University of South Carolina president Bob Caslen updated Capital Rotarians on a host of items June 17 at the downtown club’s biweekly Zoom meeting. Topics ranged from possibly renaming iconic buildings to resuming fall classes on campus, and from football season prospects to strategic planning for the future. Caslen (in photo), a retired Army general who’s a graduate and former superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, became USC’s 29th president last Aug. 1. He told Rotarians that: (1) renaming Sims Hall on campus – a building named for a man who performed medical experiments on slaves – has been reviewed by a special committee, but the state’s Heritage Act requires a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly for such changes; (2) resuming onsite classes is based on mitigating health risks through COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, social distancing, wearing masks in class and “responsible measures” to avoid disease spread to the community at large; (3) the slate of Southeastern Conference football games likely will be played, but non-conference games may be decided on an individual team basis, and social distancing will impact stadium seating; and (4) USC’s strategic vision is to become the nation’s premier flagship university, serving the needs and transforming the lives of the people of South Carolina. Caslen said he and his executive team will work to recruit the best students, employ world-class faculty and staff, boost the school’s research status, improve systemwide integration of programs and campus infrastructure, and prioritize economic development.
Giving youngsters a safe place to learn, eat and grow is the mission of Hope Foundation Liberia, according to Columbia attorney Mark Arden, a board member for the non-profit and guest speaker at Capital Rotary’s first Zoom meeting on May 6 (shown in photo). Arden detailed efforts to improve the lives of rural kindergarten students “physically, emotionally and mentally” in the poverty-stricken nation wracked by 14 years of civil war, followed by the Ebola epidemic. Hope Foundation renovated buildings to serve as a temporary school and dug a new well to bring clean drinking water to the community. A new school on seven acres of land is nearly finished. It has enrolled 160 children and has a curriculum including etiquette, agriculture, being kind to others and trusting in God in addition to reading and writing. Children are fed two meals daily and will learn how agriculture can promote sustainability for the school. Arden is a partner at Chappell, Smith & Arden and graduated from the University of South Carolina and the university’s School of Law.
A reception (in photo) recently launched a new mentorship program being established by Columbia’s Rotary clubs and students in the University of South Carolina’s Rotaract Club. The goal is helping Rotaractors find success in their fields of study, professional development and life after graduation. Mentors and students will be matched based on profession and the student’s major and area of interest. A student may have up to two mentors and will participate in activities such as career and course guidance, resume review, local industry networking events, and exploring internship opportunities. USC Rotaract is open to young adults interested in community service, leadership and social activities. Capital Rotary became the student group’s lead sponsor in July 2019. The local Vista Night and Main Street Rotary clubs are co-sponsors.
State treasurer Curtis Loftis touched on the highlights of his role as South Carolina’s “private banker” when he addressed Capital Rotary members Feb. 5. Loftis (shown in photo) is responsible for managing, investing and retaining custody of nearly $50 billion in public funds. He said state government is “doing well” financially, but he remains vigilant to “see that we are good stewards of your money.” For instance, Loftis praised the SC Department of Transportation for “doing more work at less cost than ever before.” But he warned that some nonprofit entities tied to corporate (instead of local) interests are getting public funds for services that state agencies and employees could provide more economically. He said some $450 million is awarded to nonprofits, but in some cases “we don’t know what good they do for how much.” Loftis was first elected treasurer in 2010. A 1981 graduate of the University of South Carolina, he is a member of the Cayce-West Columbia Rotary Club. Loftis has held leadership positions in numerous state, regional and national fiscal authorities and associations.
The EarlyAct Club at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Columbia had an active holiday season and is planning projects in January and February, too. For details, see this recent posting on the Rotary District 7770 website. The club was established by Rotary clubs in the Columbia area earlier this school year. EarlyAct is a service organization for elementary students ages 5 to 13. It develops character and leadership skills closely linked to the ideals of Rotary International.
EarlyAct Club members at St. Peter’s Catholic School have presented a check for $112 to Bernie Riedel (red t-shirt in back row), past governor for Rotary District 7770 and current End Polio Now chair. The youngsters held a Purple Pinkie Fundraiser (each donation gets one of your fingers painted purple) in support of Rotary International’s campaign to eradicate polio worldwide. Their contribution will be matched two-fold by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation – a campaign partner – so that an additional 3,000 children in third-world countries can receive polio vaccinations. End Polio Now has helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. Columbia-area Rotarians sponsor St, Peter’s EarlyAct Club as a service organization for students ages 5 to 13. It helps youth develop character and leadership skills linked to the ideals of Rotary International.
