President Cogan | 2007-08 Year-End Wrap Up

June 27, 2008

June 27, 2008

Dear Rotary Friends:

Another year has come and gone so quickly that it almost seems like a mirage.

We set some ambitious goals and met most of them pretty handily, though it took thousands of hours of volunteer efforts and many long days of planning to carry out the many events that got us through a tight budget year with relatively flying colors.

Here is a summary of the goals that we set last June as a board:

Earn Presidential Citation: We brought nine wonderful new members into the club and did, indeed, receive this recognition from our district and Rotary International in honor of all of the good work that our many members did during the course of the past year.

Continued excellence in Youth Exchange: We had a great year with Katrin (Austria), Javier (Ecuador) and Pauline (France) and most of our eight outbound students also had wonderful experiences, though a few had to come back early for various reasons.

Double our financial commitment to World Community Service, including polio eradication: Under the leadership of committee chair, Mark Abbott, we spent $2,000 on WCS Projects in Ecuador (District Simplified Grant for sewing machines for training center with Rotary Clubs in Ecuador), Guatemala (scholarship fund identified by our own Reginaldo Hasslett-Marroquin, Costa Rica (scholarship fund identified by our own Charlie Skinner), and a project in Belize, in partnership with Rotary Clubs in Evanston, IL and Swarthmore, PA. Instead of focusing just on matching grants this year, we placed our highest priority on polio eradication, because of the matching grant challenge from the Gates Foundation, and committed the entire $6,000 raised by our Turkey Trot to the Polio Plus Partners Fund. We led the district in polio giving for the year.

Start new fundraiser (Concert): The “To China and Back” concert in January was a wonderful cultural, musical and social event. It also netted over $7,000, which allowed us to cover for last year’s deficit budget of about $4,000 while also allowing us to use some of the funds for youth exchange and other activities. Professor Gao Hong and a talented group of performers from Carleton and Northfield HS combined with Will Healy as MC and a hard working organizational committee chaired by Tom Durkin and others to pull off a fun event that may become a Northfield tradition.

Continue to strengthen relationship with Cannon Valley Rotaract: We had a good year with regular Rotaract visitors at our lunches and even provided a speaker or two for their meetings. We look forward to continuing to work with them in the years to come.

Complete the endowment goal for our scholarship fund: As many of you know, this scholarship fund was created in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of our club, during Orv Marks’ presidency in 1975. It has provided funds for three scholarships each year for Northfield students seeking higher education. This year, our goal was to bring the total endowment to $60,000, so that we could begin to draw from this fund to augment our annual budget. Until now, the priority has been to grow the fund, so the annual scholarships have been funded each year by club revenues. With only a few months left in the Rotary year, Brett Reese stepped forward to complete this goal with a generous gift to bring the total to the amount needed. However, in doing so he made sure that we understood that this has been a labor of love for many Rotarians and their families over the past thirty-three years and his gift was also in tribute to all of those Rotarians, their families and friends who had dedicated their money and their time to this fund since its inception. Our thanks go out to Bob Will for his years of volunteer leadership in managing this fund to its current level.

In addition, a fund in memory of Ann Sipfle has been carefully managed for many years. Anne was an outbound exchange student from our club to Argentina, who died in a tragic accident shortly after she returned from her Rotary exchange year. Her parents began this fund to honor her memory and to provide assistance to Rotary youth exchange students. It’s my happy duty to let all of you know that this fund has now reached its endowed goal of $10,000, which will allow our club to designate a scholarship each year in Anne’s name, to be awarded with our other scholarships at the end of the school year to one of our outgoing youth exchange students. Completion of the Sipfle Fund was a collective effort and it’s wonderful that this fund will also now be able to add to our club’s scholarship support.

Establish and complete a new Paul Harris Goal to help increase Rotary Foundation and targeted giving: Greg Carlson, Bob Will and Dave Brown worked together this year to raise our sights for Rotary Foundation giving. Through a combination of presentations and appeals, our club members stepped up to combined giving of over $14,000 to The Rotary Foundation (TRF) efforts, which is well above the targeted $100 per Rotarian per year that is encouraged by our district and Rotary International.

Take Basketball Tournament to a new fundraising level: In the past, our winter basketball tournament has raised around $2,000 for our club. This year, in partnership with the NBA (Northfield Basketball Association), we netted almost $5,000 and added concessions. Many of you offered your time as organizers and volunteers at the event and it was both fun and profitable. Thanks to Mark Cashman, Kevin Rodgers, Brian Harmelink, and Tom Tollefson for all of their hard work.

Increase district level participation and leadership: Our club has always been a district leader for youth exchange and Jan Stevens, Candy Taylor, Vicki Dilley, Rick Estenson and others have continued this tradition at both the club and district level. We have eight outbound students on board for this year and three inbound students from Brazil, Japan and Denmark.

