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.
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.
Capital Rotary is awarding scholarships to two college-bound Midlands students following 19 applicant interviews in late March. Club members on the selection committee included (from left in photo) Paul Gillam, Allyson Way Hank and Darren Foy, plus Pete Pillow (not pictured). A $20,000 scholarship – $5,000 annually for four years – is going to C.A. Johnson High School senior Amariyah Ayee, while Ben Lippen School senior Claire Davis is getting a $10,000 scholarship – $5,000 annually for two years. Ayee, second-ranked in her class, plans to attend Claflin University and hopes to become a pediatric surgeon. Davis will seek to major in engineering and plans to use that knowledge to solve clean water problems in third-world countries. Capital Rotary has been supporting higher-education opportunities for local high school students for more than 20 years. The club’s scholarships are based on a combination of academic performance, extracurricular activities and economic need.
Richland County and the City of Columbia need to focus on growing more career jobs, not just adding to the area’s store of hourly-wage work. Carl Blackstone, president and CEO of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, delivered that message to Capital Rotary at the club’s March 21 meeting. Blackstone (shown talking with Rotarian Ann Elliott) said strong private sector leadership is key in addressing what he called a local economy that “putters along.” As examples, he cited (1) Richland County’s 5% population growth from 2011-2016 – compared to 11% growth in Charleston County and 9% for Greenville County – and (2) Richland’s -2.6% job growth rate during the same period versus 26.2% in Charleston and 8.3% in Greenville. Disincentives for doing business in Richland and Columbia include the highest industrial tax rate in the country and commercial property taxes that are 8th highest in the country, Blackstone said. He said the chamber believes in Columbia’s potential, but the public and private sectors must “move forward together” to meet economic and employment challenges over the next 20 years. Blackstone’s background includes extensive government relations experience at state, local and federal levels. He has a business degree from the College of Charleston and is a graduate of Leadership South Carolina.
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.
Today’s students today have a greater capacity for learning and applying what they know to real world issues than ever before, according to Lexington/Richland District Five school superintendent Dr. Stephen W. Hefner. But public education’s challenges include solving a persistent teacher shortage and helping families with social/emotional issues that cause stress, anxiety and depression. Hefner (seen speaking to Capital Rotarians as club member Bryan Goodyear looks on) led Richland District Two for 16 years before joining District Five in 2011. During his career he’s seen school responsibilities expand in (1) serving needs of special education students; (2) fielding, equipping and coaching over 150 athletic teams; (3) offering full-day and four-year-old kindergarten; (4) building and maintaining facilities; (5) providing nursing services for a daily average of more than 600 students; (6) meeting breakfast, lunch and afterschool nutritional needs; (7) communicating with a diverse population where English is a second language for nearly 800 students; (8) technology becoming essential for teaching, learning and assessment; (9) ensuring safety with school resource officers and 360 practice drills scheduled yearly; and (10) dealing with a “generational change” in employee and family attitudes that focus primarily on lifestyle.