Greetings fellow Rotarians! I am pleased to share the details of our 6 August gathering.

President Jennifer Hara called the meeting to order at 12:30 PM. After leading members in the Pledge of Allegiance, she turned to Dick Pyle for words of inspiration. Lamenting the bad news from around the world, Dick underscored the need to find hope. He recounted two stories of individuals dispelling stereotypes, one in Jamaica and the other in Mali. Amid myriad international conflicts, the impact of individuals seems slight. Yet as Dick asserted, collections of individuals—such as the Rotarians and Peace Corps volunteers he has known—have the power to multiply the impact of refuting stereotypes so as to forge positive relationships across cultures, ultimately creating hope for a better, more peaceful world.


When Dick concluded his remarks, President Jennifer asked Rotarians to remain standing as she eulogized three members lost this year:

  • Carl L. Gell, 29 June 1943-18 June 2014 – A lawyer, Carl joined our club in 1981, serving as president during 1997-98. A Paul Harris Fellow, Carl is best known for his witty contributions to Progress, the membership campaigns he spearheaded and his work with the local non-profit community.                                                                                             
  • Dr. Marvin “Gibby” Gibson, 26 January 1920-2 April 2014 – A physician, Gibby belonged to our club since 1972 and was president during 1987-88. A multiple Paul Harris Fellow, Gibby was a large donor and fund raiser for Polio Plus. Running the Polio Clinic at Children’s Hospital back in the day, he literally jumped for joy when Jonas Salk’s vaccination proved successful. An enthusiastic traveler, his favorite tune was Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” sung by friends at his funeral.
  • Chris Lane, 4 November 1946-31 March 2014 – Employed in investment management and a club member since 1989, Chris was dedicated to vocational and youth service. Assisting with our Career Fair and Rotaract, he loved Rotary golf outings. Chris was only 67 years old.

After a moment of silence honoring these gentlemen, President Jennifer requested that I identify guests and Rotarians visiting from other clubs as several joined us for lunch:

  • George Levendis and Charles Smith, both attorneys and John Jackson’s guests;                                                                     
  • Paul Cappelli, major in the Italian Army Corps of Engineer and Oscar Bartoli’s guest;                                                                                                     
  • Diego Grajales, accompanying his father Memo;                                   
  • Taylor Foster and Kirsten L. Jones, guests of Lisa Cohen;                                                   
  • Beth O’Brien, guest of her father Ed, with us to introduce speaker Ashley Hager;                                                                                 
  • Ursula Daniels, guest of Ashley Hager;
  • Vincent Collin, an optician visiting from France’s Lyon Rotary Club;                                                                                             
  • Chelsea Knowles, a university development professional from Ohio’s Kent Club;                                     
  • Jim Levine, from Tennessee’s Chattanooga Club;                                      
  • Renato Romano, visiting from California’s Beverly Hills Club with his wife Alice; and
  • Ken Steele, an engineer from California’s Stockton Club.

Sargent-at-Arms Buz Gorman then congratulated the week’s sole birthday reveler—Dr. Myrna Charles, born on 4 August, a member since 2012 sponsored by Dick Pyle. Not in attendance, Myrna will receive Buz’s birthday hug at the next meeting he sees her.

President Jennifer returned to the podium to announce events for Rotarians to mark on their calendars:

  • On Wednesday, 13 August, the University Club’s ballroom will begin undergoing renovations. On 13 August, we will meet in the Pershing Grille across the hall from the ballroom. On 20 and 27 August, we will move to the First-floor Dining Room across from the front desk. We thank the University Club’s staff for accommodating us during renovations so that we could avoid moving to another location.
  • Movie Night is on Thursday, 14 August at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Please meet Ed O’Brien in the lobby at 6:30 PM to buy tickets for the 7 o’clock show of A Most Wanted Man.
  • End Polio Night at Nationals Park is on Saturday, 16 August. Please contact Lisa McCurdy for information or sign up online for a ticket at $40.
  • DC Public School Beautification Day is on Saturday, 23 August. Register online to help prepare Stanton Elementary School for the return of students and teachers.

Before shifting our attention to the day’s speaker, President Jennifer recognized two Paul Harris Fellows, Eric Fraint and Buz Gorman. Their donations to the Rotary Foundation resulted from a raffle ticket and collaboration, as Eric explained. Weeks ago, he played the raffle but had to leave lunch early; so he entrusted his ticket to Buz, agreeing that if he had the lucky numbers they would split the winnings. With the numbers called, Buz not only collected the small pot but also drew the ace of spades. Over a series of e-mails, Eric and Buz decided to give their winnings to the Foundation—exemplifying Rotarian generosity!

Ashley Hager—Passionate Educator, Empowering Nepal’s Students and Teachers

President Jennifer invited Beth O’Brien to introduce her friend and guest speaker Ashley Hager, Founder and Project Director of Nepal Teacher Training Innovations (NTTI). Beth praised Ashley’s commitment to education and creativity vis-à-vis students and fellow teachers —qualities reflected in her PowerPoint presentation.

Recalling the childhood stress of moving between countries with her diplomat father and the promise she made herself to settle in one place as an adult, Ashley did not expect to fall in love with Nepal when she traveled there for a volunteer teacher training in 2008. Anticipating a six-month stay, Nepal’s children won her over. Struck by how students consider education “a great privilege,” Ms. Hager returned to found Nepal Teacher Training Innovations in 2010. Sharing a 4-minute film about NTTI, she elaborated on how her organization improves education for children in “the most remote and resource-poor parts of the country.”

NTTI’s mission consists of three components: (1) promoting a nurturing classroom where teachers educate by encouraging rather than punishing children; (2) fostering students’ critical and creative thinking; and (3) empowering women and girls who may become Nepal’s future leaders as their society makes the transition to democracy. One fourth-grade girl’s comments capture Ashley’s vision: “Since my teacher went to this training, my classes have been more interesting. Before, my teacher used to lecture all the time and it was hard to give all my attention. Now my teacher asks us … what we think and … lets us work with partners. Also, my teacher stopped beating us when we make a mistake. This is good for me because I was very scared of the stick so I never raised my hand. I am coming to school every day now, and I am understanding the work better.”

Ms. Hager’s organization has trained 1,400 teachers and enabled 84,000 children to enjoy high-quality education while building up local capacity; she transferred daily management of NTTI to two Nepali trainers within three years. Ashley’s “intimate involvement” with the project continues as she is responsible for fund raising and travels to Nepal for monitoring and evaluation. Working to expand her project’s reach and impact, Ms. Hager encouraged Rotarians to consider: donating to NTTI, introducing her to potential donors, helping to arrange speaking engagements and/or serving on the organization’s advisory council.

Ashley’s presentation inspired warm applause, questions and suggestions from members eager to assist NTTI with their own professional expertise and connections towards generating funds and other resources to benefit Nepal’s students and teachers.

Adjourned Until Next Week

After President Jennifer awarded Ashley Hager our “Trees for the Capital” certificate, members waited to hear who held the lucky raffle ticket sold by Heather Jaffan. When the numbers were called, Tim Hurd won the small pot of $25. Thanking Heather, he declared that she deserves a 20-percent cut if he pulls the ace of spades from the deck of cards. Yet with the 10 of diamonds drawn, Tim could not give Heather a piece of the $688 large pot which will keep growing.

Thank you to Greeter Judith Henderson and to Balraj Gupta and Stu Shalloway for receiving visitors at the Hospitality Table.

On 13 August, speaker Major General Charles Frank Bolden, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will address Rotarians.

President Jennifer adjourned the meeting at 1:30 PM … And then I put down my pen to leave for a visit with my family in Detroit. I thank Dan Kapner in advance for agreeing to record the minutes of our next meeting while I am in the Motor City. I will return from Michigan later this month—my pen in hand and ready to write!