Rotary Club of Northfield, Minnesota  |  Thursday, June 17, 2021


Join Our Thursday Zoom Meeting
Find it here.
Meeting ID: 836 2096 1395
Passcode: 164383
Here is the timeline for our regular Zoom calls. On some days there will be slight variations, but not for coming on to the call.  
11:30 -11:45 — Zoom Managers log in and get set up.
11:45 - Noon — Club Members and Guests are invited to join and go into a break out room for casual conversations.
12:10 — ALL Zoom callers are invited back together to begin the meeting. Generally, the meeting will begin with an Invocation, the 4-Way Test, introduction of guests and then introduction of our speaker. Speaker and Questions/ Discussion.
12:40 — (approximate) Birthdays, Announcements, Happy News and more.
1:00 — Meeting is dismissed until next week.
Northfield Rotary Club Picnic, 4:30-7:00 p.m. (no lunch meeting).
WHERE: Rick Estenson’s at 10541 Ibson Avenue, Northfield.
WHO: Club members and spouse or significant other.
CATERER: Kahlo’s (see Survey Monkey for meal selections)
PLUS: Beverages that you choose to bring.


Rotarians Around the Globe

Laurie Williams-25, 6.13.1996; Chris Kennelly-8, 6.13.2013; Ann Leming-3, 6.14.2018; Jan Stevens-27, 6.16.1994.


Our Rotary Climate Action Team (RCAT) is dedicated to making climate change a strategic priority and to raising awareness, providing education and encouraging individuals and businesses to act in the interest of our planet. 
Our Climate Action Statement - Read our climate action statement here.
For additional information about our club’s Rotary Climate Action Team chair, Alan Anderson, at 507-371-4673 or


Thanks to last week's Cogwheel Reporters, Scott Richardson and Jean Wakely


Amy Goerwitz.


Please remember to wear your masks into the building and as you are leaving.  We are mindful of the ‘littles’ who are in pre-school in the building.  Thank you!

United Methodist asks that we keep a Covid log of Rotarians in the building on Thursdays.  We ask that you wear your badge into the meeting.  Upon leaving the meeting, place your badge in the basket provided in order to take roll of all Rotarians present.

RCAT won the Pioneer Award at the District Conference for blazing a trail in our Rotary future with Climate Change Awareness, 18 members on the RCAT Committee, and the installation of two charging stations in Northfield.  Congratulations for being a Rotary Leader!

Dorothee Ishler invited club members to join the DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) Book Club.  This months’ read is “The Sum of Us” by Heather McGhee: What racism costs everyone and how we can prosper together.  To join, please let Dorothee know to add your name to her zoom list for the next discussion on Tuesday, July 6, 7:00 PM.  Discussions are lively and thought-provoking. 

Richard Collman invites club members to the annual Organ Recitals starting July 11, running for 6 Wednesdays.  The theme is “Beauty in the Midst of Chaos”.  Watch for event posters. 

Jim Pokorney alerted us to several volunteer opportunities. People are needed to share books with children over the summer through the library’s Book Bike program. Ride the bike to designated reading spots or meet it to share books with kids. The Community Action Center has multiple needs for volunteers, and the Laura Baker Association needs volunteers to help celebrate the staff’s good work during the pandemic. Talk to Jim or any of these organizations if you can help.


     Matt Hillmann
Northfield Public Schools Superintendent of Schools Matt Hillmann shared reflections on the 2020-21 school year and forecast how public education will change as a result.

Finally Matt Hillmann can exhale. 

Last week, the district reached the end of the most challenging school year the superintendent's career. The pandemic took a toll. Staff and students suffered some, but guided by the district’s vision of preparing every student for life-long success, they learned a lot and by all measures landed on their feet.

Matt said he is proud of how often kids were in school during the pandemic year.  He is proud of his staff’s flexible response, and he is proud of the safety protocols put in place by his nursing staff, bona fides heroes in his opinion, especially in light of the political football the pandemic became. 

“We got most of the decisions right,” he said.

Mass disruptive events like pandemics spawn innovation. The remote online school created on the fly during last year will remain an option going forward. Somewhat counter-intuitively, relationships with parents were strengthened during the year, and the district learned that parents on the social margins do well with today’s technology. In addition, Matt said mental health navigators will be added to the school mix to address the needs of students and families. 