Mark Cashman completed his second year as Assistant District Governor.

Several of our committees were busy providing opportunities for local youth in Rotary leadership programs. We had students in both Camp Enterprise and RYLA, thanks to hard work from Jane Fenton and Tom Stringer. Sian Muir and Mike Flynn also worked with their committees to identify and interview Ambassadorial and Peace Scholars and our Ambassadorial candidate from St. Olaf ended up as the district first alternate, selected from a large group of finalists. We also sponsored Sarah Hale, who went to Peru this year on an outbound Group Study Exchange (GSE) team this spring.

Our own Richard Maus served as one of our district’s two Polio Plus speakers (along with Les Anderson of Elk River) and traveled to many clubs to share his own experiences with polio and inspire clubs around the district to commit to supporting the global polio eradication effort. This included donating several boxes of his book, The Lucky One, to generate donations to the cause. His efforts received honorable mention on page 6 of the June Rotarian magazine.

Document and improve orientation process for new members: Membership chair and President-Elect Laurie Williams held two orientation meetings for new members, one in July 2007 and another in May 2008.

Participate in Club Visioning Exercise, facilitated by district visioning team, and follow up on conclusions: We did a visioning exercise last summer, chaired by immediate past president Jim Blaha and attended by eighteen members of our club. This exercise was very interactive and was led by our district’s visioning team. We then contacted another thirty-five members to solicit additional feedback in addition to making a number of announcements at club meetings to invite input. Pointed suggestions from Orv Marks, Doug Jones and George Soule were particularly memorable and were offered in a positive spirit of straight talk. Many of you stepped up with feedback and suggestions for the future of the club. This is an ongoing process, but some of the main points raised related to club size, the possibility of considering the creation of a breakfast club, various options for our food contract, the importance of offering social events outside of the normal luncheons, and a greater focus on partnering with other local organizations for community initiatives. Many of these will be ongoing concerns in need of revisiting, so the board appointed a Presidents Council of six members, including the current president, president elect, president elect nominee as well as the two immediate past presidents (to be updated each year as the succession process moves ever forward) to keep reviewing the long range needs and priorities of the club for the future.

Work in Progress:

We brought in nine great new members this year, but lost a few more due to job changes, long commutes and other causes. Growing and maintaining a strong membership base is an ongoing project and we’ve considered several options, including the possible formation of a breakfast club for those many members and potential members who need to spend a considerable percentage of their working lives in the Twin Cities, but still would love to be Rotarians in Northfield and could better manage an early breakfast than a weekly lunch. We plan to discuss the possible pros and cons of a second club with other communities like Hudson, Stillwater and Owatonna, to be sure that we’ve thought things through before we make any decisions.

On the website and technology front, we were very ably assisted by club member Griff Wigley, who put in long hours to upgrade our website, train our board members to use a new “basecamp” technology and explore ways of updating and upgrading our membership directory and other web-based initiatives. While considerable progress has been made, this is a huge task to be taken on by any one member and Laurie Williams met with Griff and a number of club members to form a larger and more active team to work on website issues during the coming year.

Some highlights:

All in all, this has been a busy and enjoyable year for me as president. I’ve pulled out some of the high lights below:

-Our “Good Neighbor Award” this year went to Dr. James Evans for all of his hard work in Northfield’s healthy community initiatives program as well as many years of service as a local physician with the Allina Medical Clinic.

-Our Jesse James Bike Tour was again a big success, drawing over 1,000 riders of all ages (as well as our own volunteers, who always enjoy their work at the event) from across the region for a morning of fun, fellowship and healthy exercise. The proceeds benefited the Mill Towns Trail with a gift of $10,000 (in addition to bolstering our club’s budget in other ways.

-Our Marsten Headley Service Above Self Award for 2007-08 went to John Stull, retired Malt-O-Meal executive, city councilor, mayor, bike tour guru and mover and shaker in his community and church. The award was presented on May 30 and John and Sue were our guests for the day.

-We had several honorary Paul Harris Fellowships awarded to: Steve and Amy Meierbachtol, math teachers extraordinaires (by Greg Carlson), Joan Torbenson (by Brett Reese), Ellen Bierman (by our club, in appreciation for many years of leadership for our Turkey Trot), Deanne Weber (by husband Chris Weber). In addition, many club members stepped up to do Paul Harris Fellowships to support Rotary’s international efforts for polio eradication and international humanitarian projects.

-Our Turkey Trot, To China and Back, Basketball Tourney and other efforts benefited from good weather and good team work and helped us to meet our budget needs for the year and end the year in the black.

