Happy 105th Birthday, Rotary Club of Austin!

Posted by on Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 in Blog

Reported by Lois Ann Stanton

President Sara called a very special meeting to order as the RCA celebrated its 105th anniversary. Corey Gaskill led the pledges. Past President Ronney Reynolds read an inspirational poem The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole prior to giving our invocation of the day. Josue Limon led us in saying the Four Way Test. Jeff Fazio greeted each member and guest as they arrived and Bogdan Bikish introduced our guests and visitors.

President Sara introduced Ray Kang (and his sponsor Andy Swanson) as our newest Club member. Welcome, Ray!

Kevin Hull traded in his Red Badge for a Blue one. Congratulations, Kevin!

Five Rotarians, including three Past Presidents, were presented with Paul Harris Fellowship Awards:

  • Past President Meade Bauer (PHF +5)
  • Zach David (PHF +1)
  • Pat Von Dohlen (PHF +5)
  • Past President Tim Von Dohlen (PHF +6)
  • Past President Lee Yeakel (PHF +5)

Margaret Curtis reminded everyone of the Books for Me Project at Pecan Springs Elementary School next week. A few more volunteers are needed so that we have three Rotarians covering each time slot.

Diane Ventresca invited everyone to the Ventresca home in Leander for Red, White and Bubbly on Friday, May 11 at 6:00 p.m. Bring your favorite Texas themed wine or other drink and enjoy the fellowship!

Mary Reynolds announced an opportunity to help BookSpring on May 16 at Half Price Books on Parmer Lane. All you have to do is stand in line and take a box of books to your car. The more Rotarians we have in line, the more books we will collect for BookSpring. The line forms at 9 a.m.!

Past President Barry Curlee shared a Membership Minute. Barry announced that he was the most selfish Rotarian in the room as he originally joined Rotary to get more business. He quickly found that being a Rotarian is so much more. He has made many special friends and has connected with many people in the City of Austin he would not have met otherwise. He recalled that when he was a child, polio was a scary disease that affected the entire world. Rotary has done more than any other organization in the world to help eradicate polio. There are only eight reported cases of polio in the world this year! Barry is a proud Rotarian and very active – even though he no longer has a business!

The Global Awareness Update was made by Girish Altekar. RCA is one of only two clubs in our District that receives district funds for Global Awareness projects. He highlighted the ongoing projects in the Six Areas of Focus and encouraged us all to get involved.

President Sara announced that Jim Bushnell was recovering from surgery for a detached retina and that our oldest, active member of the RCA, Past President Bill Milstead, turned 92 on April 30. She invited members to sign cards for both Rotarians after the meeting.

Ann Graham invited members to donate to the Thank Goodness Basket. Multiple Rotarians joined the line to donate $20 to the ARCF and the opportunity to share their gratitude with the membership. Among others making donations (including: Past President Ron Mullen, Ellen Hunt, Rick Ravel, Tom Anderson, Lois Ann Stanton, Jon Yates, Past President Harold Ingersoll and Mike O’Krent), President Sara was most grateful for the 21 past presidents of the RCA that are still active members of the Club. President-Elect Julie Benkoski was grateful to participate in the East Panama clean water project with Rotary International. She is looking for any engineers or others with expertise in water issues to join her on a trip to East Panama in the late summer to work on the efforts to bring clean water to the area.

Club Historian Jack Mayo introduced our distinguished panel of Past Presidents who each shared highlights of his or her year at the Rotary podium. Mary Bird Bowman was first to speak with her theme of “how long ago was it?” Mary Bird was one of the first women to join the RCA in October 1987 and became the first female President of the RCA in 2000. Mary Bird said “it was so long ago”, it was in the last century and you could go meet a passenger at the gate when a flight arrived without taking off your shoes. The RCA did not have a permanent meeting site and the more than 380 members had to read the printed Rotary Reminder to know where to go for the meeting. More than half of the members in today’s
RCA were not members during her presidency. Many of the projects continue today, however, including the Helping Hand Home, Camp Enterprise and the scholarship programs. She encouraged all members to become more involved and join the leadership ranks.

The Honorable Lee Yeakel was next to share memories of his year as President and what being a Rotarian means to him. He admitted he was hesitant to join in the late 1980’s as he already had too many “clubs in his bag” – but he was quickly hooked on Rotary and the people in the organization. He is not in Rotary to get more business – in fact, he would rather not see you in his courtroom. More often than not, court will be recessed on Tuesdays at noon so Judge Yeakel can make our meetings. He urged everyone to bring his or her unique skill set to the leadership of the Club. Do not make the excuse that you are too busy – you will always find time to do what you truly want to do. Rotary is worth that effort!

Sherry Workman had the honor of being President for the Centennial Year of Rotary in 2005-06. Paul Harris started the first Rotary Club in Chicago in 1905 and the RCA joined in the centennial celebration with Rotary Clubs across the United States. The travelling Centennial Bell came to Austin and the RCA hosted a dinner in honor of the Rotary International President. Highlights of Sherry’s year included establishing St. David’s as a set meeting site, bringing technology to the RCA in the form of a donated laptop, a projector and new website. New meal plans were introduced and credit cards were accepted. The podium was built by Past President Paul Workman in honor of the Centennial Year and included a special step for those under 5’5”—including Mary Bird Bowman! The 2005-06 year was the beginning of the Annual Ask program for our RCA Foundation. Sherry’s favorite international program from that year was granting $10,000 for a clinic in the Sudan that continues to operate today.

Tim Von Dohlen shared that he believed in the 5 P’s – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance!!! While attending a training session in Chicago, Tim enjoyed watching the geese around the lake. The geese became a theme throughout his presidency including the passing of the white goose at each meeting to a member who shared what was happening in his life with the Club. Geese teach us about unity. They fly in a V so that their wings provide uplift that enhances the flock’s travel by 70%. Each goose in the formation benefits from the thrust from the other geese just as each Rotarian is uplifted and benefits from working with his fellow Rotarians. If a goose in the formation is injured, two of his fellow geese will fly down to the ground with him. As Rotarians, we must stand by each other. When we unite together we accomplish much more than we could on our own. Tim encouraged everyone to move from being a member of the RCA to being a Rotarian.

Last but not least to take the podium was Gaines Bagby. Gaines was the President during the Centennial year for the RCA – just five years ago. The Club focused on multiple projects in celebration of its 100 years of existence including purchasing a digital sign for Fulmore Middle School. As you drive down South Congress, you can see the beautiful Rotary wheel underneath the scrolling LED announcement highlighting what is happening at Fulmore. Sherry Workman chaired the Centennial Committee that published a book on the history of the RCA, a song was written and produced by Ande Rasmussen and Mike O’Krent produced a DVD sharing our story. Gaines shared that his passions within Rotary are the eradication of polio and Camp Enterprise where he teaches the business planning section to the high school students. He loves watching the students embrace the entrepreneurial spirit during the camp. Gaines is likely best remembered for two other accomplishments during the year – starting the wine tastings and helping hire our beloved Jennifer Olsen (who received a well- deserved standing ovation!)

Next week’s program is one of the membership’s favorites as we present the RCA Scholarship Awards to deserving young adults pursuing their education. President Sara recognized Reggie Nisbett with Greater Texas Water and Mark Johnson with IBC Bank and thanked them for their sponsorships of the RCA. She then shared her Pearl of Wisdom and the meeting was adjourned. Here’s to another 105 Years!

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