The COVID-19 pandemic has had effects – both good and bad – for teachers, students and communities alike. That’s the message Capital Rotarians heard on Dec 16 when Dr. Jon Pederson (in photo) was guest speaker at the club’s biweekly Zoom meeting. Pederson is dean of the University of South Carolina’s College of Education. He said the coronavirus has spawned problems such as (1) symptoms of “Zoom fatigue” where online classes become a tiresome burden; (2) a cultural divide between people with easy internet access and others with little or none; (3) a loss of social and emotional experiences that children have during in-person classes; and (4) more stress for teachers in a profession that’s been losing its luster in recent years. On the plus side, Pederson sees (1) more creativity in finding new and different ways to engage students in their lessons; (2) more flexibility in meeting the needs of children inside and outside the classroom; (3) increased parent/community involvement in public schools; and (4) a growing recognition that broadband service is critical for not only learning but also economic development in a community. Pederson earned his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction-Science Education, M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, and B.S. in Agriculture-Biochemistry and Nutrition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He joined South Carolina’s College of Education as dean in 2016.
Senior environmental attorney Tom Mullikin of Camden – chair of the Governor’s Floodwater Commission – is leading efforts to help defend South Carolina from the effects of a warming planet. The job includes dealing with rising sea levels, persistent flooding and severe storms coming in from the Atlantic and up from the Gulf Coast, as he explained to Capital Rotarians during their Sept. 23 Zoom meeting. Mullikin (in photo) said debate over climate change has been “hijacked by politics” that breed division, but the Floodwater Commission wants to “occupy the middle ground” via emphasis on solving environmental challenges. Plans have been made to plant 1.8 million trees throughout the state on Earth Day 2021 as an example of local, positive action. “We in South Carolina can’t solve the world’s problems,” Mullikin said. “What we’re going to have to do is solve ours.” Floodwater Commission solutions range from planting more shoreline vegetation to constructing natural and artificial reefs along the coast; from cleaning canals, ditches and rivers to replacing fossil fuel power plants with utility-scale solar. “We’re in the process now of helping to create an electric highway, because BMW and Volvo are making South Carolina manufacturing one of the global leaders in e-vehicles,” Mullikin said, touting moves toward reducing the state’s greenhouse gases footprint. “‘Environmental sustainability and economic sustainability are not mutually exclusive,” he added. “We can be more protective of the environmental and more profitable.” Mullikin graduated from the University of South Carolina with a law degree in 1986. The retired leader of the volunteer South Carolina State Guard, he’s also a “National Geographic Expert” and a Fellow in both the Manhattan-based Explorer’s Club and London’s Royal Geographical Society.
The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed blood drives across the Midlands, but the need for lifesaving donations remains critical, according to Kristen Boyle, a donor recruitment representative for the American Red Cross. Boyle was guest speaker at Capital Rotary’s biweekly meeting via Zoom on July 1. Closed colleges and businesses shrank student and employee donor pools in the spring, Boyle noted, plus a number of churches and civic groups (including the Rotary club) cancelled planned drives. Meanwhile, demand is up as much as 30 per cent while hospitals are beginning to reschedule elective surgeries. The Red Cross has safety steps in place, Boyle said, including mandatory face masks, temperature checks, gloves, rigorous sanitizing and social distancing at donor sites. Blood is now being tested for coronavirus antibodies; results are anticipated in 7 to 10 days. A positive test means the donor has previous virus exposure, but “that doesn’t mean we can’t use the blood,” Boyle explained. “COVID-19, or any respiratory illness, isn’t transfused through blood donations. Having antibodies means you can apply to the convalescent plasma program and potentially help a patient who’s battling a severe case of COVID.” Since the country has a blood need every two seconds – and every donation can help save up to three lives – Boyle declared: “Giving blood is an essential service.”
The head of the SC Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has been inducted into Columbia’s Capital Rotary Club. Kitty Sutton – executive director of the legal nonprofit since 2013 – joined May 20 during the club’s second Zoom meeting. Remote sessions are being held every two weeks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Sutton is a Columbia native with both English and law degrees from the University of South Carolina, plus a Masters in English from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. She’s worked at law firms in Mobile, Charleston and Columbia. She has been an adjunct professor at USC, the College of Charleston and Trident Technical College. Sutton is on the board of Justice 360, a group involved with juvenile justice and capital punishment issues. She’s also been a board member for Heathwood Hall Episcopal School and for Columbia’s Court Appointed Special Advocates, Communities in Schools and Carolina Ballet.
Capital Rotary president Abby Naas (left in photo) recognized Philip Flynn and Katherine Anderson on March 4 for their continuing support of The Rotary Foundation, the international service club’s charitable arm that funds programs for world understanding and peace. Flynn was named a Paul Harris Fellow plus-one donor, representing an initial $1,000 donation, plus another of $1,000; Anderson is a plus-two Fellow with an initial $1,000 donation followed by two more for $1,000 each. Flynn is Capital Rotary’s immediate past president. Anderson has been a club member since March 2009.
