June 30, 2008 Rotogram


The last meeting of the Rotary year is a time to look both back and ahead.  Ned Browning will reflect on his fine year of  leadership. It has been marked by a number of significant experiences and achievements. He will also hand the symbolic gavel over to 2008-2009 President Chip Templeton, who returned from the R.I. Convention in time for last week’s meeting.  Joining Chip to lead the Club are Martha Wells, (vice president/president-elect); Jeff Donald (secretary); Nellah Taylor (treasurer); and new directors Bob Daniels, Joe Fratesi, Tommy Prentice, and Janette Self.


Our guest next week will be Marc Paganini, Chief  Executive Officer of American  Eurocopter. He’ll give us an update on American Eurocopter and what’s going on at  the GTR factory.


Attendance: There were 116 members ( 82 active and 39 exempt) present and 49 active, 17 exempt, and all 8 honorary members missing.

Invocation and Pledge: Bob Whiteside.

Guests: Guests of members: Mike McGrevey of Chip Templeton; Jack Newell and Scott Dodd of Jack Forbus; Harriett Laird of Maridith Geuder; Perry Pugh of Grant Arinder; and Ruth Remy of Keith Remy. Club guests included Bill, Vicki, David, and Maggie Burnett, Tori’s family; and Shoshana Brackett of Starkville Daily News.

Makeups: President-elect Chip Templeton logged two makeups in Los Angeles – one at the R.I. Convention June 14 and Beverly Hills Rotary June 17; Dave Boles had two makeups (June 12 and 14) at the Convention; Carey Hardin made up in West Point June  19.

Dollars for Literacy: One of the sponsors for Rotary’s Rodeo in February was State Farm Insurance. Last Monday, Jack Forbus, representing State Farm, presented a check for $1,000 to Starkville Rotary Club Foundation to support our literacy project. Jack challenged other Rotarians to invite their companies to also consider financially supporting the new literacy project.

Rotarian Carolyn Jackson had a bad fall week before last and broke a hip, an arm, and an elbow. She’s  in a wheel chair until the pinned hip heals and has been  granted a medical leave from Rotary until she’s able to return. We all wish her well and hope the injuries mend quickly.

Rotarians Make News: President Ned congratulated Brent Fountain on his election to head the Mississippi Dietetics Association.

Kudos, also, to Kristi Brown on the publication of her book  “To Walk on Fertile Ground ,” the story of her battle with cancer and its impact on her family and friends.

Ned congratulated Omis Avant on becoming a great grandfather.

A Resignation:  Charlotte Coker, a member since 1999,  has resigned from Rotary. The Board accepted her resignation with regret.


Tori Ferguson had her Rotary Youth Exchange year in Ecuador cut short by illness, but she had a life-changing experience during her 3½ months and has literally “hit the ground running” since her return to Starkville in December. She shared her story with Rotarians last week with an excellent PowerPoint presentation.

After graduating from SHS last May, Tori worked to prepare for her year away from home. She attended a 5-day training and orientation camp for outbound Rotary Exchange students in northwest Arkansas. She tried to sharpen her Spanish language with Negrita Caicedo, who arrived in Starkville 2 weeks before Tori left for Ecuador.

Tori was hosted by the Quito Ecuinoccio Rotary Club and was assigned to the Oswaldo Jarrin family. “They are the most wonderful and amazing family,” she said. She and her host Mom, Alex, hit it off immediately even though Alex  knew very little English and Tori’s Spanish wasn’t the best. “Within a few days, we had very little trouble communicating.”

The family included two daughters, one older and one younger than Tori. Oswaldo had been a Rotary Exchange Student and the older sister was preparing to come to the U.S. as an RYE student in Wisconsin. Tori also had a large extended host family, including a grandmother, aunt, and cousins.

Unlike our District, Rotarians in Quito are very active in the Youth Exchange program. Tori said her host club had another exchange student from Maine and there were 36 exchange students in Quito and the valley. To help the students develop language skills, Rotary sponsored a 2-week intensive Spanish class. She was warmly welcomed at  school in Quito and developed a wide circle of friends among her classmates and the group of exchange students.

The Narrin family had a ranch near Cayambe where they grew roses for worldwide export. They also had horses and dairy cattle on the ranch and left the city to spend almost every weekend  there. “The view from their patio was breathtaking,” Tori said.

One weekend, they threw a party for Oswaldo’s 50th birthday. Tori described the celebration. “Everyone was dancing and celebrating  – from grandparents to the smallest cousins. The party started at noon and was still going strong when I went to bed at 3:30 in the morning!”

Tori was able to participate in a major Rotary event during her shortened stay – a gathering of 128 exchange students from throughout Ecuador at Manabi Province on the coast.  At the closing session banquet, Tori was named “Queen” of the delegation from the United States, which was the largest with 17 students, 15 of them girls.

One of her photos showed  her wearing a Panama hat. “The Panama hats actually come from Ecuador but President (Theodore) Roosevelt couldn’t remember the country and misnamed them.” Another photo showed her trying an Ecuadorian delicacy – grilled guinea pig – which she admitted “wasn’t the best!”

Her visit came to an unexpected end in late November when Tori experienced a seizure. Her parents, Bill and Vicki Burnett, flew immediately to Quito. She said the Rotarians and her host family were wonderful. Although tests in Quito failed to reveal any possible cause, the Burnetts felt she should come home for additional tests.

“It was very hard to leave,” Tori said. “I made so many friends and they didn’t want me to leave.”

Once back in Mississippi, further tests all indicated Tori to be in good health. “The hardest thing was that I was grounded — I couldn’t drive for more than 3 months.”  She was permitted to resume driving in April, when she hadn’t had any recurrence of the experience in Ecuador.

Tori got her admission to MSU changed and was able to enroll for the spring semester. The University even moved the effective date of her scholarship from fall to spring.  She earned a straight 4.0 grade point, ran a half marathon, and on April 4 was named Starkville and Oktibbeha County “Miss Hospitality.” She will compete for the state title in early August.

“I want to thank you all so much for making this possible,” Tori said. “It’s totally changed my goal in life. I want to work outside our border.”  She plans to major in nutrition and minor in Spanish.

She held up her Rotary Youth Exchange blazer that was covered with pins and mementos from Ecuador and other exchange students she met during her stay.  She said her blazer was a gift from former Rotarian Sammy Smith of Smith and Byars.

Although her stay in Ecuador was shortened, Tori proved to be an outstanding ambassador for her country, community, and Starkville Rotary Club. We wish her the best in the state Miss Hospitality competition, her MSU career, and all her future endeavors.


When Hurricane Katrina devastated our coast 3 years ago, our District, under the leadership of Gov. Stu Vance, initiated the Katrina Relief Fund that resulted in nearly $1 million of relief aid for the coast.

Rotarians in District 6000 responded with more than $70,000. Now it’s our turn. District 6000 includes  Des Moines and all of southeastern and south central Iowa, a major part of the area devastated by the current 500-year floods. Iowa City and the campus of University of Iowa were among those suffering major damage.

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. “I would hope that those who can afford it give (at least) $50.”

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.

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