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9.26.19 Club News

Club News written by Tom Mathison

The Rotary Club of Downtown Grand Rapids gathered at noon at the University Club for its regular meeting. President Neil Marchand called this meeting to order at noon by welcoming everyone and announcing the line-up of events and future speakers for the Club:

Oct. 3:                  Club 77 hosted by Ken Bair @ One Bourbon and Bridge Street Market

Oct 10:                 Dr. Hyung T. Kim, President & CEO, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s @ University Club

Oct. 17:                Michelle Young-LaJoye, Sheriff, Kent County @ University Club

Neil called upon Kevin Paul to lead us in song today, “America the Beautiful”, followed by today’s invocation by Max Smith.

Following lunch, President Neil invited Leena Mammen to introduce guests and visiting Rotarians. Neil then invited STRIVE Co-Chair Paul Jastifer to update the Club on the need for more STRIVE mentors, particularly women.  The need is now!

Then Bill Buchanan stepped forward to introduce three members of the Interact Club from Catholic Central High School who gave us their background and aspirations for the future:  Cameron Beachler, Mary Clare Hamilton, and Mary Pavey.  Jason Webb gave the Club an update on the Membership Committee and reported that the Club currently has 206 active members!

Ping Liang came to the podium to introduce our speaker today, Michael VanDenend, Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan.  Michael came to the World Affair Council after 33 years as the Executive Director off the Calvin College Alumni Association, and he’s also a DJ at WYCE 88.1 FM on Saturday mornings!  He has seven children and many grandchildren and is an advocate of women’s equality.

Michael’s talk today was titled “ Know the World, Then Change the World:  Why Global Awareness Matters”.  He began by acknowledging the outstanding work of his predecessor, Dixie Anderson, who made the organization larger and stronger than ever.  Michael also mentioned that his father had been a Rotarian in Chicago.


The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan began in 1949, inspired by U.S. Senator Arthur Vandenberg, who was an isolationist who became an internationalist following World War II, and he was there at the founding of the United Nations, NATO, and the Marshall Plan.  Michael encouraged everyone to read a new book about Vandenberg by Hank Meijer – and he gave several of he books to members of the audience who could answer some “global affairs”  questions.

Michael cited a number of great speakers in the World Affairs Council series of speakers, including the Chinese Ambassador, the U’S. Ambassador to NATO, the Former U/S. Ambassador to Honduras, the Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., Martha Barcona Coqui, and Ambassador Barbara Stephenson.

The World Affairs Council hosts an annual global awareness competition, World Quest, and this year, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the World Affairs Council, they are giving out the Vandenberg Prize.

The World Affairs Council is one of 90 Councils around the U.S., and it ranks 26th of 90 in programming and funding.  Funding comes from business partners, college and university partners, grants, and attendance fees.

Michael concluded his remarks with warm applause from the Rotary audience and received a number of questions about the organization.  Neil presented Michael with a certificate marking a new water filter for a family in Nicaragua in honor of Michael’s time with us today.

Neil reiterated the upcoming Rotary events and reminded everyone that the Rotary office will be closed much of next week, due to Dawn’s attendance at a Rotary conference.  President Neil then rang the Rotary bell to adjourn the meeting.

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