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MC Luncheon Speaker: David Silver, Founder and Executive Director of Detroit Horse Power

David Silver and 2nd VP Henry Fischer

Our luncheon speaker on March 10th was David Silver of Detroit Horse Power, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit formed by him in 2015. His vision was to expand the opportunities for children in Detroit through riding and taking care of horses. David is from New York and grew up with horses. He competed in three day eventing, an Olympic sport that combines dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. He got his degree from Dartmouth College and joined Teach For America, who placed him in Detroit. David taught on the west side of Detroit and was influenced by the research on social emotional learning that helps to develop the character traits that underlie success in school and in life. The programs of Detroit Horse Power illustrate how horses teach perseverance, empathy, responsible risk taking, confidence, and self-control. DHP started with a two-week summer camp with 18 students and has grown steadily ever since, averaging 100 students in the summer months. For the present, they travel to the facilities of the DHP partners, but those barns can be more than an hour away. One of their closer partners is the Grosse Pointe Equestrian Center (formerly Grosse Pointe Hunt Club).In addition to the summer camps, Detroit Horse Power offers after-school programs with more than 20 students on Tuesdays and Thursdays and on weekends but again, the travel to the distant barns is a problem. Their goal has always been to have permanent home for riding and caring for horses within the Detroit city limits, and for several years they have been considering different sites. They ultimately settled on the 18-acre site at Linwood and Fenkell, the former site of Paul Robeson Academy, off the Lodge Freeway. After lengthy negotiations, they finalized a lease from the Detroit Board of Education last October. They hope to open the facility by early 2023, after constructing stables for 25 horses, indoor and outdoor riding spaces, and fenced paddocks. They have engaged architects, planned an environmental assessment, and started a $5 million capital campaign. David invited us to their annual gala held in November of each year.

In his question and answer session, David told us how they plan to acquire horses by donation, but of course the cost of maintaining the horses will be high. In order to continue to make their programs free to Detroit students, they are exploring various partnership and funding possibilities. Although DHP has a staff of three, most of the teaching is done by volunteers.

For more information, see the Detroit Horse Power website here.

Message from Ken Mokray, President of the Men’s Club of Grosse Pointe

To err on the side of caution, I have suspended the March 24th meeting and affiliated choir practice sessions.  The Board and I will evaluate future meetings on a rolling basis. So, standby for further announcements regarding the April meetings.  I believe the easiest and fastest method of communication is electronically.  I would urge all members to check their emails on a regular basis. I suggest everyone check their junk mail as well.  Occasionally, emails go astray and end up in that box.  Please allow the Men’s Club as a legitimate sender.

Also, check our website site regularly as well.  We will continue physical mailings for now – however as it becomes less efficient to assemble or distribute paper mailings, the Board will consider alternative methods of distribution.  Check the accuracy of your email address in the 2020 directory and let us know if it needs to be corrected.  Hopefully, this situation will resolve quickly.

Be well and stay safe.

MC Luncheon Speaker: Leader Dogs for the Blind

Lora Cabarios, director of national personal giving at Leader Dogs for the Blind

Our speakers on February 25 were from Leader Dogs for the Blind of Rochester Hills. Founded 81 years ago, they have served more than 16,000 clients over those years.

People who are blind or visually impaired endure hardships we can barely imagine. Things that were once routine and taken for granted, suddenly become insurmountable hurdles.

That’s where Leader Dogs for the Blind steps in. From white cane training to matching people with a Leader Dog, they provide the tools and training to reintroduce people to a life of independence, confidence and companionship. It’s a way of living that leads to a new perspective on life.

We heard from Lora Cabarios, who described the mission and history of Leader Dogs for the Blind. Founded by members of the Lions Club, Leader Dogs graduated 3 client guide dogs in its first year and now graduates about 200 per year, as well as training about 100 clients in white cane travel. They are completely self-supported and rely on donations for all of their expenses. They serve the entire US and 19 other countries. Their mission is to help the 90% of the blind population that do not travel independently to do so. Lora then introduced Jeff Hawkins and his leader dog Gracie.

Jeff Hawkins and Gracie

Jeff described his journey with juvenile macular degeneration, the disease that ended his 25-year career as an EMS paramedic. As with most other blind people, he has some vision on the periphery, but it is not safe for him to travel without assistance. He first went to Leader Dogs for white cane training and then returned for a leader dog. He described the social isolation that affects most of the visually impaired and how a leader dog can help overcome such isolation.

Jeff showed us how he works with Gracie. On command, she can take him back to his chair, to the door he came in by, or to a fire door that he shows her. If he introduces her to an audience member, she can return to that person on command. She guides him through crowds, across busy streets, and on to airplanes, buses, cars, etc. He explained why it is important for people to avoid distracting Gracie when she is working. When he removes her harness, however, she returns to being a dog and can be petted and played with.

