Meeting of October 13, 2011

Attending (12): Jim Leyhane, Terry Brewer, Murray Forth, Peter Brown, Bill Dowd, Russ Edberg, Ron Annis, Doris Calamaras, Dick Drumm, Charlie Foote, Rommel Tolentino, Deb Rodriguez.

Guests (3): Dr. Frederick Kakumba, Diane Leyhane, Dan Annis.

Business/Announcements:

• President Jim provided an update on the Coats for Kids program for which we are the lead club. All but a small handful of clubs in the District have contributed financially to the effort, which will provide outerwear for children from families in Schoharie County hard-hit by storms. Early projections are that we will have more than enough coats, and may be able to expand the program to another community. We will work on distributing the coats in Schoharie in early November.

• Doris Calamaras offered to start a holiday turkey raffle as a min-fundraiser. She will purchase the turkey, and club members will be able to sell raffle tickets. She also offered to handle the Christmas basket fundraiser arrangements again this year.

Program: From Uganda to the Capital Region

Frederick Kakumba (right), who was introduced by Doris Calamaras, was born and raised in Uganda. He came to the U.S. on a federal government college scholarship in 1964, and wound up as a banker and Hudson Valley Community College professor in economics and African-American history from 1970 until recently retiring.

Fred described his life as a child of illiterate farmers — people he said were well schooled in business despite lack of reading skills — and how his life took a different turn through schooling. He began his education in a two-grade, one-room schoolhouse where he excelled as a student in part because of his father’s counsel and urging to be a high achiever. He described a typical day as fetching water for the house when he got up, going off to school, coming home for lunch and handling some farm chores, then going back to school before  coming home and helping work again until he grew older and began going to school farther from home.

Uganda, a onetime British colony, still operates its school system on what Fred characterized as “a process of elimination.” Mandatory exams are administered in grades 4, 6, 9 and 12. Failure to do well on any of them means your education ends at that point. After Fred graduated from high school, he went on to a government clerical job while taking correspondence classes via mail.

An opportunity to come to the U.S. to study lead him to Miami University of Ohio, and a banking internship led him to the Capital Region with Key Bank in 1967.  He said he was the first non-white banker working the region. He also went on to teach at HVCC and was involved in real estate holdings.

He now is working on projects to help improve schools in his native country, a place he has not visited since the 1980s after being arrested at the main airport there. Fred also discussed African politics and economics, something he said is too much affected by widespread government corruption.

NEXT MEETING & PROGRAM: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, October 22, 2011, at the Holiday Inn Express. The speaker will be Bill Dowd, who used creation of his new book as Part 1 of a two-part club presentation. The first part was “Making Whiskey History,” which is what the book is about. The second part will be on “Making Historic Whiskey,” which he helped do at the George Washington Distillery in Mount Vernon, VA.

[Go here for the Events Calendar.]

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