Engaging Speakers

Amid breathtaking views from the 52nd floor of the prestigious Pyramid Club, as a Rotary Club of Philadelphia ‘Lunch Club’ member you will meet and hear renowned guest speakers during our lunch meetings such as Signe Wilkinson, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist; Todd Hemperly, famed motivational speaker; and Derrick Pitts, world-class astronomer (pictured above center with members l. to r. Jeff Cabot, Hospitality Chair, and Kurt Stroemel, Immediate Past Club President, 2018‒19).

UPCOMING SPEAKERS
November 7: Peter Mardinly, Rotary District 7450 Governor (2019-2020), provides an update on district matters as well as his vision and goals during his term, detailing many of the initiatives he has made and will continue to implement during his tenure. DG Mardinly will also lead the induction ceremony for two new members to the club.
In addition, the Rotary Foundation of Philadelphia President, Kurt Stroemel will present grant awards to the recipients of three nonprofit organizations. 

November 14Douglas Cook speaks on The Rotary International Foundation — how it works, why it is important to support, and how grant making benefits local Rotary Clubs around the world. Since it was founded more than 100 years ago, the Foundation has spent more than $4 billion on life-changing, sustainable projects around the world. 
Mr. Cook served as the PDG, District 7430, Southeastern Pennsylvania. He was raised in southern N.J. and attended Rutgers University earning a BA degree in Accounting. In 1996 he graduated Beta Gamma Sigma from the Executive MBA program at the University of New Hampshire. Doug secured his CPA licenses in 1986 and became a Certified Insurance Counselor in 2006.
Mr. Cook’s professional career began in Philadelphia as a CPA. He has worked for nearly three decades in the insurance industry in both finance and sales. Today he is a Territory Manager with Patriot National Insurance in Conshohocken PA. He is an Adjunct Professor at Eastern University in their Master of Business Administration program and Cabrini College in the Department of Finance, and teaches finance, accounting, risk management and insurance for these schools.

December 5: Frank Giordano, Executive Director of the United States Semiquincentennial Commission, will speak on the plans for the nation’s upcoming 250th anniversary. The Semiquincentennial Commission is the official government body established by Congress, and is charged with planning and coordinating observances and activities associated with the 250th commemoration throughout the country. The Commission will be at the center of a network of federal, state and local entities working together to make the 250th a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all Americans. Mr. Giordano also serves as President and CEO of the Philly POPS, and President and CEO of Atlantic Trailer Leasing Corporation. He is the Honorary Consul of Malta for Pennsylvania, and was appointed by the President of the United States to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Mr. Giordano has received many honors and awards for his work, including the prestigious Order of the Merit of the Italian Republic by the Ambassador of Italy, the Philadelphia Business Hall of Fame Award, the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s inaugural Platinum Award, and a City Council of Philadelphia Citation.

December 19: Holiday Concert with students from Play On Philly. Play On Philly was founded in 2011 by Curtis Institute of Music graduate Stanford Thompson and Philanthropist Carole Haas Gravagno, and now celebrates nearly a decade of providing high-quality music education at no cost to underserved students in Philadelphia. POP has grown from the flagship Music Center at St. Francis de Sales School to provide tuition-free music education to students at four locations across Philadelphia. They strive to engage the entire community through partnerships, community events, and performances in venues across the Philadelphia region and beyond.

January 16, 2020: Scott Cooper, Ph. D., President and CEO, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, will present on the current status and future programs of the more than 200 year-old institution dedicated to advancing research, education, and public engagement, biodiversity, and environmental science.
Mr. Cooper has spent over two decades protecting, promoting and transforming cultural sites and institutions in countries around the world. He studied engineering at the University of Manchester and architectural conservation at Edinburgh College of Art, and was awarded a UNESCO scholarship to study stone conservation in Venice, subsequently returning to Edinburgh to complete his doctoral research on Scottish history. He joined the Academy after four years as vice president of collections, knowledge and engagement at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada. Previously, Mr. Cooper was director of museums at the Qatar Foundation in Doha, Qatar, where he oversaw a $65 million capital project to create four ground-breaking heritage house museums. From 2003 to 2011 Mr. Cooper was CEO of the Fulham Palace Trust, where he saved from dereliction one of England’s most important historic sites to create what is now one of London’s most beloved and accessible heritage attractions. He has served as treasurer of the International Council of Museums and is the author of several scholarly papers on the history of Scotland’s historic buildings and designed landscapes.

March 19, 2020: Graviel Nuel Jacobo, President & Founder of Centro de Prótesis & Terapia Física, a Christian non-profit organization providing prosthetic legs and arms to those who have lost lower and upper extremities. The organization also provides counseling for people with traumatic amputations and physical therapy for amputees and special needs kids living in highly precarious conditions of the Dominican Republic at no cost. They provide prosthetics, counseling and therapy care to all without regard to race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, marital status, disability or national origin.

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PAST SPEAKERS

2019
October 17: John Nanni is a Polio Survivor and suffers from severe Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS). At the age of 10 months old in 1953, months before the Salk vaccine was distributed, Nanni was paralyzed from his neck down for 6 months. With the help of his family, he took his first steps a year later. Nanni grew up in Binghamton, New York and graduated from the State University of New York at Delhi with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant Management. He worked in the Hospitality Industry for 20 years before starting the Paper And Ribbon Supply Company, which sold products to the restaurant industry. In 2000, Nanni sold his business because PPS took a toll on his ability to effectively run it. He is limited to fewer than a couple of hundred walking steps per day, and uses a power wheelchair for most of his mobility to avoid overuse of polio-damaged muscles and reduce the ever-present pain throughout his body. In 1992 he joined Polio Network of NJ (PNNJ), an organization dedicated to helping polio survivors and their families deal with PPS, was appointed to their Board of Directors in 2012 and is also now their Liaison for Delaware. Nanni joined Rotary International in 2010 after being a guest lecturer at the Rotary Club of Hamilton Township (Mercer County, NJ).  He was appointed to the Rotary District 7510 PolioPlus Committee and was part of the Rotary PolioPlus Delegation to the UN General Assembly’s Special Session on September 27, 2012, with over 100 world leaders and Bill Gates meeting to “Unite Against Polio.” Nanni and his wife are also professional singers who perform throughout the Northeast with their Cabaret Show “Rhapsody in 2”, singing mainly Broadway show tunes and songs from the Great American Songbook at a variety of venues including Nursing Homes, 55+ Communities and benefit concerts for Rotary Clubs.
Mr. Nanni’s “Polio Goals” and “Accessibility Goals” are to:
1. Play a role in helping Rotary International and Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) eradicate Polio worldwide which remains in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
2. Help other polio survivors and their families learn how to best deal with PPS.
3. Advocate for greater accessibility for the handicapped.
4. Help educate doctors and other medical personnel about PPS.
Mr. Nanni’s presentation is in support of World Polio Day, October 24, 2019 in which thousands of Rotary Clubs around the world hold events and fundraisers to recognize progress made in the global fight to end Polio. The Rotary Club of Philadelphia members will be hosting an event to raise funds for eradicating Polio on October 25.

October 3: Reginald A. Howard is a Mental Health Advocate, Podcaster, Author, Coach and Speaker. Being in the community is his sweet spot for mental health. He loves working with people in small groups because he’s able to be intimate especially within the black community. Most people can’t afford therapy or don’t want to go, and that’s when Reginald comes in to open the discussion. He knows first-hand the suffering that people facing mental health issues experience. As a teenager, he had destructive visions but never acted on them out of fear of consequences. His struggles continued as an adult where stress from dating and fatherhood sent him into a deep depression. That depression escalated over time and eventually lead to multiple suicide attempts. Reginald uses his story to deal with his own issues by helping, healing and hearing others. His platforms are dedicated to the advancement of society by problem solving through communication. He plans to be the bridge that brings the world closer together.

