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Charles City will host district Rotary Club conference this weekend

By Bob Steenson,

More than 100 guests will visit Charles City this weekend as the local Rotary Club hosts its district conference Friday and Saturday.

About 130 people, including local club members, are signed up for a reception Friday night at the Floyd County Historical Museum, and about 150 are signed up for a full day of events Saturday at the Trinity United Methodist Church, according to Charles City Rotary Club President Cathy Rottinghaus.

The annual Rotary Club district conference is hosted by the home club of the current district governor. Ralph Smith, a Charles City attorney and longtime Rotary member, is the current district governor.

The last time Charles City hosted a district conference was 18 years ago in the spring of 2000 when Sam Soifer was the district governor, Rottinghaus said.

The district encompasses more than 50 Rotary clubs in almost the entire north half of the state, except for a few counties in the northwest.

Rottinghaus said it’s both a challenge and an honor to host the district conference. The local club has been planning the event for about two years, and almost all of the club’s members have played roles on various committees getting ready for the event.

“I’m overwhelmed with the response to help out,” Rottinghaus said. “I asked for five people (for a project) and I got nine. I asked for four people (for another project) and I got seven.

“People are just amazing,” she said. “It’s a great club.”

She said some of the work has been marketing the conference within the district, to encourage other clubs’ members to attend.

“It’s also finding a lot of opportunities for things for people to see in the town when they’re here,” Rottinghaus said.

The Friday night reception at the museum will include music by the John Schultz string quartet, hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

Saturday will be a mixture of district business, awards presentations, fundraisers, entertainment and educational speakers.

Speakers will be:

Kenneth Quinn
Kenneth Quinn

• Kenneth Quinn, the former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia and current president of The World Food Prize foundation. He spent 32 years working for the State Department, including as deputy assistant secretary of state and as a member of the National Security Council.

He has received the Secretary of State’s Award for Heroism and Valor for four life-saving rescues in which he participated during the war in Vietnam; is the only civilian to receive the U.S. Army Air Medal, for his participation in helicopter combat operations in Vietnam; and he won the White House Meritorious Honor Award for his work on behalf of refugees from Indochina.

Quinn was awarded the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for his leadership in accounting for POW/MIAs. A fluent speaker of Vietnamese, Quinn negotiated the first entry into Vietnam by U.S. personnel to search for U.S. prisoners of war and missing in action.

Quinn graduated from Dubuque High School and received his undergraduate degree from Loras College. He became the leader of the World Food Prize Foundation in 2000.

Jerry Nelson
Jerry Nelson

• C. Jerry Nelson, professor emeritus of agronomy at the University of Missouri, he led the formation of the International Crop Science Society and served as its first president. He is a member of the National Committee on North Korea, a non-governmental organization of people with significant expertise in and diverse perspectives on that country.

Since 2006, Nelson has worked on agricultural and food issues in North Korea, including farm visits and contacts with North Koreans in their daily lives. He will share his experiences as a consultant on agronomy to various Asian countries including North Korea, South Korea and Vietnam.

His talk will be “The Two Faces of North Korea: A Perspective from Within.”

  • Asher Schroeder of Maquoketa, a Rotary Hero, will talk about his experiences being injured, captured and being held for 141 days as a prisoner of war in World War II.

Another presentation will be on “Overcoming Clubfoot in Mexico,” by the Cedar Valley Rotary Club.

Entertainment at the evening meal will be by the band Endless Summer, and the meal will have a Hawaiian barbecue theme.

Also on hand for the conference will be 17 students who are part of the Rotary Youth Exchange, who will have their own activities Friday evening and then take part in the conference Saturday.

Many of the students will be inbound exchange students from other counties, and some may be outbound students who will be traveling to other counties, Rottinghaus said.

The district convention is primarily for current Rotary members, Rottinghaus said, but anyone interested in the club is invited to attend the weekly lunch meetings at noon Mondays at the Elks Lodge in Charles City.