A 63-page bill in the SC Senate would mean more changes in the state’s public schools rather than true education reform, according to Pam Mills, guest speaker at Capital Rotary’s Feb. 12 meeting. Mills (in photo with Rotarians Bob Davis at left and Mike Montgomery) assists the SC Association of School Administrators with legislative matters. She outlined several recommendations for the much-debated measure: (1) a shift from focusing on accountability and assessment toward “letting teachers teach the way they know how, with love and enthusiasm, rather than just meeting pacing deadlines”; (2) restore a sense of status and respect for the teaching profession, plus strengthen the home-school connection for more parental support and better classroom discipline; (3) facilities improvements to ensure that all schools are safe environments conducive for learning; and (4) offer expanded industry certification and college-credit programs so that students would graduate “with more than a diploma.” Mills, an alumnus of Columbia College, previously was the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s press secretary, served as admissions director at the Governor’s School for the Arts and retired from the Greenville County School District.
Keeping Richland County’s older citizens healthy, independent and safe has been the goal of Senior Resources for the past 42 years, says Beth Struble, interim director of development for the non-profit that began in 1967. Struble (shown with Rotarian Perry Lancaster) was Capital Rotary’s Jan. 8 guest speaker, detailing the agency’s work in supplying food, helping at home and promoting active living. Capital’s members – as volunteers – are most familiar with the Meal On Wheels program delivering hot food daily to the homebound. But Senior Resources also provides clients with bags of fresh produce monthly and has a senior care pantry for non-perishables, household goods and personal hygiene items. Home help includes personal care, transportation to doctor visits and other medical-related trips, and Pet Pals – monthly dog and cat food delivery for seniors’ four-legged companions. Active living services are (1) four wellness centers for physical fitness; (2) “foster grandparents” who mentor and tutor at-risk students, primarily in elementary school; and (3) senior companion volunteers assisting with light housekeeping and meal preparation. Struble said all these programs enable clients to remain at home as long as possible, delaying or preventing institutional care needs.
In folklore, vampires are undead creatures feeding on blood from the living. In reality, our homes are well-stocked with energy vampires – electronic devices that drain power even where they’re not in use and that can suck up to 10% of your monthly bill, according to Mary Pat Baldauf (in photo). She’s the City of Columbia’s sustainability facilitator and was Capital Rotary’s Oct. 23 guest speaker. Energy vampires are easy to spot because they (1) use an external power supply; (2) may include a remote control; (3) have a continuous display or LED status light; (4) may contain a battery charger; and (5) can feature a soft-touch key pad. Common examples include cable/satellite boxes; DVR, VCR, DVD players; mobile phone devices; video game consoles; and standby coffee makers. Baldauf said “slaying” energy vampires might be as simple as pulling the plug, especially for devices not used very often. Other remedies are (1) making use of energy-saving features — such as sleep mode — commonly built into electronics; (2) plugging into smart power strips that automatically cut the current when devices are not in use.; and (3) replacing old or broken products with ones that are more energy efficient and have a lower than average standby consumption rate. Baldauf noted that none of these strategies will eliminate power bills altogether, but a few small steps over time will save money. A University of South Carolina graduate, Baldauf engages residents, businesses and city employees in environmental and climate protection initiatives.
The University of South Carolina’s Educational Foundation and Development Foundation provide key, non-profit support for the state’s flagship institution, according to Jason Caskey, a 1990 accounting graduate who oversees fund operations. Caskey (center in photo with Rotarian Matthew Pollard at right and assistant Hunter Lambert on left) was Capital Rotary’s Sept. 18 guest speaker. He said the two foundations’ assets total approximately $800 million. The Educational Foundation’s primary purpose is to accept donor gifts in the form of cash, real estate, life insurance and other valuables. It has assets of $565 million, including investments worth $478 million whose earnings are applied to scholarships, faculty/staff salary supplements, development staff support, the USC Children’s Center and foundation operations. The Development Foundation’s goal is to handle the purchase of real estate – some for operations, some held for possible future use and some to be put up for sale. Its total assets are approximately $225 million. Caskey received the 2008 Distinguished Young Alumnus award from USC’s Moore School of Business. He was a financial services practice leader and managing shareholder for Elliott Davis in Columbia before becoming the foundations’ president and CEO.
Sophia Bertrand (right), new leader of the University of South Carolina’s Rotaract Club, is welcomed to a Capital Rotary meeting by president Abby Naas (left) and Neda Beal, liaison to the USC group. Bertrand, a senior studying experimental psychology with minors in Spanish and neuroscience, plans a career in occupational therapy. She’s involved Mind and Brain Institute research and takes part in the Capstone Scholars Program, Capstone Connectors Mentoring Program and Peace Corps Prep Program, plus Off Off Broadway Amateur Theater. She’s a Freshman Seminar Class peer leader and is active in church groups. Rotaract clubs are open to adults ages 18-30 interested in community service, in developing leadership and professional skills, and who enjoy networking and social activities. USC Rotaract was formed in 2010-2011 under the sponsorship of Spring Valley Rotary; Capital Rotary assumed sponsorship in the past year.