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Connellsville Rotary Club makes history, celebrates 90th year

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Rotary Club of Connellsville President Ken Brooks recently conducted a regular weekly meeting by live broadcast from Tampa, Fla. Shown here with the technical setup are Ken Brooks (on screen); Nick Bell, Geibel musical director (center); and Matt Dowling, a Connellsville Rotarian whose company, Coordinated 360, assisted with the remote.
Nancy Henry | for the Daily Courier
Rotary Club of Connellsville President Ken Brooks recently conducted a regular weekly meeting by live broadcast from Tampa, Fla. Shown here with the technical setup are Ken Brooks (on screen); Nick Bell, Geibel musical director (center); and Matt Dowling, a Connellsville Rotarian whose company, Coordinated 360, assisted with the remote.

Rotary Club of Connellsville made history on March 14 during the same week the club celebrated its 90th year in the city.

President Ken Brooks conducted the weekly meeting via live telecast from Florida. Brooks came up with the idea because his attendance at meetings has been perfect during his term as president. The broadcast was made possible with technical help from immediate past president of Connellsville Rotary and District Governor Nominee Designate for District 7330 Matthew Dowling and David Slusarik, creative director of Coordinated 360. The men planned the remote broadcast over several weeks and when the time came to go live, it worked perfectly. Rotarians could see and hear Ken in sunny Florida and Brooks could see and hear the Connellsville Rotarians in the Shamrock Room of Bud Murphy's in Connellsville.

Brooks attends New York Yankees training camp in Tampa every spring. The Rotary Club of Connellsville meets at Bud Murphy's every Thursday at noon for lunch, so planning was ongoing and logistics were worked out for the project which would span over 1,000 miles and seven states.

“I made a commitment to be president of this club and attendance each week is an important part of my weekly duties. I know it is not always possible for everyone to be at the meeting every week, but I have had perfect attendance as president. I knew the technology was out there to pull this off, and Matt Dowling was the right person to help make it happen. I'm not sure if this has ever been done in the district or at the state level, it may not have been done in the United States for all I know. Sitting in George Steinbrenner Field 1,100 miles away and conducting my meeting was awesome. We always need to look to the future in life, and in Rotary and this could be a first step for our club to make history,” Brooks said.

The broadcast went smoothly. “President Ken” called the meeting to order, welcomed everyone, led the group in the national anthem and made announcements. The scheduled program was a preview of the Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School musical “Les Miserables.” Student cast members, led by director Nick Bell, performed solos and segments from the production to an appreciative audience of Rotarians.

Club secretary Pat Stefano said, “I'm glad to see Ken using this video communication technology for the meeting. It just shows his dedication to his role as president.”

“Rotary is an organization steeped in tradition existing in a fast-paced, instant information world complete with 24/7 news outlets, Facebook and Twitter. Without sacrificing our core principles, we are forced [as an organization] to adapt,” Dowling said. “Priorities and business commitments have changed, but the commitment to making the world a better place and to put service above self, stays the same. Technology and out-of-the-box thinking has helped us adapt to meet the needs of a changing society.”

“The Rotary Club of Connellsville has reached the milestone of 90 years, what amazing accomplishment for this small club,” Brooks said. “We have achieved so much, giving almost $200,000 in scholarships to Connellsville and Geibel high school graduates, and giving grants to nonprofits in our great community. Rotary is an amazing organization and our local membership has been growing. I can't help but to think back to our charter members 90 years ago and wonder what they would have thought about what we did through modern technology.”

“Two members of our club have exceeded 60 years of perfect attendance — Melvin Keller and Lew Lynn,” noted Past President Gerry Browell, who has been a Connellsville Rotarian since 1988.

“We once had a member, George Honisek, who drew a sketch of the weekly guest speaker and gave it to the speaker after the program. It was sometimes published in the club newsletter. I still have mine from Dec. 31, 1991, when I was the program,” he continued. “We have had two district governors, Eugene Ghost 1975-76 and John Fiesta 1990-91. Our District 7330 covers seven counties and 42 clubs. The club once had a member who was a general in the United States Army — Gen. Thomas W. Scott Jr., and he served with Gen. (George) Patton in World War II. The Rotary Scholarship Fund Golf Outing began in 1997 under the direction of Max House and is the largest locally controlled scholarship fund. We have met in many locations over the years, including Carnegie Free Library, Elks Club, Highlands Hospital and now Bud Murphy's. We have donated thousands of dollars to local charities and have sponsored a Christmas party for special needs students since the 1960s. We have had members of fathers and sons, Dick and Ned Franks, Van Dyke Humbert Jr. and III, Sam Brooks and David and Richard, father and daughter, Lew Lynn and Judy Lynn Craig, and fathers-in-law and sons-in-law George Honisek and Chuck Madore, Lew Lynn and Barry Craig. Our rose sale has been ongoing for over 25 years and Pancake Day, to be held Saturday, for at least 40 years. Besides all of our good works, we also learn a lot and have a lot of fun every Thursday.”

“It's quite an accomplishment that the Rotary Club of Connellsville is celebrating 90 years of serving the Connellsville area. Rotary is a worldwide organization that begins with local communities,” said Past President Judy Eans. “I have learned so much about our area and its great history from our weekly speakers. Strong friendships have also been made in the Connellsville club. We have an outstanding group of professionals who are very dedicated to helping promote the future of Connellsville while observing rich traditions. As a club we are dedicated to the support of Rotary's worldwide campaign to eradicate polio.”

“I thought that our live remote was an historic event. I'm so proud of the members of my club,” said Brooks whose term ends in July. “Could this be the way meetings are conducted in the future? I suppose time will tell. It's been an honor to be president of the Rotary Club of Connellsville and an experience I'll never forget.”

Those who would like to become a member of the Rotary Club of Connellsville are invited to attend a meeting any Thursday at noon at Bud Murphy's.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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