Even as the pandemic raged, school facilities were upgraded, including the new Greenvale Park Elementary School. Events of last spring brought anti-racism work into sharper focus. Symbolism matters, Matt said, which is why the school board addressed the school mascot and logo and some of the names of district buildings. He said it is important that we can look every child in the eye and sincerely say: “We believe in you and your future.” 

Matt praised the work of Northfield Hospital & Clinics for its prioritizing educators for vaccinations. In a time of high stress and uncertainty, it meant a lot to his staff, he said.

The district will proceed cautiously with what was learned from the pandemic experience. Matt said they will be brave, but not reckless. The agenda will be thoughtful, assertive and incremental, using data to align resources with a five-year plan. 

On the other side of the spectrum we had the anti-racism framework that needed to be tackled. As a result, the school symbolism and mascot was changed. Some building names were changed. The staff attended workshops one day a month to learn about and develop skill work around diversity. There was emphasis placed on System Behavior - a high academic culture, a “we believe in you and your future”, eye-to-eye work with the students. We were brave, but not reckless.  

The new Middle School was built in the middle of the pandemic, on time and under budget. All new renovations were completed and the new District offices are now housed in the old Longfellow Elementary School.  

Our schools believe that Early Childhood School is the key to better learning skills and better successes. As a result we are proceeding with caution, thoughtful, and assertive plans to build a newer and more progressive five year goal.  Mental and social health of students and facility are of high priority. There has been some academic loss, but not as dire as the national average. We are aware that we need to rely on therapist advocates outside the school format to help with special issues.  

Last points: Plans for an Open House of the new Greenvale School is scheduled for September 23. There will continue to be a mix of snow days v. on-line days through the new year. And, there is work on creating a stream-line process for high school graduates to enter into state colleges in the future. 

Last word: Please support the next school levy on the City agenda. Thank you. 

The entire June 10th meeting can be viewed here.


June 24 Our President Vicki Dilley will be passing the baton to President Elect, Todd Thompson. Some reminiscing, some fun and anticipation of another great year will be the conversation between these two friends. Todd's presidential year will begin on July 1st ... certain to be a fun time! Special guest, Nicole Theberath, NHS '21, winner of the 2021 Rotary Scholarship will read her essay on the 4 Way Test. We look forward to her joining us along with her family.
July 1 Richard DeBeau and Bruce Morlan. December 2016: America had experienced record-breaking turnout but suffered the most heavily divisive election in our history. Animosity and mistrust between citizens threaten our civil society. In the maelstrom of the times, Braver Angels was formed to help depolarize America. This is that story and how you can become involved.
July 8 Moriah O'Malley, Amber Barksdale, Liz Coffield, Mar Valdecantos. Learn how you can get involved in community and school-based antiracist initiatives in Northfield with members of the Northfield Antiracist Action Coalition and NorthSTAR (Northfield Strives Toward Antiracism).
July15 Nancy Antoine, Principal of Bridgewater School and recipient of the 2021 National Distinguished Principal Award

