Salaam fellow Rotarians! I am pleased to detail what happened during our 10 December meeting led by one of the two nominees for President Elect of our club for the 2015-16 year, Peg Schoen.


Candidate Peg called us to order at 12:30 PM. After asking American citizens to join in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, she turned to May Gwinn for words of inspiration. May reminded us that 10 December is Human Rights Day, recounting the story of Eleanor Roosevelt’s leadership as the first chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The former First Lady was the driving force behind the drafting of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948. Mrs. Roosevelt considered forging an international consensus on the Declaration her greatest achievement, and on the tenth anniversary of its adoption, she underscored the daily significance of human rights in remarks which May shared: “Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, closes to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: The neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” In the UN, this year’s theme for Human Rights Day is “Human Rights 365”—an affirmation that human rights should be respected every day of the year.

At Peg’s request, I then introduced guests and Rotarians from other clubs joining us for lunch:

  • DC Rotaract President Marilyn Cruz;
  • Chaerin Kim, Program Associate at the Osgood Center for International Studies, Shelly Williams’ guest;
  • Gregory Maggio, invited by Maria Nelly Pavisich;
  • Luisa Meruvia, CEO of Networking for the Arts Foundation, Clara Montanez’s guest;
  • Jay Russell, Business Management Consultant at Suntrust Bank, Deraux Branch’s guest;
  • Garry Stanberry, Deputy Director of Management at the Peace Corps, Dick Pyle’s guest;
  • and last but not least, Diego Grajales, accompanying his father and reportedly taking a club membership application—finally!

In Buz Gorman’s absence, Peg asked a gentleman of many titles and talents Acting and Past Sargent-at-Arms and President Elect David Treadwell to congratulate Rotarians celebrating birthdays this week:

  • Tim Hanson on 12 December – A member since 1990 sponsored by Tom Scoggins, Tim was club president during 2001-02; he is a consultant in the non-profit sector.
  • Natalie Korytnyk Forrester on 12 December - Sponsored by Erminia Scarcella when she
    joined our club in 2007, the elegant Natalie is a psychologist.
  • Tyisha Cottman on 14 December – A new member as of October, the lovely Tyisha was sponsored by Lisa McCurdy; her classification is banking-business development.

Peg returned to the podium to announce upcoming activities and to invite other Rotarians to give us updates about ongoing projects.

  • Movie Night is on Thursday, 11 December at the Landmark E Street Cinema on 555 11th Street, NW. Please meet Ed O’Brien in the lobby at 6:45 PM; the featured film, Rosewater directed by John Stewart, begins at 7:15. (Please note that this activity has already taken place.)
  • Mark your calendar for Walter Read Bingo Night on Thursday, 18 December from 5:30 to 7:00 PM. Pre-registration with Shelly Williams is required as is the completion of a security form before 11 December at 4:00 PM. (Please note that this deadline has already elapsed.)
  • Past President David Klaus took the microphone to remind us to contribute to the Rotary Foundation of Washington, DC. Did you know that our Foundation supports such wonderful service activities as Walter Reed Bingo? Past President Shaun English and Peg Schoen purchase the prizes awarded to Bingo winners with funds from the Foundation. So take out your checkbooks and credit cards. Past President David will host a springtime party on his deck for Rotarians giving more than $300 before the funding drive ends on 31 January 2015.
  • Chair of the Special Fund-raiser Committee Lisa McCurdy shared great news: The committee has decided what and when the special fund-raiser event will be; the Rotary Rubber Ducky Derby will take place in April 2016 during President Elect David Treadwell’s term. At the cost of $5 to $10 to adopt a duck, Lisa anticipates that this family-friendly event will attract many attendees and large organizational sponsors.
  • Recently in Japan, Nobutoshi Hanai brought us up to date on the relationship with our Sister Club in Tokyo which he visited on 19 November. Nobu gave a brief presentation about our club in Japanese and delivered the gift of a picture book from President Jennifer. Returning with two silk banners, he conveyed a message from Yukio Tada, formerly a member of our club, President Jennifer’s sponsor and Chair of the Tokyo Club’s International Service Committee: The club will celebrate its centennial in 2020, the same year that Tokyo will host the Summer Olympic Games. So plan way ahead for travel to Japan because we are invited to the festivities!

