August 11, 2008 Rotogram


Rotarian Lewis Mallory,.E.O. and chairman of the Board of Cadence Financial Corporation and Cadence Bank, will discuss the nation’s economy today. As a member of the Federal Reserve System’s Advisory Council, he brings a national perspective home to Starkville.


Dr. Vance Watson, Mississippi State University’s interim president, will bring our annual “state of the University” report. Watson has worn many administrative hats at State during his 42 year tenure.


Invocation and Pledge: Larry Box

Attendance: There were 123 members (36 exempt, 1 honorary) present, and 76 (21 exempt, 6 honorary) absent.

Guests and visitors: Members’ guests included Dale Tate of Steve Taylor, Dennis Bock of P.C. McLaurin, Kate and Lesley Charlton of O.A. Cleveland, and Royce Bowden of TonyVizzini. Gil Spivey, a visiting Rotarian from Canton, was the guest of Lloyd Rose. Club guests were Estefania Romero and Taka Sato, Youth Exchange Students, and Taka’s host dad Gary Windham.

Club notes: Continuing our international contacts, Frank Chiles presented the Club with a Rotary banner from Italy.

For the Rotary Minute, Betty Black posed the question, “Do you know everybody at your table, or at nearby tables?” As assistant club secretary, she said she would be asking our names at the front door. Since developing fellowship is an aim of Rotary, she encouraged members to wear their I.D. buttons to make it easier to get to know one another.

President Chip Templeton called attention to the day’s news that our former outbound Rotary Youth Exchange student Tori Ferguson had been named Mississippi’s Miss Hospitality over the weekend.

He also noted a baby boom related to the Club. John Rush has a new daughter, Kate. Philip Joseph Portera was welcomed by Rotarian dad Brian and granddad George Sherman. And,  Loren Zimmerman is proud of grandson Zachary.


Nancy Hargrove, Ambassadorial Scholar chair, was almost as proud as the new parents and grandparents with her report that we have our third consecutive winner. Jarred Reneau, our candidate for this year’s cultural scholarship, passed his district interview and will go to Japan. Alli Noffisinger is settling into un-air-conditioned Tel Aviv and her Hebrew studies. Her e-mail to Nancy reported that she is in class from 8:30 until 1:00 from Sunday through Thursday and that sandwiches cost $12.00 U.S.


President Chip reminded the Club that we have undertaken a major literacy project as the first step in our long-range plan. He promised to bring updates every few weeks.

The Club is leading in the District’s partnership with Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Between the Lions reading program for 3- and 4-year-olds.

The Literacy Committee is co-chaired by Brent Fountain and David VanLandingham.


Estefania Romero, who prefers to be called “Nia,” is our new Rotary Youth Exchange student. Nia, 17, is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, where her father is a 19-year member. He is a realtor and her mother is a medical doctor (allergist). She has a sister, Lorena, who is 16 and a senior in high school.

Nia just graduated from high school 2 weeks ago, but will attend classes as a senior at Starkville High School. She is being hosted by the Tom Cathcart family, who have been among the strongest supporters of our youth exchange program.


Mississippi State University’s Riley Center in the heart of Meridian is proving to be one of the state’s premier cultural venues.

Penny Kemp, center marketing director, traced the facility’s history and restoration for the Club. The $25 million project was conducted by Evergreen Studios of New York.

Built in 1889 and reopened in 2006, the Grand Opera House is the site’s anchor. Conferences meet in the renovated adjacent Marks Rothenberg department store. The restored complex comprises:

  • the 900-seat opera house
  • a 200-seat black box studio theatre
  • 12 meeting rooms
  • a 5,200 sq. ft. exhibit/banquet hall.

Kemp, a 1992 MSU business alumna, said the purpose of the center is to be a vibrant hub for education, the arts and meetings. Center goals are:

  • Diverse, culturally enriching, high quality performances.
  • A premier facility attracting visitors and thought leaders from across the state, region and country.
  • Programs and training  that utilize the arts as a tool for learning.

For atmosphere, the idea is to provide a warm, inviting setting with a strong sense of place. Kemp contrasted the center with the average conference facility that is “a non-descript, glass and aluminum box that looks like a space ship.”

Victorian décor in warm hues and textures is carried through meeting spaces. Historically significant detailing, including pressed tin and bead and board ceilings, is preserved.

In contrast, the latest technology and special amenities are available for conference programs. Full audiovisual resources are built in to all meeting rooms. Special attention is given to theatrical elements, lighting and sound.

Full service conference support is available.

A pre-event and on-site event coordinator is assigned to each event. Food and beverage coordination is complete, professional technical and IT support is on-site. Assistance with hotel bids, transportation and off-site event coordination is available as needed. Set-up and tear-down with necessary amenities are standard.

Entering its third full year of operation, the center has seen:

  • 40,000 patrons attend performances from all over the state, region and country
  • 25,000 students (K-12) attend school programs
  • 20,000 participants attend arts education programs, seminars and workshops
  • 20,000 professionals attend conferences

In his reaction to the opera house, jazz great Wynton Marsalis offered the ultimate compliment , “[New York’s Lincoln Center] spent millions upon millions of dollars to replicate a sound this theatre got right in 1889.”

Despite a seating capacity of 900, the opera house boasts an arrangement that ensures that no patron is more than 80 feet from the stage.

A year’s schedule ranks among the region’s most eclectic with theatre performances, concerts, dance reviews, comedy shows and children’s activities. Average ticket prices are $35 with an average occupancy rate of 70 percent.

Twenty-five performances are on slate for the 2008-2009 season. Details are available at

Since the center is part of an educational institution, youth programs are of special interest. Arts education activities involve students in theatrical productions and provide teachers with instructional materials to integrate into their curricula.

A key resource in cultural education efforts is the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education.


Judy Couey, Starkville’s new public school system superintendent, has been approved by the Membership/Classification Committee and the Board. Her member classification will be education/administration. All memberships are open for comment for 10 days from publication.

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