program, which recognized 49 Madison high-school students in nine different categories for their accomplishments in academics, leadership and community service. In addition, 6 high-school students chosen by their schools for their leadership abilities served on the judging panel along with the 11 members of the club’s Youth Awards Committee. There were three categories of Wilson Academic Improvement Awards, Youth Leadership Awards, Academic Achievement Awards, Outstanding Senior Awards, Community Service Awards, and the Fay J. Meade Community Service Award. The operative words were “Academic,” “Improvement,” “Achievement,” and “Service.” These young people exhibit all of these qualities in abundance. As my Yiddishe mama used to say, it made me kvell (look it up).

April 20: Changes to the Military

–submitted by Rich Leffler

Col. Sheri Swokowski (right) pictured here with Club President Teresa Holmes

Our speaker, retired Army Colonel Sheri Swokowski, served for 35 years. She is the highest ranked retired Trans officer. She discussed the military’s dual nature concerning minorities, the “DOD Dichotomy.” Until 1948, the military segregated Blacks. President Truman ordered the end of this discrimination and ordered equal pay for women. The military has since become a leader in the integration of minorities. She herself was discharged from the Army for transitioning in 2007. But she was eventually rehired by the Pentagon as an analyst and got her military record corrected. In 1993 the exclusion of gays was somewhat ended under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Similarly, discrimination against women and Trans personnel was ended under President Obama and again in 2021 after a hiatus under President Trump, but still not by statute and so, subject to reinstatement. Today, over 2,000 Transgender people serve, 86% of them either senior officers or enlisted personnel. Col. Swokowski then discussed LGBTQ issues in the larger society. Ultimately, the solution is for all people to be treated with respect and courtesy. Simple, but not achieved so far. Except perhaps in the military.

April 13: Monona Terrace: Building On A Dream

–submitted by Rich Leffler

From left: Club President Teresa Holmes, Connie Thompson and Ken Opin

Ken Opin, who was a leader in the effort to pass a referendum authorizing the construction of the Monona Terrace, and Connie Thompson, Executive Director of the Monona Terrace, spoke to us about history and reality. The original Frank Lloyd Wright plan was for a “Civic Center” of grand aspiration. For many years this plan languished and failed in two referendums. After the referendum calling for a less ambitious convention center passed 1992, newly elected mayor Paul Soglin, with the assistance of George Austin, and Roberta Gassman, began the planning and building of the Monona Terrace. Also involved were Rotarians Don Helfrecht, the late Wayne McGown, Fred Mohs, and Mary Lang Sollinger. Construction began in November 1995 and was completed in July 1997. Since it opened 25 years ago, the Monona Terrace has hosted 16,661 events with an economic impact of $697 million. Along with the Overture Center, it has revitalized downtown Madison.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OS0eQao5GOs