Blockchain – the technology behind Bitcoin – has potential uses far beyond digital currencies. That’s what Capital Rotarians heard from May 30 guest speaker Dr. Dirk Brown, shown with club member Walker Williams (left in photo). Brown is faculty director of the University of South Carolina’s McNair Institute for Entrepreneurism and Free Enterprise. He has extensive experience in digital media and electronic technologies, operations and marketing. Brown said that currently, most people use a trusted middleman such as a bank to make a transaction. But blockchain allows consumers and suppliers to connect directly, removing the need for third party validation. Using cryptography to keep exchanges secure, blockchain provides a giant spreadsheet or “digital ledger” of transactions that everyone on the network can see. This network is essentially a chain of computers that must all approve an exchange before it can be verified and recorded. Brown said blockchain technology can work for almost every type of transaction involving value, including money, goods and property. Its potential uses are almost limitless, and blockchain could also help reduce fraud because every transaction would be recorded and distributed on a public ledger. It’s also virtually impossible to hack. “We now have a secure way to make value exchanges with strangers without a central authority,” Brown explained. “The future is here for blockchain and cryptocurrency, but most of us are just now realizing it.” Brown has a bachelor of science from Queens University in Canada, with post-graduate degrees from San Jose State and Cornell University, where he earned a doctorate in materials science.
Capital Rotarians were briefed on life in China when former club member Qing Wang was May 23rd’s weekly guest speaker. Wang – now a member of Five Points Rotary – is a Chinese citizen living and working in the US. She prefaced her remarks by noting that although she still has friends and family living in China, it’s been four years since her last visit. In that time, she said, there has been rapid economic development along with changes in what she called the key elements of daily living – food, housing, transportation/commuting, shopping and education. She also noted that China’s population of 1.4 billion is not evenly distributed throughout the country, but heavily concentrated on its east coast and in approximately 15 megacities cities, each with a population in excess of 10 million. Wang is a bridge engineer with the SC Department of Transportation. She has a structural engineering doctorate from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and earned undergraduate degrees from China’s Beijing City University and Yanshan University.
Capital Rotary members got the “straight poop” about Riverbanks Zoo’s composting success from guest speaker John Davis on May 16. Davis (left, in photo with Rotarian Bud Foy) said the “bottom line” is that animal manure can be a profit-maker instead of a wasted byproduct. He holds a degree in wildlife biology from Kansas State University and has run the composting program since 2009 as Director of Animal Care and Welfare at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. The zoo must contend with about 1,200 pounds of excrement daily, mostly from its elephant, giraffe and zebra populations. After collection, the manure decomposes and cures in a special storage area while being monitored for temperature and moisture. When it reaches the stage where it’s ready to be called “natural soil amendment,” the compost can be distributed at Riverbanks Garden and sold. It’s available for gift shop purchase or by the pick-up truckload during spring and fall bulk sales. Some of the sale proceeds go to the zoo’s conservation fund that supports projects to save wildlife and wildlife habitat all over the world. Each year Riverbanks converts 13,418 cubic feet of dung into money-making compost.
Rotary clubs worldwide are the heart and soul of an unprecedented effort to eradicate polio, an effort leading to a 99% drop in cases of the once-widespread disease. Capital Rotary club members were reminded of that fact in a video shown at their May 9 breakfast meeting. Rotary began an anti-polio campaign in 1979 with a project to vaccinate children in the Philippines. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched in 1988 is driven by Rotary International and four other core partners – the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The partners’ work has been called “the single most successful public health initiative in history.” Rotary’s focus is advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and awareness building. In this way, Rotarians and the 101-year-old Rotary Foundation have helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children against polio in 122 countries.
Capital Rotarian Abby Naas was in costume and armed with a light saber for “Star Wars Night” at the Columbia Fireflies baseball game on Friday, May 4. She was among a host of District 7770 club members enjoying a Rotary Night celebration, too, at Spirit Communications Park. The evening of baseball, hot dogs and good sportsmanship combines fellowship and fund-raising, with additional proceeds going to the Rotary Foundation. The hosting Fireflies are a minor league affiliate of the New York Mets. Naas joined the Fireflies staff in January 2015 as marketing and public relations vice president.