September 19: Irene Lindsay Brantley’s passion is working to empower victims and survivors of domestic violence and substance abuse to make positive changes in their lives, free of addiction, poverty, and violence. She began in 1994 as a volunteer Hotline Counselor at Women In Transition (WIT), a nonprofit which provides empowerment counseling, referrals and advocacy to women in Philadelphia who are endangered by domestic violence and/or substance abuse. Soon afterwards, she accepted employment as Life Management Counselor, and was later promoted to Director of Community Education and Training, and designed and facilitated trainings, workshops, and panel discussions on safety and sobriety. Today, she is WIT’s Program Director and manages the Counseling, Community Education, and Volunteer programs. She is also the co-founder of two WIT signature programs: Sister Circle and Survivors Network. Irene is a Certified Domestic Violence Counselor (CDVC) and a graduate of Philadelphia University with an A.S. in Para-Legal Studies and a B.S. in Human Resource Management. In May 2007, she was the recipient of the Purple Ribbon Award presented by Lutheran Settlement House. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, dancing, and training her dog not to chew wallpaper.

September 5: D.F. Pace, from the Philadelphia Police Department, made a return visit to speak about his recent work as a Rotary International Peace Scholar. Police Inspector Pace, a graduate of the Rotary Peace and Conflict Studies Fellowship, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, was chosen from among thousands of applicants. As an attorney and Police Inspector in the nation's fourth largest police department, Capt. Pace focuses on balancing constitutional protections and civil rights with public safety. He currently heads the Philadelphia Police Department’s Police Board of Inquiry. In addition to his patrol experience, Pace has also held positions in the Law Department, as Judge Advocate, Police Academy Instructor, Public Information Officer and Commanding Officer of the Court Evidence Unit. He considered his involvement in the Rotary Peace Fellow Certificate Program to be “on a par with that at the FBI National Academy,” and the training gave him skills and insights that has influenced and been applied throughout his career in law enforcement. Pace is no stranger to the lectern. A veteran adjunct professor, he has taught and continues to teach graduate and undergraduate courses at several colleges and universities.

August 15: Five Mandela Fellows will be visiting from African nations Bukina Faso, Cameroon, Namibia, Togo, and Gambia to introduce their work in Philadelphia completing their professional development internships. Participants in The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders’ program, through the U.S. Department of State, participate in internships in 12 major cities across the U.S. and are comprised of young professionals aged 2535 who are interested in connecting with Rotary Clubs for social networking, cultural exchange and overall fellowship.
The day’s guest speaker, Camille Ragin, Ph.D., M.P.H., is well known for her research on cancer disparities affecting populations of African descent. Among many accomplishments, Dr. Ragin, an associate professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center, founded and leads the African-Caribbean Cancer Consortium, which furthers the study of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental cancer risk. She published in the journal Cancer about a link between African ancestry and poor survival rates in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. She is active in several organizations that connect underserved populations of African descent to critical healthcare and educational services, including the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Affairs, the African Family Health Organization, and the Elise Joseph Foundation. Dr. Ragin established the Cancer Prevention Project of Philadelphia (CAP3), a cancer prevention registry that enrolls persons with no known cancer diagnosis. She is also doing her part to train the next generation of African American scientists. Every year she serves as mentor and trainer for two students recruited from historically black colleges. Dr. Ragin has earned many notable awards, including an International Community Service Award, and several Citations from the City Council of Philadelphia. In November 2016 she received the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Control Award, for her unique contributions to cancer education and training.

August 1: Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Director for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and NASA Solar System Ambassador made a return visit, with an enlightening talk about NASA and exploration of the great red planet Mars. Pitts has held numerous positions in academic and community organizations. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including being selected as one of the “50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science,” recognized with one of Philadelphia’s highest honors, the “Liberty Bell Award” and declared as a "Philadelphia Hero" for his contribution to educating and exposing children to the sciences. Active in the community, Pitts advocates for the need to prepare young people for a far different and challenging future by giving all children access to an equal education.