Vicki's Vision

   Vicki Dilley, President

Dear Friends,
On Thursday night we have our long-overdue gathering at the Estenson farm.  I see lots of hugs and fist bumps and loads of laughter happening then.   I hope to see you.  We did order extra food if you find you can come at the last minute.  AND, remember, no noon meeting, just our social.
Over the course of this year folks have told me they have appreciated the stories I have shared about our time in the Peace Corps (PC) in Tuvalu.  I have one more story to share with you....thank you for letting me take advantage of this platform to do some more reminiscing.  
After living in Tuvalu for almost two years our Peace Corps director asked if we would consider extending one more year to continue to work on some of our projects.  Our start was slow and hard....learning the language, establishing a relationship with the community, finding where to get our resources and beginning to feel very much at home in our little thatched house we felt like we were just getting started. Not until well past our first year did we feel like some of our goals were coming into view.  
We ended up living in Tuvalu for 3.5 years.  Once we returned home, our first born about 10 months later.  Life flew into a whole new orbit and while Tuvalu was never far from our minds, we were on to other things from 1983-2002.   Like many of you, the events of 9/11 shook my sense of what was important.  Riana was not about to go into her last year of high school and time had flown by so fast.  I always wanted to return to Tuvalu, especially with Riana who was named after the Prime Minister's wife.   We made our plans, it would be just her and me and we would set aside 5 weeks of time to get there, and hopefully be able to get to the outer island, Vaitupu, where we lived.  We could fairly easily fly into the capital island, Funafuti, but to get to Vaitupu was a bigger challenge.  You see, when we lived there we travelled between the islands via a seaplane, an old Grumman Goose.  The plane would land in our lagoon and take off from the airstrip, built by the USA soldiers in WWII.   The day we left in 1983, we took the last plane out of the island and there has not been one since then.  From that time on they have been dependent on a cargo boat to drop off and pick up passengers along with any supplies needed.  Because of this, PC Volunteers were not placed on the outer islands after our departure. 
Fortunately the PCV's were paired with counterparts working for Save The Children, something unique at the time for PC to collaborate like this with another NGO.  Peace Corps management was way off in Fiji.  So many things were ideal for our situation....most importantly was the way the Tuvaluans welcomed us and worked alongside us...they were the ones who were determining their future.  They knew what was important to them and they also knew what they needed and what they would do to see things come to fruition.  Not everything we worked on made a huge or even long-lasting impact, but some things did.  I remember even as we were boarding the seaplane for the very last time, someone said to sure and write and let us know if you have any more good ideas to share.   Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I knew how much I wanted to return home and start our family, but I also knew this time as a PC volunteer was over, it would be hard to return anytime soon and it would never be the same.  This hurt in my heart often returns as a feeling when I see our exchange students say goodbye to their friends and families here.  I can easily relate. 
So, off we go, just Riana and me.  We spent a night in Fiji, a visit to the Tuvalu consulate, and we boarded a small plane to Funafuti.  One of the things I worried about was whether I was going to remember any of the Tuvaluan language I once was pretty fluent in.  I had almost no practice using it except for that quick comment to Lee when we didn't want the kids to understand what we're saying, otherwise we had not seen another Tuvaluan since leaving.  Surprisingly, getting off the plane and waiting in line to go into the Tuvalu International airport, which was an open air little stand along the airstrip, and when I could hear the Tuvaluans speaking amongst themselves I could understand much of what they were saying and within a few days my mouth was able to finally put sentences together again. If I could not think of a word, and someone helped me with it, the word was back and I did not have to be reminded again.  Amazing where languages get stored and come out of dormancy when needed! 
Before arriving, I had sent emails to the manager of the cargo ship, The Nivaga, who reassured me that the ship goes to the outer islands on a regular basis and there would be no problem with getting to Vaitupu.  I hoped this was all true and I should not be worried we would be stuck with 80 miles of ocean between Vaitupu and the capital.  Well, right after arriving I checked in in person to the wharf and found the Nivaga was in dry dock in Fiji and they had a smaller ship, but it had not gone out for months due to the king tides, a phenomena of climate change.  They had no idea when either boat would be going out again.  My heart sank, we had spent so much money to get there and we were not exactly where we wanted to be.  We were both adjusting to the heat and high humidity, staying with my Tuvaluan sister in her tiny, tiny thatched home, taking showers at a neighbor's home.  We had a couple false starts with rumors that the boat was going to leave, to find it didn't.  But, one day we were really packed and on the boat, I rented one room with two bunks, but it was hot and stuffy inside.  Thank goodness I brought Dramamine with me, I know we would not have been able to manage without it.  We slept on the deck floor, we ate the food we brought with us and after 8 hours we could finally see our beloved Vaitupu.  Lots of cargo and passengers needed to be unloaded into a small wooden boat and brought the final way across the reef to the new-to-me dock.  I was finally home and it felt so good, unbelievably good.  Family was there to meet us and lead us through the much changed streets.  So many devastating storms had hit the island since we were there, very few thatched homes (better suited for the climate, in my opinion) were left and folks had gone to building with cement blocks, louvered glass windows and noisy and hot tin roofs.   I could barely identify the streets anymore.  Surprisingly, one of the last landmarks were the 1,000 gallon water tanks Lee and his team built.   Some had actually been moved to accommodate a bigger house and in some situations, they adapted the mold and had learned to double the size of the tank.  Some of the tanks had obviously been repaired, perhaps a coconut had fallen on it and broke the top.  In western terms of success the water tank project hit the mark.  