For more information on Leader Dogs, see their website.

SMC Luncheon Speaker: Dr. Roy Wilson, President of Wayne State University

Our luncheon speaker on February 11th was Dr. Roy Wilson, the President of Wayne State University since 2013. Dr. Wilson has had an illustrious career since graduating from Harvard Medical School. He has served was dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for health sciences at Creighton University, president of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus and chair of the Board of Directors of University of Colorado Hospital. Prior to joining Wayne State, Dr. Wilson served as deputy director for strategic scientific planning and program coordination at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).Immediately prior to joining NIH, Dr. Wilson chaired the Board of Directors of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and was acting president during part of that time.

Dr. Wilson addressed the history of Wayne State and a number of myths about higher education. Wayne State was founded as a hospital and medical school more than 150 years ago by five doctors returned from the Civil War. Today WSU consists of 13 schools and colleges offering nearly 350 programs to more than 27,000 graduate and undergraduate students. It is one of the top 60 public research universities in the US. Although some think that universities cost taxpayers too much money, Dr. Wilson described how WSU returns far more to the city and state than it receives. More than 75% of its 275,000 graduates remain in Michigan, creating jobs and adding to the economy. It is also a myth that the campus is dangerous. With its own security force, it is one of the safest campuses in the country, and many Midtown business rely on their officers. Since 2009, crime in Midtown has decreased by 59%.

Another myth is that college students today are “snowflakes” who aren’t ready for the real world. Dr. Wilson’s experience is the opposite. He described the WSU Med-Direct program, where students are admitted to both undergraduate school and medical school, with full scholarships and a year abroad. Even with a scholarship, many of them have to get a job to send money to their parents. More than 80% of WSU students work. WSU students also serve others in a variety of programs. Street Medicine Detroit connects medical students with the homeless. Other programs have resulted in 97,000 community service hours provided in the last 10 years by WSU students.

Dr. Wilson critiqued the myth that tenured college professors have a cushy job that requires no work, although he did say that it happens sometimes. Five years ago, WSU started a program to remove tenure from those that were abusing it. Some faculty members did lose tenure, while others decided to resign to avoid embarrassment.

Dr. Wilson addressed criticism of university research which some feel is impractical. He cited basic research projects that have had enormous practical benefits, such as drugs for AIDS and car safety research. Other myths, including that a four-year degree is no longer a good investment given the need for workers in the skilled trades, were rebutted by Dr. Wilson. He also cited Wayne State’s high social mobility index that compares the graduation rate of schools that enroll disadvantaged students. Among US universities, WSU has one of the largest increases in graduation rate over the last six years. Last year, Wayne State won the IEP Talent award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, recognizing exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development.

For more information, see the WSU website.

MC Luncheon Speaker: Madeline Bialecki, Director of Gilda’s Club Lake House Location

Our Speaker on January 28 was Madeline Bialecki, who serves as the Director of the Lake House in St Clair Shores, which recently became part of Gilda’s Club of Metro Detroit. The Lake House became a part of Gilda’s Club in April 2019 but still continues its same mission — to provide support, education and wellness activities for those impacted by cancer.

MC Luncheon Speaker: Patrick Colbeck, co-founder and CEO of Freedom Center at DTW

Our luncheon speaker on January 14th was Patrick Colbeck, the co-founder and current CEO of the Freedom Centers at Detroit Metro Airport and Military Entrance Processing Stations in Troy and Lansing. Patrick is a former Candidate for Governor and Two-Term State Senator in Michigan. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan with bachelor’s and Masters of Science Degrees in Aerospace Engineering and also the Life Sciences Department at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. His professional career is highlighted by his public service in the Michigan Senate (term-limited) and his engineering design work on key elements of the Life Support System for the International Space Station. He also served as an instructor at Space Camp in Huntsville, AL

Colbeck described that the need for the Freedom Centers, previously called Michigan Armed Forces Hospitality Centers, arose from the fact that Michigan has no USO centers because there are no active duty military installations in Michigan. Freedom Centers are airport lounges available to both active duty members of the all branches of the military as well as veterans. Their motto is “Serving Those Who Serve Us.” They also serve members of the armed forces of our allies as well as gold star and blue star families. The first Michigan Freedom Center opened in the McNamara Terminal at DTW in 2011, but now they also have a Center in the North Terminal as well as the MEP Stations in Lansing and Troy. They provide a place for military members in transit and veterans to relax, recharge and refresh away from the noisy, harried atmosphere of the airport. In addition to refreshments and comfortable chairs, the Centers have bunk beds for short naps.