Rotary clubs in the Columbia area have launched an EarlyAct Club at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic School. EarlyAct is a service organization for elementary students ages 5 to 13. It develops character and leadership skills closely linked to the ideals of Rotary International. Capital Rotary member EJ Newby (left in photo) helped to distribute EarlyAct pins at St. Peter’s recent kickoff meeting. Each EarlyActor also received a membership card explaining the Four-Way Test used by Rotarians worldwide as a moral code for the things we think, say or do in personal and business relationships. Students will undertake various service projects during the school year and will be donating their spare change to support the CART (Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust) Fund. This initiative began in South Carolina over 20 years ago and has since been adopted by Rotary clubs throughout the United States. All of its donations go toward grants for research aimed at preventing or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Over the past 20 years, technology has spawned widespread changes in real estate buying, selling and closings, according to lawyer and broker Gary Pickren, guest speaker at Capital Rotary’s Aug. 14 meeting. Pickren (in photo with Rotarian Gloria Saeed) detailed changing roles for agents and attorneys in today’s electronic-driven marketplace. Agents – once seen as advisors, counselors and advocates for their clients – now chiefly provide emotional support and keep a transaction’s progress on schedule. In the future, Pickren sees agent compensation moving to a sliding scale instead of percentage commissions, or becoming an ala carte system based on flat fees plus extra “menu options.” He said real estate attorneys’ offices today function more professionally because of consumer protection laws, while lending a marketing and social experience touch for closing transactions. Technology will continue making inroads, leading to more online documents and electronic closings. In short, Pickren said, “it’s not your grandfather’s law firm anymore.” Pickren grew up in Spartanburg and graduated from Wofford College. Since 1995 he has performed real estate closings, taught agents and advocated for all South Carolinians in changing the state’s real estate laws.
At Capital Rotary’s June 26 club assembly, outgoing president Philip Flynn reviewed the record of accomplishments for the 2018-2019 Rotary year, including:
- A fund-raising gala that resulted in nearly $20,000 for the CART (Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust) fund.
- An annual Red Cross Blood Drive that collected 58 units of blood.
- A literacy project that donated 741 dictionaries to third-graders in 16 Richland District One elementary schools.
- Serving two families in need – one in the Christmas season and another this spring (displaced by public housing gas leaks).
- A morning of volunteer community service at Harvest Hope Food Bank and weekly delivery for Meals On Wheels.
- A Rotary Global Grant Project to build a new elementary school in Ghana.
- An increase in college scholarship awards from four to six.
- Becoming host club for the student Rotaract Club at the University of South Carolina.
- Spontaneous fundraisers for Pawmetto Lifeline and for the local Ronald McDonald House.
- District 7770 recognitions for ranking fourth among clubs in CART fundraising and in the top five in Rotary Foundation giving; receiving a Club Leadership Citation; and being named a Club of the Year award winner.
- Publicizing club activities with 78 website and social media posts; reaching almost 5,300 people through social media; 4,432 website visitors; 75 news items on District 7770’s website and in newsletters; 107 press releases posted in local media; and six monthly club activity recaps e-mailed to members.
Columbia’s Capital Rotary received high honors from District 7770 on June 19 for charitable giving and overall achievement of goals. In Photo A, assistant district governor Eric Davis (right) presents a citation to Tony Thompson, chairman of the club’s CART (Coins for Alzheimer’s Trust) Fund campaign. Capital Rotary ranked 4th out of 79 clubs for per capita CART giving. The CART initiative began in South Carolina over 20 years ago. Monies contributed support cutting edge, high-impact research aimed at preventing or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In Photo B, club president Philip Flynn (left) receives a Club Leadership Citation patch from Davis, emblematic of Capital Rotary’s successful participation in local and district community service projects and for contributions to Rotary International’s worldwide humanitarian outreach programs during the 2018-2019 program year. This past April, Capital Rotary was named “Club of the Year” among those similar in size in District 7770.