Member Login

09.15.16 – Luncheon Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Tom Mathison

On this warm, late summer day, the Rotary Club of Downtown Grand Rapids gathered at noon at the University Club for its regular meeting. President Designate Neil Marchand called this meeting to order at noon by welcoming everyone and announcing the line-up of the next activities of the Club:

September 22:  Amy Ritsema – Co-Founder, OnSite Wellnes

September 29:  Pat Cwayna – CEO, West Michigan Aviation Academy

Neil called upon Past President Tom Mathison to lead us in song today, “This is My Country”.  Following the song, Neil called upon Randy Murphy to deliver the invocation.

Following lunch, Neil talked about Rotary Relevance – Rotary Club members making a difference in our community.  He mentioned that Mina Breuker, from Holland Home, is an ATHENA Award finalist.  Also, ATHENA Young Professional Award Finalists include Mercedes Barragan and Celeste Sanchez Lloyd from Spectrum Health, as well as Amanda Williams, from Williams Distributing Kitchen & Bath.

Kris Palosaari introduced today’s guests and visiting Rotarians, and then Neil invited Past President Nick Kroeze to show a few slides of his latest inspiring ArtPrize entry “The Gift Givers”.  Dave Bulkowski stepped to the podium to make everyone aware of all the community engagement opportunities coming up this Fall.  John Crosby gave us an update on the STRIVE program and mentioned that mentors are still needed, particularly women mentors.

At this point, Neil invited Past President and Past District Governor, George Trowbridge to introduce our speaker for today.  George also introduced Kevin Kelly from the Rotary Foundation, who is visiting today.  George mentioned that he had been invited to the Rotary Peace Center in Uppsala, Sweden where he met today’s speaker, Peter Wallensteen, Senior Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.  He is also a Professor at Notre Dame University, so he invited Professor Wallensteen to speak to our Club today regarding “The State of the World and the Role of the Rotary Peace Centers.”

Peter Wallensteen, Senior Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University (since 2012), is the first holder of the Dag Hammarskjold Chair, Uppsala University (1985- 2012) and is the Richard G. Starmann, Sr. Research Professor of Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame, Indi­ana, USA (since 2006). He was the first Head of the Department for Peace and Con­flict Research, Uppsala University 1972-1999, working on its creation, financing, research, teaching and outreach programs. His Peace Research: Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2011) spans his research interests and explains the rationale behind these activities.

Peter directs the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) that publishes annual data on armed conflicts in three differ­ent categories, for free, at  His publication: Understanding Conflict Resolution (Sage, 4th edition, April 2015) explains the program. This book is used worldwide. Wallensteen is pres­ently researching Nordic experi­ences in mediation, the notion of quality peace, the use of economic sanctions, the role of regional organizations in peace­ making and the United Nations’ Security Council performance. He is a member of the Academic Advisory Council for the UN Mediation Support Unit and the Advisory Council for the newly created inter-governmental Eu­ropean Institute of Peace (EIP).

A Rotarian since 1990, he has published more than 200 schol­arly articles and book chapters, and written/edited more than 40 books, in the field of peace research. He has also been involved in the settlement of armed conflicts, notably in Pap­ua New Guinea, Israel-Palestine, Nagorno-Karabakh, Sudan and Cyprus.

In his remarks to the Club, Peter stated that Rotary Peace Centers are concerned with the state of the world.  He showed a graph of armed conflicts around the world, as well as a graph of battle-related deaths in the world over the past several decades.  After a recent increase in armed conflicts, there currently seems to be an easing in armed conflicts, but is this a trend?  He mentioned the current conflict in Syria – will the recent cease-fire hold?  He then showed a graph of the number of peace agreements, as well as a graph of the implementation of peace agreements.

The United Nations has stated a “sustainable development goal #16:  to deal with the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies.  There are currently 6 Rotary Peace Centers at universities in the United Kingdom, Thailand, the U.S., Japan, Sweden, and Australia.  There are over 1,000 alumni of the Rotary Peace Centers around the world.  93% of them currently work in peace and conflict resolution organizations, or in one of Rotary’s areas of focus.

The Rotary Peace Centers are examples of Rotary’s long-term commitment and contribution to the reduction of conflicts and a trend toward peace around the world.

Following an interesting time of Q&A, the Club offered an enthusiastic round of applause.  Neil presented Peter with a certificate for a clean water filter to be given to a family in his honor in Nicaraugua and they posed together for a selfie with the Club.

Neil reminded the Club that next week’s meeting will feature speaker Amy Ritsema at the University Club.  He then rang the Rotary bell, and the meeting was adjourned at 1:15 pm.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Our Corporate Members

View All