Columbia’s Museum of Art will be an interactive place for visitors to “experience art” when current renovations are completed this year, said executive director Della Watkins, pictured with Rotarians Trey Boone (center) and Bob Davis as she spoke to Capital club members May 2. Watkins came to Columbia after stints at art museums in Roanoke and Richmond, VA. She said the museum updates here include (1) accredited storage space that’s climate controlled within a 5-degree range; (2) addition of four gallery spaces; (3) an events room that can accommodate 350-700 people; (4) a thematic approach to spark conversations, focus on shared experiences and allow interactive appreciation of art on display; (5) improvements making Boyd Plaza into a downtown green space; and (6) a new entrance on Main Street. Watkins earned her BA from James Madison University and MAE from Virginia Commonwealth University. She’s a graduate of leadership programs at Georgetown University, the University of Virginia and Getty Leadership Institute in Los Angeles.
Dr. Daniel Moses (left in photo) was inducted into Capital Rotary Club by his sponsor, club president Blake DuBose, in late April. Moses, a native of Hartsville, SC, received graduate and undergraduate degrees from Kennedy Western University and Coker College. He has extensive experience in human resources management/consulting and has been recognized as an author, poet, lecturer and vocalist. Locally he performed with the SC Philharmonic Chorus, Columbia Choral Society and Town Theatre’s Show Stoppers. He was named a Kentucky Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky and has been active in a number of academic, community, business and political organizations.
Donors to the Rotary Foundation are supporting positive change for communities around the world, according to Deborah Burt, a Bluffton Rotarian since 2007 and Capital Rotary’s guest speaker on April 25. Burt (at right in photo with Felicia Maloney) is Paul Harris Society chair for District 7770 in eastern South Carolina. Society members donate at least $1,000 yearly to the Rotary Foundation, the international service club’s charitable fund for world understanding and peace programs. Burt said the Paul Harris Society – named in honor of the Chicago attorney who founded Rotary in 1905 – was established in 1999 and has about 20,000 participants worldwide. There are 315 Society supporters in District 7770, including seven in Capital Rotary. Burt said the Columbia area club also has 56 Paul Harris Fellows – giving at least $100 annually to the Foundation – plus 40 Benefactors – those who’ve arranged for $1,000 donations from their estates – and four Bequest Society members giving $10,000 or more via estate planning. Over the years Capital Rotarians have contributed a total of $315,667 to the Rotary Foundation. Burt noted the Foundation’s cost effectiveness means about 91% of the money goes for programs rather than administration.
Gubernatorial candidate James Smith (in photo with Rotarian Gloria Saeed) says South Carolina needs “smart government” to move forward responsibly and promises to deliver that if he’s elected. Smith, currently a state representative, is running in June’s Democratic primary and was Capital Rotary’s April 18 guest speaker. He addressed three main topics: (1) need for a state energy policy that “drives efficiency” on the part of utilities and promotes solar power – where South Carolina is “15 years behind other states” making progress; (2) supporting and improving public education, which he called a governor’s “number one job” because “education equals jobs” for our work force; and (3) reapportionment of Congressional and state legislative districts after the 2020 census, which Smith said offers a chance to remedy “30 years of gerrymandering” that’s led to partisan politics where “party is more important than government of, by and for the people.” Smith, a Columbia native with undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Carolina, was first elected to the SC House in 1996.
Advocacy for, preservation of and education about the capital city’s unique houses and gardens has been the mission of Historic Columbia since the non-profit organization’s founding in 1961. A milestone will be celebrated in May with the 200th anniversary of construction of the Hampton-Preston Mansion, according to Robin Waites, Historic Columbia’s executive director since 2004. Waites (shown at right in photo with Rotarian Allyson Way Hank) was Capital Rotary’s April 11 guest speaker. She said the historic property’s May reopening follows more than a year’s worth of mansion repairs and restoration of its gardens and grounds. Also featured is a holistic reevaluation and restructuring of the site’s historical interpretation. Waites noted that from the 1820s to the 1870s, the estate grew to be Columbia’s grandest residence under the Hampton and Preston families and the many men, women and children enslaved there. In addition to the mansion, Historic Columbia provides house and garden tours at four other sites downtown, offsite bus and walking tours, and education programs for youth and adults. Waites was the SC State Museum’s chief curator of art before joining Historic Columbia’s staff.