Sponsor Allyson Way Hank and president Blake DuBose (right) introduce Alex Serkes as Capital Rotary Club’s newest member. Serkes practices commercial real estate and corporate law in Nexsen Pruet’s Columbia office and graduated cum laude from the University of South Carolina Law School. At USC he was research editor for the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal, and was an executive board member of the Constitutional Scholar’s Pipeline, a program to mentor middle schoolers interested in attending college and law school. Serkes has a communications degree from East Carolina University, where he was a member of the Student Government Association, the Inter-Fraternity Council and a sportswriter for the campus newspaper. The Salisbury, MD native is a member of the American and Carolina Bar associations and has previous community service with the Metro Charlotte YMCA.
Addressing South Carolina’s information technology “talent gap” is the mission of IT-ology, a Columbia-based nonprofit working to attract, retain and educate citizens about the IT profession. Capital Rotarians were briefed on those efforts during a fifth Wednesday meeting with IT-ology staffers (from left in photo Lauren Wells, Kristy McLean and Bonnie Kelly). The Palmetto State has (1) a limited pool of trained, experienced potential IT employees; (2) an insufficient number of students in IT classes; (3) women and minorities underrepresented in the profession; (4) a high demand for more cybersecurity professionals; (5) a need for a statewide culture that encourages innovators and entrepreneurs; and (6) a need for workers with more “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and negotiation. IT-ology says the key to answering these needs includes more pre-K-12th grade programs, expanded technical college outreach, teacher professional development and IT career development seminars. Capital Rotary’s Fifth Wednesday program substitutes local field trips to sites like IT-ology in place of a regular club meeting.
Capital Rotary president Blake DuBose receives banners from clubs in Nairobi and Ireland from Catherine Glen, a former Rotary Global Grant Scholar studying in the field of peace and conflict prevention. Glen recently received a master’s degree from Queen’s University in Belfast. She’s currently a visiting research associate at the university’s Center for Evidence and Social Innovation. Global Grant scholarships support graduate level study in one of Rotary International’s six areas of focus: peace, disease prevention, water and sanitation, maternal/child health, education, and economic/community development. Glen is a 2011 University of South Carolina graduate and has worked with young people within high-needs communities in the US, Japan, Northern Ireland and Kenya.
South Carolina’s recovery from the economic recession that began in December 2007 has outpaced U.S. growth in some measures since that time, but future forecasts depend on continued consumer confidence and on the politics of issues such as healthcare, fair trade, tax reform and rebuilding infrastructure. That’s according to the University of South Carolina’s Dr. Bob Hartwig (shown with Capital Rotary Club member Chris Myers). Hartwig is clinical associate professor of finance and co-director of USC’s Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management. He noted that 70 percent of the nation’s economy is tied to consumer spending. Recent polls show public and business confidence in, and optimism about, improving economic conditions. Hartwig earned his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1993 and speaks frequently on all issues related to insurance markets.
Adding quality members is the key to success for Rotary clubs, and Columbia’s Capital Rotary must continue to apply that formula, according to past president David Boucher. Boucher, now serving as membership director, focused on the importance of growth at the Oct. 11 meeting. Boucher said international membership numbers were fairly flat for the past five years while Capital Rotary added to its ranks, especially among female members. The club’s attrition rate over the last three years – 8.6% – compares favorably with that of Rotary District 7770 at 14.4%. Boucher believes Capital Rotary’s growth assets include (1) outstanding existing membership, (2) quality speakers each week, (3) a convenient meeting time at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, (4) accessible downtown parking, (5) a good meeting venue at the Palmetto Club, (6) improved social media and public relations and (7) a membership “growth culture.” But noting that “complacency is Rotary’s number one enemy,” Boucher warned that “attrition is real” and the need for “growing clubs with quality Rotarians” must be met to ensure future opportunities for service.
Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company backs community improvement outreach efforts in education, arts and culture, and health and wellness. The Columbia-based firm and its employees had a positive local impact topping $2.4 million in 2016, including over $700,000 in employee giving and more than 11,000 hours of volunteer time for charitable organizations. That’s according to president and CEO Tim Arnold – flanked by Capital Rotary members Matthew Pollard (left) and Frank Rutkowski (right) – the club’s Sept. 20 guest speaker. Arnold said Colonial Life is especially proactive in school programs such as Junior Achievement, literacy and mentoring, and educator leadership training. These demonstrate the company is a corporate good neighbor committed to student achievement and preparation of a future workforce. Arnold earned a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s in business administration degree in finance from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He joined Colonial Life in July 2011.
Transitions Homeless Recovery Center CEO Craig Currey (standing) briefs Capital Rotary members on what they’ll see during an Aug. 30 tour of the facility. Transitions aims to help the homeless stabilize their lives, increase their income and secure permanent housing. Currey said about 260 people can be housed at the site. Transitions serves more than 240,000 meals yearly while providing assistance with clothing, education and literacy skills, health, community resources, financial stability, safety and fun. Its day center program handles up to 150 clients. Transitions has moved over 1,700 people to permanent housing in the past six years and helped almost 6,000 achieve a more positive living situation. Capital Rotary’s tour was part of the club’s Fifth Wednesday program substituting local field trips in place of a regular meeting.
At the annual club assembly to review Capital Rotary’s accomplishments for 2016-2017, president Tommy Gibbons thanked members for achieving highlights that included:
- Earning a Leadership Citation badge for participation in local/district community service projects plus contributions for international humanitarian outreach.
- Donating dictionaries to third-grade students in 12 Richland County District One schools. Over the past 12 years, the club has distributed personal dictionaries to12,150 youngsters.
- Collecting 61 pints at the annual Red Cross Blood Drive, each donation helping to save the lives of up to three people.
- Raising $2,100 at a Lake Murray charity fishing tournament and over $18,000 in holiday wreath sales to benefit college scholarships; club stipends currently go to four students.
- Contributing almost $40,000 in charitable funds to The Rotary Foundation, to Polio Plus efforts to eliminate the crippling disease worldwide, and for the CART (Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust) Fund to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease.
- Supporting The Rotary Foundation with 54 Paul Harris Fellows ($1,000 donation), 46 Benefactors ($1,000 donation via will), four Bequest Society members ($10,000 donation upon death), four Major Donors (donation greater than $10,000) and eight Paul Harris Society members ($1,000 donation yearly) in our ranks.
- Providing $1,000 for flood assistance in Louisiana as well as $585 from individual members.
- Helping a local family with Christmas gifts and working with the Saint Bernard Project to repair the family’s house after flooding.
- Adding six new members and getting them involved and engaged early in club activities.
- Continuing community service projects with Meals on Wheels and Harvest Hope Food Bank
- Publicizing club activities with 60 website and social media posts; reaching 8,609 people through social media; 3,002 website visitors; 30 press releases to local media; and mention of our club in 14 district e-newsletters.
Capital Rotary president Tommy Gibbons welcomes retired South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal, guest speaker at a recent club breakfast meeting. Toal’s topic was how the country selects its judges, especially those to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Toal served on the state’s highest court from March 1988 to December 2015 after representing Richland County in the South Carolina House of Representatives for 13 years. She was the first female Chief Justice in the state’s history and graduated from Agnes Scott College and the University of South Carolina School of Law.
The Honorable Jean Hoefer Toal, Retired Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, spoke to Columbia Capital Rotary Club on May 3, 2017. Toal graduated from Agnes Scott College in 1965 and the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1968, where she was Managing Editor of the South Carolina Law Review.
As a lawyer, she argued before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the Catawba Nation. She represented Richland County as a Democrat in the South Carolina House of Representatives for 13 years. Toal, the first woman and the first Roman Catholic to serve as Chief Justice, was sworn in to the South Carolina Supreme Court on March 17, 1988 and served until retirement on December 31, 2015.