July 7, 2008 Rotogram


Today, we welcome Marc Paganini, American Eurocopter’s Chief Executive Officer for an update on American Eurocopter and what’s going on at  the GTR factory.


Next Monday, Rotarian Sonny Kelly, CEO of Oktibbeha County Hospital, will  give us a current picture of OCH.


Attendance: There were 121 members ( 85 active and 36 exempt) present and 50 active, 21 exempt, and all 8 honorary members were missing.

Invocation and Pledge:  Larry Mullins.

Guests: Andrew George was a guest of his Dad, Ernie George. Club guests were Carrie Hawkins; Jane (Hawkins) Smith; Jarrod Reneau (Ambassadorial Cultural Scholar candidate); Paul and Rosemary Cuicchi; Sue Blackbourn; and Madeline Golden.

Helping Hands: President Ned presented Rotary’s check for $300 to Martha Wells, representing Helping Hands Ministry.

Starkville Community Theater: Vera Sanders (aka Madeline Golden) provided a light-hearted  moment when she  burst into the room searching for Rev. Oglethorpe.  Assuming the role she played as one of the Sanders Family Singers in the SCT hit “Smoke on the Mountain” and several following performances, Madeline accepted Rotary’s check for $300 to support the Starkville Community Theater. “Thank you so much,” Madeline said. “Y’all come and see us – we have some great productions coming up.”

Rotary Minute:  John Simpson, representing the Rotary Information Committee, distributed a listing of regional Rotary Clubs by city and meeting date. He urged members to use this as a reference for makeups.

New Member Brian Portera gave a fine “job talk” to introduce himself to fellow members. A native of West Point and graduate of MSU, he has recently made a career change to become the local agent for Shelter Insurance Company. He and his wife Jennifer have two young daughters and are expecting a son later this year.  He said he is looking forward to his career because he feels he can make a difference in peoples’ lives. He thanked Rotarians for inviting him to become a member and issued special thanks to his father-in-law George Sherman.


Carrie Hawkins presents the Merrill Hawkins Excellence in Education Award to Paul Cuicchi, long-time physics teacher at Starkville High School. The honor was announced by Rotarian Larry Box (right), former superintendent of Starkville Public Schools.

Paul Cuicchi, popular physics teacher at Starkville High School, was named the 2008 recipient of Rotary’s Merrill Hawkins Excellence in Education Award.

Rotarian Larry Box, announced the award and recited a long list of awards and honors Cuicchi has received over his 35-year teaching career at SHS.

Cuicchi, who earned all his degrees at MSU, was Mississippi Teacher of the Year in 2002, and has been named a Star Teacher by Mississippi Economic Development Corporation 13 times. He was nominated for the award by fellow teachers.

Mrs. Carrie Hawkins presented the plaque to Cuicchi, who also received $1,000 from the Club to be used to support his teaching programs at Starkville High School.

The Rotary Club’s Excellence in Education Award was named to honor Mrs. Hawkins’ late husband, Merrill Hawkins, who devoted his life to education. He was Dean of Education  at Mississippi State, a long-time member of Starkville Rotary Club, and a past governor of Rotary District 6820.


Ned again reminded us that communities in two Iowa Rotary Districts have suffered major losses from the devastating 500-year floods that hit the Midwest last month. District 6000 Rotarians contributed $70,000 to our Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund  3 years ago. Now they need our help.

Stu Vance has contacted  the governors of 6000 and 5970 (the other district with cities inundated by the floods) and as president of the 6820 College of Governors is heading the effort. He’s challenged Rotarians throughout District 6820 to respond to this Midwest disaster, suggesting that those who can afford it give at least $50  to assist in relief and recovery.

Starkville Rotarians who wish  to contribute to the flood relief fund can send a check written to Starkville Rotary Foundation  to Jeff Read , Nellah Taylor, or any of the Club officers. Note that it’s for Iowa Disaster Relief – it will be tax deductible.