Before turning to our guest speaker, Peg awarded Red Badges to newly minted Rotarians Terrance Lovelady and Pete Larson.

Dr. James Lyons—Interim President of the University of the District of Columbia, On a Mission

Davis Kennedy introduced our guest Dr. James E. Lyons Sr., Interim President of the University of the District of Columbia. As Dr. Lyons explained, his position at UDC is the fifth university presidency to which he has been appointed, and he has promised his wife that he will retire at the end of this academic year. He confessed, however, that he had already retired three times and was enjoying classes at his local senior center in Atlanta, Georgia when he received the call from UDC a year and a half ago. Abandoning the pleasures of Zumba, Hip Hop and Tai Chi classes, Dr. Lyons accepted the position at UDC because “leading an urban university in the nation’s capital is the best mission.”

UDC is an asset to the Washington metropolitan area that, in Dr. Lyons’ opinion, “folks haven’t really embraced.” An urban university should “by design” look at community issues, and UDC’s newly adopted strategic plan presents a “tremendous opportunity” in this regard. Seeking to align the university more closely with the local business community and the public school system, Dr. Lyons hopes that the new mayoral administration and the city’s residents will come together behind UDC. He does not want UDC to be “the best kept secret in the city,” as local officials and businesspeople have repeatedly told him. Underscoring the lacking familiarity with the school’s academic offerings, Dr. Lyons asked Rotarians how many of us know that UDC has master’s degrees programs in such fields as architecture, engineering, homeland security, water resources management and cancer biology, prevention and control. As few as five members and at most 15 indicated that they are aware of each of these programs.

Recognizing that students have several universities from which to choose in the Washington area, Dr. Lyons insisted that UDC is distinct because it strives “explicitly to serve all eight wards of the city.” While anticipating his return to retirement in Atlanta as the search for a new university president begins in 2015, Dr. Lyons persists in his mission of highlighting UDC’s relevance and service to the local community.  His dedication to the school and to higher education impressed Rotarians who asked him several questions. In his responses, Dr. Lyons stayed on message and on mission, refuting the contention that UDC should be perceived “differently”—as inferior—because “it started out serving the least of these.” He declared that UDC’s master’s degree program in cancer biology “isn’t even on the public’s radar due to the perception that students are admitted needing remediation in math and reading.”

Dr. Lyons concluded by agreeing with the assertion that UDC is without a voice in Congress but commented that the relationship between the school and the city is more problematic than the lack of representation on Capitol Hill. Because the city created UDC, he receives e-mails titled “To all city agency heads” as the school’s president. City regulations apply equally to “UDC and the Department of Motor Vehicles,” despite the obvious differences between them, Dr. Lyons remarked half-jokingly.

Adjourned Until Next Week

President Elect Nominee Peg presented Dr. James Lyons with our club’s “Trees for the Capital” certificate, much to his delight as he asked where and when the planting would be so that he could be there with his grandchildren.

Meanwhile, members were eager to learn who purchased the winning raffle ticket from Andrew Clark. As Dr. Lyons drew a ticket from the box, Peg quipped that “the runner-up wins a full-ride scholarship to UDC!” When she read the lucky numbers, the small pot of $58 went to my esteemed predecessor, Past Secretary Tim Hurd. With Rotarians cheering him on, Tim chose a card from the shrinking deck, but the ace of spades eluded him as did the big prize of $1,628. This pot, the largest in four years, will keep growing.

Our gratitude goes to Johnny Allem for staffing the Hospitality Table. Lacking a greeter for this meeting, we encourage Red Badge members to volunteer for this task by talking to Gretchen Kearney. As with writing the “Meeting in Review”—hint!—by serving as greeter, new members can cross one requirement off their to-do lists toward earning that coveted Blue Badge.

As Peg noted, President Elect Nominee Ross Grantham will preside over our 17 December gathering. Wishing Ross good luck, she adjourned the meeting at 1:30 PM … And then I put down my pen, hoping that an enthusiastic Red Badge member will pick it up for next week’s meeting. Because I will not be with my fellow Rotarians for this year’s last meeting, I wish you all a joyous holiday season filled with just the right dose of mischief and, of course, the love of family and friends!