-Rick Estenson was honored by the district for the Touching Hearts Award, chosen from among 3,500 district Rotarians in over 64 clubs. See details and link to detailed text at in “Governor’s Corner”.

-Our donations committee contributed to many worthy local causes, summarized recently by committee chair Carl Caskey. Carl would be willing to share further details with anyone who’d like to know more specifics. There have been suggestions from some members that our club could do even more locally and this suggestion has been forwarded to our Presidents’ Council for discussion.

-Past President Bob Will awarded his 139th Paul Harris Fellowship, bringing our club’s total to 172 Paul Harris Fellows. Bob has made our Foundation one of the strongest in the district for its support of Rotary’s international efforts, including polio eradication, world community service projects, youth exchange and many other worthy causes. Although Bob will be asking David Brown to take over as Foundation chair, he’ll still be on the committee and we’ll have to find a way for him to present a few dozen more PHF’s in the years to come.

-We were lucky to have a number of great programs again this year, from classification talks by members to updates from various local organizations to discussions of geo-politics, current initiatives at both local colleges, and a whole range of other guests and topics during our fifty weekly meetings. In our visioning process, many members underlined the importance of having relevant and interesting programs as a way to keep our own members looking forward to those Thursday lunches, while also attracting new members.

While we wish we could spend all of our time celebrating, there were also some moments of sadness during this Rotary year. When we speak of the family of Rotary, it’s not just the Rotarians themselves, but their parents, spouses and children as well. This year, we said goodbye to some old friends. Barbara Truax, wife of James Truax, passed away in August after a battle with cancer. In December, our old friend Doris Marks, wife of Orv Marks and mother of Alan Marks died after a long illness. In February, Caroline Talen, wife of Bill Talen, passed away in Georgia, where she and Bill were spending the winter, after several months of illness.

On January 1, 2008, our old friend Burt Peterson (husband of Helen) died at the age of 86. Although his declining health had kept him from attending club meetings for the past few years, Burt was a true stalwart of the club for many long years and his warm smile and friendly personality made our club a welcoming place for new visitors. Frank Cerny (husband of Peg), one of our World War II veterans and wonderful piano player and friend passed away in May, after a long illness, at the age of 91. Reverend Clifford Swanson, (husband of June and father of our friend Maren Swanson), passed away on June 12 at the age of 87. He served as college pastor at St. Olaf College from 1954 to 1981 and was a long-time member of our club. We keep our departed friends and their families in our hearts and prayers.

The past few months have been challenging ones for two of our members. Within a span of a few short weeks, past presidents Barbara Will and Bob Lampe both suffered strokes and were hospitalized. Both are currently recovering and we hope to see them at our meetings again soon, though the first priority for both of them has to be to take the time to recover fully. There are several stroke survivors in our club and we know that the physical therapy and healing take time. Many of us have been to visit both Barbara and Bob and they and their families have expressed their appreciation for all of this support. They continue to be in our thoughts.

The Passing of the Torch and Gavel has been completed:

As a new Rotary year begins, this is a time to finish up old projects and to gear up for an exciting new year. I’ve enjoyed this year as club president, but am glad that President Laurie Williams has now taken over at the helm. The nice thing about Rotary is that everyone is a leader, but everyone is also willing to be a helper when necessary. As Laurie begins her presidential year, she’ll be strengthened by the addition of two new board members: Curtis Tiano (Treasurer) and Jane Fenton (Vocational Service). Renee Huckle will join me as we move off the board and back into the ranks.

I want to thank the club’s board of directors for all of their hard work and support during the past twelve months. Many hands make for light work and with Rick Estenson heading up the treasury and Jean Larson as club secretary, we’ve been one the clubs in the district that consistently had its books balanced and its paperwork filed on time and updated when necessary. This may seem normal, but it’s not always the norm in all-volunteer organizations. A big thanks to Laurie Williams as well, who got the chance to run the weekly meetings more often than I did as Jim Blaha’s president-elect. Her willingness to step in and take over when I was traveling or facing other challenges meant a lot to me during a sometimes difficult year.

In addition, Robert Bierman, Hannah Puczko, Renee Huckle, and Chris Weber attended many long hours of board meetings and sacrificed family and personal time to attend district events and chair meetings, etc. Key committee chairs like Peggy Prowe (programs), Bob Will, Greg Carlson and David Brown (Rotary Foundation), Scott Richardson (Cogwheel) and Kevin Rodgers (Hospitality), Jack Hoschouer (Jesse James Bike Tour) all put in long hours outside of our club meetings to keep things moving smoothly. As always, Vicki Dilley, Candy Taylor and the members of our youth exchange committee served as friends, host parents and mentors to incoming and outgoing youth exchange students and found other host families in the community. A person could go on and on here and I feel like I should thank all of you individually, but maybe that’s better done in another format.