July 25: Stanford Thompson is a musician and educator who serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Play On, Philly! and Founding Board Chairman of El Sistema USA, bringing music education to students in underserved areas throughout Philadelphia and beyond. Recognized as a TED Fellow, Stanford believes that music education is a powerful tool for positive personal and community change. Mr. Thompson serves on the faculties of the Global Leaders Program, SAAVY Arts Venture, and Dean of the Sphinx LEAD program while regularly lecturing at major Universities and Conservatories about leadership, entrepreneurship and social justice. As a consultant, he has guided the development of dozens of music programs across the United States and collaborated with major orchestras and arts organizations to develop new strategies and initiatives that helps provide equitable access to the arts. As a professional trumpeter, Stanford has performed as soloist and section member with major orchestras around the world and continues to perform chamber music and jazz. Stanford is a native of Atlanta, GA and hold degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory’s Sistema Fellows Program.

July 18: Greg Bradley, Individual Giving Manager at Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, spoke about his life-changing experience in Kenya, helping build a home for a family in need with Global Village, Habitat’s international volunteer program. Under the program, teams travel to over 40 countries to work alongside communities, build housing solutions, and experience local culture. Their goal is to change the lives of the people they serve, as well as the lives of the volunteers. Greg showed photos of the trip and let us know that volunteers are needed to do a building project in Central America in the Fall.

June 6: Barry Johnson, from the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, which was created by Congress in 2013 to provide public outreach, education programs, and commemorative events recognizing the 4.7 million veterans of America’s ‘most forgotten war.’  In 2014, Congress also authorized the Commission to create the first-ever National WWI Memorial in Washington D.C. Johnson emphasizes the importance of giving meaning to the events 100 years ago that fundamentally changed America. “The modern American nation that we know today really emerged from the first world war. We were a completely different country after the first world war and we remain so. It’s a largely forgotten generation and era, but they did their duty. We’re the beneficiaries of their sacrifice and their courage,” says Johnson.

May 2: Patrick Foley, CFP® and Kristin Hillsley, MBA, Baird financial advisors of the Foley Hillsley Group in Blue Bell, PA, spoke about the three things needed to increase the odds of happiness in retirement, and handed out their book Winning at Retirement: A Guide to Health, Wealth & Purpose in the Best Years of Your Life. The acclaimed how-to guide provides step-by-step instructions on practical matters like investing, Social Security, and Medicare, but also takes an entertaining and inspirational look at the quest for happiness in the post-work years.

April 18: Martha Sharkey, president and founder of TODAY is a Good Day, a nonprofit which provides personal, spiritual and financial support to families of premature babies during their time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

April 4: Paul Quintavalla, District 7450 Governor (2018-19), provided an update on district matters as well as his vision and goals during his term, detailing many of the initiatives he has made and will continue to implement during his tenure. Through Rotary's Rotoplast program, which provides surgery to children with cleft lips and palates, Quintavalla has been on several missions to third world countries to provide volunteer support when doctors perform surgery.

March 21: Sue Livingston, Educational Coordinator at Epilepsy Foundation of Eastern PA, spoke on the understanding and awareness of people living with epilepsy, a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures. With the myths and stigma associated with the disorder, the emotional weight of epilepsy can cause a greater loss of one’s quality of life than the seizures themselves. One of Sue’s passions about working with the Foundation is her involvement as the Medical Director for the EFEPA’s Camp Achieve, a week-long overnight camp for children and teens with epilepsy.

March 7: Andre Lekich, adventurer and world traveler, and founder of Ecco Adventures, which aims to provide travelers with authentic northern Italian experiences and ‘off the beaten path’ adventures.

February 21: Eda Skolnik from the Czech Republic and Romain Potgens from Belgium, students in the Rotary Youth Exchange program, spoke of their experiences while visiting the U.S. and living their home country.

February 7: Dr. June Bretz, organizational consultant to Philadelphia READS, a nonprofit which provides access to books and offers community programs for children and families to foster a love of reading and increase literacy in Philadelphia.

