April 14, 2008 Rotogram


At our meeting March 17, the program focused on the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum and part of the program was a Power Point presentation of a collection of picture postcards from the early years of Starkville and Mississippi A & M College. Rotarian Chester McKee‘s narration and recollections of the early days were so delightful he’s back today to share more of his delightful stories of earlier years in the community and university.


Our next meeting is Friday noon at Hunter Henry Center as a part of the District 6820 Conference. It takes the place of the regular meeting Monday, April 21. Members of the Columbus and West Point Clubs have been invited to join us. As host club, we need to have a strong turnout of our members. Please make sure you’re signed up since the caterers need a relatively accurate count. Our guest speaker will be Gregory Yank, Regional Membership Coordinator for Rotary International Zone 29. He’s a member of the O’Fallon Rotary Club and Past Governor of District 6510 (Southern Illinois).


We will NOT meet Monday, April 21. We’ll resume our Monday noon meeting schedule April 28. Our guest will be Jeremiah Dumas, assistant professor of Landscape Architecture and the MSU Georesources Institute. His topic: The Starkville Community Market.


Attendance: There were 119 members (85 active and 34 exempt) present and 82 members  (52 active, 22 exempt, and all 8 honorary) missing.  Three members are on leave.

Invocation and Pledge: Peggy Buckley.

Visitors and Guests: Visiting Rotarians were Bill Oversreet of West Point and Jim Puryear, former member of our club now from Augusta, GA. Guests included Brian Porera of George Sherman, Jerrod Reneau of Greg Stewart and the following Club guests: Annie Smith and Bo Reid (MSU assistant softball coaches); Negrita Caicedo and Maryna Melnik (RotaryYouth Exchange students).

Rotary Minute: Rex Buffington outlined the Merrill Hawkins Excellence in Education Award and called for nominations from members. Nominations for the outstanding teacher award are due May 9. Teachers with a minium of 3 consecutive years in their school  (any school in the county or community) are eligible. The award is named for the late Merrill Hawkins, a Rotary District governor, teacher, and former Dean of Education at MSU.

Classification Talk.  New member Margaret Estes welcomed Rotarians as they came to the meeting, then was called upon to tell a bit about herself.

A native of Kansas, Margaret earned her degrees at University of Kansas and came to MSU in 1978, serving as assistant vice president of academic affairs working with Bob Wolverton and President McComas. She retired in 1990, traveled for a year in China then settled in  the home of her dreams in Bay St. Louis.  She traveled to many countries.

“I returned home in June 2005. Katrina visited us in August and took everything – every scrap of paper,” she recalled.

Margaret went to Eugene, OR, for 2 years. She  said she enjoyed the people and the area very much, but came back to Starkville at the urging of her daughter. We’re glad she returned and has become a member of Starkville Rotary Club.


Jay Miller, now in his 6th season as head coach of the MSU Softball Team, believes this may be the best team in the history of the program. And he’s not a novice to fast-pitch softball! Coach Jay, whose 900+ career wins make him the sport’s 12th winningest coach, came to MSU in 2003 with prior coaching stints at Purdue and University of Missouri.

The women on his teams are not only top-notch athletes, they excel in the classroom. Last year’s team GPA was 3.45, the 11th best in the nation.

“If you haven’t seen us play, you have two more chances. We have home weekend series with Georgia and Tennessee, both above us in the national rankings.” He said the team, currently ranked 24st, has been ranked as high as 14th after an earlier  13-game winning streak. .

The team has two All-American players. Miller said catcher Chelsea Bramlett, a sophomore from Cordova, TN, is not only the team’s top hitter (“625 in last week’s games”), she’s probably faster than anyone in the country.

Miller is convinced that Courtney Bures from Haymarket, VA, is the best short stop in the country.

He has 17 on this year’s roster, 12 of them on scholarships. The five freshmen, including 2 pitchers, are “the best ever.” He said 4 have signed for next year, including a young lady from Hawaii who may turn out to be the best he’s ever coached.

“The SEC is the top fast-pitch softball conference in the country,” he said.

Miller then introduced Lacy Lee Baker, Executive Director of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, and (a surprise to most Rotarians) his wife!

She, too, has fast-pitch softball in her blood. She’s worked for the Olympics, the NCAA, and since 1994 has headed the NFPCA. Her father was a well-known sports writer for the Jackson Clarion Ledger.

The NFPCA was headquartered in Columbia, MO. When Jay was named head coach at Mississippi State, Lacy Lee got permission to move the association headquarters to Starkville. Housed in offices on G.T. Thames Drive, the association has 9 full-time staff members, 6 of them located here. “We’re the second largest customer of Starkville Post Office,” she said.

The association is working to get the NCAA to move the number of scholarships from 12 to 14. It manages an awards program for fastpitch softball. It handles the Div. I fastpitch softball coaches poll for USA Today. It publishes a monthly newsletter and a magazine for the 5,000 members (including high school and college coaches and friends of the game).

Lacy said the association has a Hall of Fame, now celebrating its 25th year. “Jay Miller is one of the inductees,” she revealed with a smile.

She is especially proud of the association’s  Fast Pitch Coaches College at 15 sites where specific classes are offered.  An example she gave was a class on offensive strategies. To date, 20 coaches have been able to earn Masters Degrees. She’s working with MSU on a continuing education program here.

The two speakers responded to a number of questions from the audience.

What is an illegal pitch? It’s just like a balk in baseball.

How can women pitch in consecutive games without rest when baseball players have to have a 3-day rest? The underhand delivery is more natural and doesn’t put as much stress on the arm as throwing overhand.

How fast are the balls delivered in fastpitch softball? When you compare the shorter distance from the mound to the hitter and the time the batter has to react, our top pitchers are throwing he equivalent of a 103-mph baseball.


Even if you don’t plan to register for this weekend’s District Conference, you can support it by attending the Friday noon luncheon AND the banquet Friday evening. Since Friday noon is an “official” meeting for the following week, you’ve already paid for it – but PLEASE SIGN UP if you haven’t already done so.

The cost of the Friday banquet for Rotarians and spouses (or guests) who are NOT registered is $25.00. Please let Peggy Buckley or Betty Black know if you are not registered and plan to come or if you’re registered and plan to bring your spouse.

The luncheon, banquet, and  meeting sessions will all be at MSU Hunter Henry Center.

The first plenary session will be Thursday afternoon.


Door prizes are sill needed for this week’s District Conference. Please contact Melanie Mitchell to contribute door prizes for the conference.


A Rotary Group Study Exchange Team from District  1790 in northeastern France (the home district of last year’s RYE student Marie Baran) will be our guests this week during the District Conference.  They have visited several other clubs and will come here from Columbus on Wednesday, then go on to Greenwood on Saturday.

Team leader is Jean-Paul Simet a member of the Thionville Porte de France Rotary Club. He is retired after an international marketing career with Renault (car company). There are four team members.

Sebastian Risser, is a native of Nancy who graduated in cellular biology and commercial management. He is a bank client manager

Olivier Houzeelle is a graduate from the Technical University of Berlin and now serves as a maintenance engineer for the Solvay Group, a chemical company.

The lady of the team is 28-year-old Sandrine Lascoux, who is a court bailiff.

Marc Bardinal earned a biological degree in chemistry and biochemistry but is an agricultural engineer working on energy conservation and global warming.

The Team will address the conference Saturday morning.

Linda Karen Smith, chair, and members of the club’s GSE committee are hosting the GSE Team and arranging tours and activities around the District Conference sessions .


The Board of Directors has accepted with regret the resignation of Joel Clements, Jr whose new work makes it impossible for him to continue in Rotary.

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