A Rotary club is just a collection of individuals who pledge themselves to work together from time to time to do good things in our club, in our community, in our vocations and hopefully, in the world. Rotary International provides some of those avenues, but much of the local work is done by individual clubs. Ours is now heading into its 83rd year, but we’re going strong and it’s because all of you keep on making time in your busy lives to keep this club on its feet and moving forward.

Many of our efforts span several years and cannot be truly credited to any one of us. For example, Pat O’Neill and then Brett Reese made a strong commitment to helping with the establishment of the Spring Creek Soccer complex seven years ago. Over the past seven years, we’ve invested thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of volunteer work in that park. In mid-August, our District Governor Clare Lillis came to our club and we hosted him at the new Amerman Pavilion. In all directions, our members could see signs of our hard work in the community. Northfield Rotary contributed, along with many other local individuals, businesses and organizations, to: Everybody’s Playground (proceeds from the Turkey Trot one year), the preparation of the Rotary soccer field ($7,500 over three years, including Turkey Trot proceeds one year), the design and construction of the Amerman Pavilion ($10,000 over three years, including proceeds from Turkey Trot one year, in addition to being the fiscal agent and lead partner in the $140,000 project), the preparation of grant proposals for the water fountain funded by the Northfield Area Foundation and the “Wings Misting Oasis” and Ruth Nutting Garden adjacent to Everybody’s Playground, the installation of a Rotary bench in memory of Past President Al Haugen and of weather-resistant benches adjacent to each soccer field. Over the years, these efforts have been supported by successive presidents (Pat O’Neill, Brett Reese, Mark Cashman, David Brown, Jim Blaha, myself) as well as a huge amount of volunteer effort from Jim Pokorney, whose official Rotary job descriptions never included any of his grant writing, hole-digging, paper-chasing or the manual labor supplied by his wife, Sue, and strapping sons John and Tom and daughter Carolyn.

Some of our newer members were also volunteers on this project before they ever joined our club, like Steve Ryan, who donated dozens of hours to apply the weatherproofing seal to the inside of the roof and enlisted the help of many other local trades people, and even some kid volunteers to move scaffolding and spray those areas that could only be accessed by people weighing less than 100 lbs. Blake Abdella also helped with laying of the brick façade and other jobs, drawing on all of his experience with Habitat for Humanity. All of this was done before he joined our club. I’ve included this update because it shows that a Rotary club’s impact can only truly be judged over a long period of time, not based what has been achieved in twelve short months. It also shows that by being engaged in the community, we make connections will all kinds of great people who are willing to commit to efforts on behalf of their home town and Rotary’s role in helping to make and maintain and expand these connections can be of real service to the city of Northfield and its residents.

Before concluding, I want to thank my family for putting up with all of my Rotary work for over five years on the board. My wife, Nalongue, is a full-time registered nurse at Northfield Hospital and is busy enough as it is, but also pitched in many times when I had to be out of town or out of the loop for several hours on a regular basis for Rotary meetings. She rarely gave me a hard time about all of this, since she knows the important work we do. Still, it would have been nearly impossible for me to be a part of the leadership team if she had not taken over most of the leadership of our home. Five years is a long time. When I first joined the board, our son Pascal was a newborn. Now, he’s five years old and heading into kindergarten in the fall. Our daughter Raphaela was just heading into kindergarten, now she’s gearing up for fifth grade. Our eldest son, John, was heading into his junior year in high school, now he’ll be a senior in college soon. While I cannot give them back all of the hours I spent on Rotary work, I hope they understand that it’s a part of a productive life to be involved in a community and in the wider world and perhaps they’ll be doing similar things in the future.

Since we all have day jobs in addition to our Rotary work, I need to conclude by thanking my colleagues at Carleton College for their support of my Rotary work. This often involved covering for me when I was away from the office on Rotary business and reflects the college’s commitment to making it possible for us to be engaged in the community as an integral part of working for a local institution. When you combine the efforts of over 120 local citizens in one group, there’s lots of potential. However, Rotary is just one of many priorities that need to be balanced and we still need to feed our families and earn a living in order to pay our Rotary dues.

Let’s keep up the good work and keep on fighting the good fight!


Charlie Cogan, IPP (Immediate Past President)

Chair of Presidents’ Council 08-09 (see p. 3 above)

Rotary Club of Northfield, Minnesota

P.S. After waiting for seven years, Past President Rick Esse finally gave me one of those darn Rick King (RI Pres. 2001-02) eagle leadership pins yesterday after I handed off the gavel to Laurie Williams. I guess the old fortune cookie saying is true, “A diamond is just a piece of coal that stayed on the job”.