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GP South Temple Belles sing at December 10 meeting under the direction of Christopher Pratt

Men’s Club Luncheon Speaker: Mark Heppner, President and CEO of Eleanor and Edsel Ford House

Ken Mokray and Mark Heppner

Our luncheon speaker on November 26th was Mark Heppner, the President an CEO of the Ford House. Mark had previously served as vice president of historic resources and most recently, interim chief of operations over both Ford House and Fair Lane. With nearly 30 years of experience in museums and historic sites, Mark had served historic properties in Ohio and Iowa before moving to Michigan. A native of Ohio, he earned a B.A. studying history at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and an M.A. in American history from Cleveland State University,

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SMC Luncheon Speaker: Ike McKinnon, Ph.D., former Detroit Chief of Police and University professor

Ike McKinnon nd Ken Mokray

Our luncheon speaker on November 12th was Isaiah “Ike” McKinnon, the former Detroit Chief of Police, Deputy Mayor, and Associate Professor of Education at University of Detroit Mercy. Ike earned his B.A. from Mercy College, his M.A. from the University of Detroit Mercy and his doctorate from Michigan State University. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the United States Secret Service School. McKinnon joined Detroit Mercy in 1998.

McKinnon has authored three books and co-authored two others, in addition to numerous articles on crime victims. He won an Emmy as the NBC News/Safety Consultant. He has met six U.S. Presidents and Nelson Mandela, and has appeared on the “Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “Oprah,” and “The History Channel.”

Ike began his talk by telling us how he has a wonderful life, even though he was shot at eight times and stabbed twice. The first time he was stabbed, the knife hit his belt buckle and broke. Ike grew up in Detroit, enlisted in the Air Force, came back and joined the Detroit Police Department, rising through the ranks to become Chief. He credits his father for the success he has had. His father had a third-grade education and was a sharecropper in Alabama before moving to Detroit. Ike remembers his father asking him to read the Bible to him, saying that was not a good enough reader to read it himself. Ike later realized that it was a way for his father to teach him how to read and spend time with him. His father used to tell him that he played professional baseball in the Negro league and played with Satchell Paige. Ike said, “Sure you did” not believing his father. But years later Ike was on duty at the Olympia Stadium when the Harlem Globetrotters were playing. Their guest was Satchel Paige, and Ike, wearing his police uniform, walked up to him and asked him whether he ever played ball with a McKinnon. Paige said, “I don’t think so.” But as Ike walked away, Paige turned around and said, “Wait, did you mean Cody McKinnon?” He went on to say what a great player Cody had been and how he would have played in the Major Leagues had the color barrier been broken. When he went home, his father then told him that he didn’t play more because his team went on barnstorming tours and he wanted to stay home and work and take care of his family. He told Ike that he would never lie to him.

Years later, Ike told the story to his sons, and of course they didn’t believe him. They asked Ike what he did and he told them that he almost made the 1964 US Olympic team after winning the Military Olympics as a sprinter. He couldn’t go to the Olympics because he was serving in Vietnam. One of Ike’s sons is now trying to convince his 11-year old daughter that he almost made the Michigan men’s basketball team. Ike thinks it is important to learn to listen to older people. When Ike was serving in Vietnam, he was surprised when his chaplain asked Ike to accompany him to the Danang orphanage. There they held and fed orphan babies that were getting very little attention. They started doing this every weekend, seeing how the infants responded. Recently Ike saw a story on a Sunday morning news program that showed the same orphanage, still in operation.

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SMC Speaker Report: Barbara McQuade

Barbara McQuade and President Ken Mokray

Our luncheon speaker on October 8th was Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She is currently a professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School and a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.

Barbara began by talking about whistleblowers and the Whistleblower Protection Act, a federal law that protects whistleblowers who work for the US government and report possible wrongdoing. The law is intended to protect whistleblowers from retaliation such as firing, demotion or reassignment, but only if their claims are credible and raise an urgent concern. Such protections are important to discourage the leaking government secrets to the press. Barbara cited a number of well-known leakers, such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Reality Winner, and Julian Assange and described how leaking classified documents could damage national security. She mentioned that established media outlets had declined to publish such documents but several internet sites such as WikiLeaks had no such compunctions.  Barbara had a security clearance while serving as US Attorney and prosecuted cases involving terrorism financing, foreign agents, and export violations, so she was able to discuss the different levels of classified documents.

Barbara stayed for a lengthy question and answer session that covered a number of issues, including the current impeachment proceeding. She discussed the elements of the crime of extortion and how it was important in the federal prosecution of Kwame Kilpatrick that she headed in Detroit. Barbara also touched on topics such as the power of Congress to investigate the President, the chance that a President could be prosecuted after leaving office, how she uses remote studios to appear on TV, how experts are compensated by TV networks, and the Michigan Innocence Clinic at Michigan Law School.