February 1, 2009 Rotogram


      Allison Noffsinger, our Rotary Ambassador Scholar who returned in late 2009 after a year of study at the University of Tel Aviv, Israel, is here to share her experiences. Alli  is now  Study Abroad Coordinator for MSU International Programs,


      Mississippi State’s theatre program will be the topic next week at Roary. Our guest will be Wayne Durst, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Theatre in the Department of Communication.


Attendance: There were 123 members  (82 active, 39 exempt, 2 honorary) present and 65 absent  (48 active, 10 exempt, and 10 honorary). Three members are on leave.

Invocation and Pledge: Chip Templeton.

Visitors and Guests: Visiting Rotarians were Bill Overstreet of West Point and Birney Imes of Columbus.      Guests of members included Gordon Eastman and Jerry Rogers of Billie Ball; Rev. Lee Winter of Stu Vance; Russell Kelley of Jim Orman; Steven Cunetto of Frances Coleman; and Ted Roman of Steve Taylor. Club guests were RYE Students Francesca Scaravelli and Kasper Eriksen; Becky Wilkes, American Red Cross; and Paul Sims, Starkville Daily News.

Makeups: Scott Dodd made up in West Point Jan. 21, and Dennis Truax made up on line.


      Last Monday’s meeting had one of the fullest agendas we can recall, but thanks to President Martha and guest speaker John Cohen, we worked through the busy agenda and adjourned on time.

New Member Taylor Adams gave a quick introductory talk. The Columbus native and 1999 MSU graduate worked 4 years in a marketing job in England then returned to Mississippi and purchased his father’s business. He operated the business for 2 years before selling it and becoming a purchasing agent for Mississippi State University. He and his wife have two small children.

American Red Cross Chapter Director Becky Wilkes was presented a Rotary check for $1,000.. The local chapter has been sorely tested helping families of the victims of the tragic apartment fire in Starkville and now needing to respond to the disaster in Haiti.

The Ragtime Music Festival, now in its 4th season

is also supported by Rotary. President Martha presented a check to Steven Cunetto, representing the MSU Library and the Templeton Music Museum, sponsors of the popular festival..

Nominations for Club Awards are due by Feb. 8. The awards to be presented at the Spring Social and Awards Banquet March 8, include Rotarian of the Year, Rookie of the Year (member of the Club 5 years or less), Service Above Self Awards, and Paul Harris Community Service Awards (for non-Rotarians). Turn nominations in today or next week or email them to Sarah Fratesi ( )

Roy Ruby has shed his cast and although his leg may be hobbled, his absolutely nothing to do about Rotary minute is NOT. It’s great to see him back on his feet and still helping us settle our lunch with a good hearty laugh!

Committee meetings held following adjournment were Membership and Attendance.


      Last week was the kickoff of the local Interact Chapter’s Soup’er Bowl, collecting cans of soup to stock the local food pantries to feed the hungry.  A number of Rotarians brought soup to last week’s meeting and Saturday, the Interactors collected outside Krogers. There’s still time for you to help today. And they’ll be collecting outside Wal-Mart next Saturday.  Francesca is vice president of the chapter.


      This year’s Rotary Classic Rodeo is less than 2 weeks away and again this year each Rotarian has  been given four advance sale adult tickets to purchase and/or sell ($12). Sell four and you’ll get two free tickets. All proceeds from this year’s rodeo will support the SOAR Tuition Guarantee Program. The rodeo will be Friday and Saturday (Feb. 12-13)  with children 12 and under admitted free on Friday. Ticket prices at the door are $15 for adults and children  12 and under $5 (Saturday only). An added attraction for children Saturday evening will be a  free petting zoo and pony rides from 5:30 -7:00 p.m.

      A number of volunteers are needed for both nights to sell and collect tickets, distribute programs, and guard entrances to the horse park. Sign up sheets are on the tables. Sign up today or next week to help.


      It’s obvious that John Cohen is a no-nonsense leader for the Diamond Dawgs, whose season-opener is  less than 3weeks away. Cohen  became head coach in June 2008, 18 years to the day after he played in the NCAA College World Series, his last game as  an all-SEC outfielder for the Bulldogs.

      His coaching accomplishments in the subsequent 17 years have shown almost  “Midas Touch” results as his teams at University of Missouri, Northwestern State (LA), University of Florida, and Kentucky set new records both on the field and in the classroom. He was named coach of the year in two conferences and National Coach of the Year in 2008.

      His obvious coaching prowess, determination, and enthusiasm were contagious as he breezed through a PowerPoint presentation sprinkled with good humor.

      Even though he wasn’t happy with his first year’s win-loss record, he was pleased that the team showed significant improvements in nearly every category on the field. He’s equally proud that following the team’s 2008-09 of placing 19 players on the all-SEC Academic Honor Roll (Ron Polk gets credit for that, he said),  his current players had an average GPA of 3.17 fall semester and six were presidential scholars.

      Cohen spoke highly of his coaching staff, all who have exceptional skills and credentials. He emphasized that although his assistant coaches each have specific responsibilities, he considers all of them, including himself, “recruiting coordinators.”  His emphasis on recruitment has already paid huge dividends. The MSU recruiting class in 2008 had an RPI that ranked 311th nationally. In 2009, it improved to 86th, and this year MSU’s recruits are ranked 8th nationally, 5th in the conference, and tops in Mississippi.

      Recruiting is a number one priority and he praised the efforts of President Mark Keenum and Jimmy Abraham in attracting top students to the university.

      While Dudy Noble was one of the nation’s best venues  in 1986, age had taken its toll.  Drainage problems at have been taken care of with installation of more than 3 miles of piping,  dugouts have been renovated, and there are new bullpens  The locker room in the aging facility  got a total make-over and Cohen believes it’s now among the best in the country.

      For his players, he has a motto of FIO.  Translated that means “figure it out…you are now an adult and you will be treated as such.”

      He quickly ran through his beliefs, which, in addition to his baseball knowledge, are obviously important keys to his continuing success as a head coach.

      He expects players to be flexible. He does accept problems – instead, they are challenges.

      “I’m  big on  responsibility.” he said, quoting a saying that “your actions are speaking so loudly I can’t hear your words.” Accomplishments both on and off the field are recognized with “dog bone” awards.

      Another rule is to anticipate, not presume. Don’t complain because nobody really cares.

      He doesn’t believe in “philosophy,” emphasizing “precision” instead. “We want precision, something that seems to be lost today in society.”

      Finally, Cohen turned to the 2010 roster, firing names of new and returning players so fast few of us could possibly keep up. He’s especially keen on the depth and skill of his pitchers.

      In conclusion he said “I’m so excited about this program. We’re not there yet, but everything is in place to work towards a national championship. We appreciate your support and hope you’ll join our first-pitch banquet and come to our opening series against the University of Rhode Island (they had six of their players drafted last year).”  He was introduced by Rodney Faver.

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