On his final day as president of Starkville Rotary Club, Ned Browning arranged a full and varied program that apparently would leave only a little more than half the usual program time for his parting remarks. However, he managed to quickly and enthusiastically reflect on the club’s accomplishments and to challenge us to keep growing and serving in the years ahead.

“This is often called the changing of the guard or passing of the gavel. But it’s more like handing over the throttle of a speeding locomotive,” he said. “Early on, I discovered that a significant amount of Club business occurs between 11:30 and 12:30 each Monday at the head table!”  However, he admits that it’s a busy but efficient system.

He also said he quickly learned that Rotary International is perhaps the biggest bureaucracy he has ever encountered. “It probably has as many acronyms and abbreviations as the Department of Defense, but that’s because it’s just like a small (and very diverse) nation.”

He recognized officers and directors, committee chairs, then had everyone who had served on a committee to stand. Obviously, that included every member. “Pat the person next to you on the back for a job well done. Don’t stop doing and giving,” he challenged.

He then reflected on the accomplishments of the past year and the challenges that lie ahead in each area of service.

The Club is financially sound, “in good shape for implementation of the long-range plan.” But he felt he should have pressed for more committee responsibility for budget lines.

Food and facilities are fine, although we went over budget on meals because we entertain so many guests. Distance of the meeting from workplaces is a concern and probably impacts attendance somewhat.

He is proud of the Club’s community service, but feels we can do more to encourage hands-on involvement of members. He’d like to see a larger slice of the pie devoted to service.

“The Rodeo is hitting its stride. This is our Club’s major fund-raiser and more of us need to be involved,” he said.

Membership growth has been strong, continuing the program initiated by past president Larry Mullins. There are still a number of unfilled classifications.

The Club leads the District in support of the Rotary Foundation annual fund and he’s proud that we were able to qualify this year for the District Simplified Grant that we matched to help the Father’s Child Ministry literacy effort.

We continue to be the only Club in the District to be involved IN  Rotary Youth Exchange, a program that benefits not only the exchange students, the Club, and the host families, but the community and local student body as well.  More Rotary families should consider hosting a student.

“We’re sending a strong representative, Allie Noffsinger, to University of Tel Aviv as an Ambassadorial Scholar.” Kyle Frazier, now an Ambassadorial Scholar in Australia, was also sponsored by our Club.

Our hosting of another Group Study Exchange Team this past year (from France) was highly successful. But Ned pointed out we need to place members on outbound teams (this year to India).

Of course, the scouting program continues to be our single most important project. “We have a strong history as charter organization for Troop 14 and Cub Pack 14.”  The Club helped with needed repairs on Camp Seminole and sponsored the annual Friends of Scouting fund raiser.

Our increasing emphasis and involvement is a great foundation for a major literacy project in which we will lead the District and the State. He cited our project of providing dictionaries to all third graders in city and county schools, our three mentor scholarships to MSU, the monthly student-teacher recognition, and the Merrill Hawkins Award as outstanding but pointed out that Rotary needs to get more recognition .

In conclusion Ned said he owed a special thanks to Past President  Larry Mullins, “whose initiatives moved us ahead in many areas. I enjoyed observing and learning from him.” He also thanked Incoming President Chip Templeton for taking “the long-range planning initiative that laid a foundation for significant literacy work in the years ahead.”

“I dedicate this year to my all-time favorite past Rotary president, my Dad, who died 2 years ago.”  Ned’s first act as a member of Rotary was to honor  his father by making him  a Paul Harris Fellow.

President Chip then presented Ned his Past President’s diamond recognition pin and a framed plaque and gavel in appreciation for his outstanding year of service.

“Ned truly has Rotary DNA in his blood . We appreciate his service – it was a great year,” Chip said before adjourning the meeting.

Thanks, Ned, for your leadership and a great year.


Rick Smith, one of our newer members, tendered his resignation that the Board accepted with regret. Rick has accepted a challenging new position at MUW that requires him to join students through lunchtime every day.

Previous post:

Next post: