Members Showcase—Lillian Aaron, Michael Abelson and Sylvia Holmes

Posted by on Tuesday, June 5th, 2018 in Blog

Reported by Jackie Doyle

President Sara Pantin called the meeting to order at noon. Margaret Curtis led the pledges,
and Don Busby gave our invocation of the day. Rob McCarthy led us in saying the Four-Way Test. Ken King greeted each member and guest as they arrived. Carl Noble introduced our seven guests and visitors.

Past President Dale Lowe announced details of the wine-tasting/craft beer event he and Corey
Wilson w ill be hosting out at the lake on Friday, June 15. Please let Dale know if you’re planning
to attend so there is enough BBQ.

President Sara and Andy Swanson recognized the winner of our Membership Drive, Richard
Payton, awarding him a bottle of wine. Congratulations, Richard!

Tillery Castillo announced our Changing of the Guard party, to take place at Chez Zee Bistro on
THURSDAY, June 28. Members were reminded to RSVP.

Andy Swanson and Michael Abelson discussed the results of a recent survey asking members
why they had initially joined the Rotary Club of Austin, why they have continued to be members and why they attend the Tuesday luncheons. “To do good things” was the top response to the first two questions while “camaraderie” was the main reason people gave for attending luncheons. Michael said an online survey is in the works.

Members were reminded about their membership dues and about the payment due date of June 15. President Sara then invited everyone to enjoy Fellowship over lunch.

Vlad Bahrencu announced today’s speakers, the first of whom was Lillian Aaron, whose interest in Cajun
dancing intrigued him.

Lillian, a native of “Virgi-lina,” grew up on a tobacco farm with 15,000 chickens, where she learned the value of a long, hard day’s work. She clearly still appreciates physical challenges, having taken a liking to hiking in Appalachia and mastering Country Western dancing. Her other passions include working with the National Alliance of Mental Illness and Communities for Recovery. She spoke movingly of her experience with addiction hitting her own home. Lillian is proud of her son, who has successfully battled addiction and mental health issues himself; he now acts as a recovery coach with Communities for Recovery and runs a sober home for women. With so many personal passions and successes, Lillian still manages to have a stellar career as a business technology consultant, helping companies increase efficiencies by automating and simplifying their operations and moving their data into the cloud while ensuring its security.

Our second speaker was Sylvia Holmes. After earning her J.D. from the University of Alabama, Sylvia returned to Austin to pursue a solo practice defending both criminals and consumers. Ultimately, her passion for law and for her alma mater brought her back to UT, where she is Associate Director of Legal Services for Students. Sylvia related the types of legal problems her non-profit office can help students address. Among them were lease issues, as landlords sometimes seek to take advantage of students’ lack of knowledge and experience with contracts. As well, the office can assist students who may be accused of a crime, and offers eye -opening Q&A sessions, fielding questions on topics most relevant to students and dispelling myths about such things as marijuana, handicapped parking and juvenile records. Sylvia has a real knack for capturing students’ attention through social media and advertising and employs novel approaches to creating awareness among the UT population. Her Rotary luncheon presentation was likewise entertaining and informative and included plenty of wit. Among Sylvia’s gems of wisdom: “If your problem can’t be solved with kittens, maybe it’s time to call your lawyer!”

Michael Abelson, a retired Professor Emeritus at A&M University and an expert in psychological assessment, returned to the podium to talk about his long and diverse career, which he emphasized is ongoing. (Retirement will not quiet his talents, to the benefit of his many lucky clients.) Michael’s talent for eliciting and distilling the essence of clients’ priorities and conceiving effective solutions spans numerous industries, including healthcare and technology. Michael takes the issue before him and sees with new eyes, as evidenced by his successful project with Accu-Weather. Called in to address a decline in forecasting accuracy, he observed the meeting room in which they discuss forecasts, and recognized that the conference table was an impediment to communication. With the table banished, the accuracy of forecasts sky-rocketed. Michael is looking forward to not being a Rotary Club officer next year, so that he can finally relax and just enjoy the Club and fellowship with members…which is not to say he’s retiring from anything!

President Sara adjourned the meeting after recognizing two of our newsletter sponsors Mark Johnson with IBC Bank and Reggie Nisbett with Greater Texas Water Company. She announced that Tom Noonan of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau will speak on June 12. The Annual Club Wrap-Up and Awards Ceremony is set for June 19

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