January 3: D.F. Pace, Peace Scholar and graduate of the Rotary Peace and Conflict Studies Fellowship, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, was chosen from among thousands of applicants. As an attorney and Police Inspector in the nation's fourth largest police department, Capt. Pace focuses on balancing constitutional protections and civil rights with public safety. He currently heads the Philadelphia Police Department’s Police Board of Inquiry. In addition to his patrol experience, Pace has also held positions in the Law Department, as Judge Advocate, Police Academy Instructor, Public Information Officer and Commanding Officer of the Court Evidence Unit. He considered his involvement in the Rotary Peace Fellow Certificate Program to be “on a par with that at the FBI National Academy,” and the training gave him skills and insights that has influenced and been applied throughout his career in law enforcement.

2018
December 6: Dr. Michele Meltzer, a Jefferson University rheumatologist and founder of Rheumatology for All, whose mission is to increase access to rheumatology care and create self-sustaining rheumatology training programs, and funding education of local physicians in under-resourced regions. Dr. Meltzer spoke of the hospital/clinic located in Ethiopia, where the population is over a hundred million with no practicing rheumatologist. Although disability generally increases with age, rheumatic diseases are among the leading causes of disability worldwide, and often affect children and adults in their prime. In addition to needless suffering resulting in under or un-employment or even mortality, the practical effect of the lack of rheumatology expertise is profound. 

November 15: Signe Wilkinson, award-winning editorial cartoonist and lecturer, and the first female to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. Wilkinson’s work appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com, and other online sources, and has been syndicated into 100 other newspapers across the USA. She states that her proudest achievement was being named "the Pennsylvania State Vegetable Substitute" by a former speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

November 1: Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Director for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, has held numerous positions in academic and community organizations. Pitts has been the recipient of numerous awards, including being selected as one of the “50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science,” recognized with one of Philadelphia’s highest honors, the “Liberty Bell Award” and declared as a "Philadelphia Hero" for his contribution to educating and exposing children to the sciences. Active in the community, Pitts advocates for the need to prepare young people for a far different and challenging future by giving all children access to an equal education.

October 18: Anthony Stover, Community Relations Manager for the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, which provides temporary lodging, transportation, meals, and social services to families of seriously ill children being treated at local hospitals, creating a community of comfort and hope. The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House has grown from a single idea to the model for over 350 houses in 38 countries.

September 20: Mike Marrone, Liguori Academy President, shared the mission of the school, while Jeff Wilson from the Central Pennsylvania Scholarship Fund talked about the importance of the PA tax credit program. The Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) allows individuals and businesses to turn their tax dollars into scholarships, giving tax payers the opportunity to CHOOSE how their money gets spent. OSTC has enabled the school to provide tuition assistance to more than 90% of their students. 

Sept. 6: Sarah Locklund,  manager of outreach and education for Herbology, a medical cannabis dispensary offering holistic services. Sarah has travelled extensively in Latin America, working on farms and cultivating medicinal herbs, helping those in need by spreading knowledge about holistic healthcare. Her presentation covered the science, facts, and laws associated with medical cannabis, as well as the application process for getting a medical marijuana ID card in Pennsylvania.

August 16: Chris Gasperi, co-founder of Ekenywa, spoke about his non-profit’s mission to provide clean water and sanitation to break the cycle of poverty in schools and communities in Kenya. Chris was born, raised and educated in Philadelphia, but with his wife and family left a comfortable American life to dedicate themselves to raising the quality of life of others in need.

July 19: Todd Hemperly, a motivational speaker whose upbeat message inspires and gives hope to the world about how to cope with challenges. Born with no arms, deformed legs and a host of other disabilities, Todd shares his belief that “Impossible is not a word, it's a self imposed prison!”  

July 12: Dana Dobson, an award-winning public relations expert and author of How to Reach Millions with Artful PR. Over her 30-year career, she has developed winning PR strategies for both Fortune 500 companies and small business owners to solve their two biggest marketing challenges — how to get the word out, and how to bring the leads in. 

Interested at speaking at one of our meetings? Apply here.