Prior to the water tanks, women and children would wait for the time when the central cistern pump would be open and they could gather their 5 gallons of water in a black pilon.  Sometimes they would stand in the sun for hours to get this chore done.  Almost always the water was not clean as the cistern cover was not well maintained.   Then, they would carry on their shoulder or two children together these heavy loads back home.  I remember doing this and putting the water on the crossbar of my bike and trying to ride back home....this was always a scary feat.  Soon after moving into our home Lee built us a small water tank and I no longer needed to haul water.  
Well, I can see that my story could get quite long if I don't hold back on these tangents.   
While Riana and I were there, the village had several feasts on our behalf, the one that was the most fun was the one put on by the women.  Women let their hair down when it is just them and they reminisce and tell funny stories about our time when we lived with them.  Young women had grown up hearing stories of when the 'palagis' lived in the village and spoke their language, and ate their food and worked alongside them teaching their children and helped them build things together.   
Not knowing when the boat would return and knowing that we had already used up so much of our time waiting to get there, I began to worry about how we would get back to Funafuti and make the hard-to-book-flight out of the country.  I feel bad that I spent so much of my time there trying to send communication back to the boat captain asking when he would return.  About ten days into our stay, the boat did return about 2 in the morning.  We were waiting for it, bags packed and ready to go.  Hours passed waiting for the king tides to settle down, they did not and the boat had to go on without picking us up.  We did not know when it would return.   But, it did in a few days, I think they knew they had these nervous 'palagis' waiting to come back to catch our international flight.  We made it back on the ship and safely back to Funafuti, which we had about a day or so to enjoy before heading back to Fiji.  Riana spent her 18th birthday on a resort island in Fiji, parasailing and lounging on the beach, so different from our time on our beloved Tuvalu.  
One of the moments in the capital that sort of wrapped up my experience of returning to a world that was so different from what I was living in 2002, with a daughter who had only grown up with stories, but had yet to experience a developing country and our wondering if our time in Tuvalu changed us more than it ever changed (in a good way) a life there.  Meeting our Tuvaluan family again reinforced that we were still family, we all loved each other very much.  The water tanks showed that over the nearly 20 years of their collecting and dispensing clean, easily accessible water they had made a difference to people all over the island.  The stories were told of how these white folks once lived amongst them, no one really had done so before or since.  But, walking down the street in Funafuti a young woman came running towards us, calling out:  Viki, Viki....  we turned to greet her and she began speaking Tuvaluan to Riana.  Riana points to me and says.... Viki.  You see Riana was much closer to the age I was when we left than to my present age and since she looked like me, it was only to be expected that this young woman would come to Riana first.  We laughed and since Tuvaluans are often candid in their speech she told me how I had grown old and fat.  But, she told me who she was, since she had also aged a bit and was no longer that little 5 year old in my preschool that would initially enter the classroom shy and hesitant to speak to the 'palagi'.  She was now, obviously, a bold and confident young woman who was eager to tell me how much her life trajectory had been influenced by our time together, oh so long ago.  She reminded me of the things we used to do together, and how she is now working for the government, had learned English, and is no longer afraid to speak up or to speak to a stranger.  She credited much of this to our time together.  Her sharing with me was the icing on the cake, I no longer wondered if our time there made a difference.  
I know it did.  
I know my life has never been the same.  
Tofa laa, alofa atu toku tagasoa, toku pele, Tuvalu.... tofa.   Viki 
If you are interested in learning more about Tuvalu, I do hope you will seek it out.  Another PC couple that served at the same time as we did, on a much smaller Tuvalu-an island, Nukulaelae, went back pre-pandemic with their boys and their son is a filmmaker.  Nick put together a high quality film about that return, Return to Tuvalu-A Peace Corps Story...perhaps, you would be interested in watching it some time and when you do, remember us, as we feel it is our story too.  

Statement of Purpose: Northfield Rotary Club is dedicated to promoting peace and understanding through service and shared experience. We invite people from all corners of the community to join us as we partner with others to support youth, build sustainable infrastructure and preserve our planet.