By Liz Keuler
“Now I understand why you are keeping Milwaukee such a secret....you don't want others to invade such a beautiful community!”
This was just one of many comments by attendees of the Large Club Conference we hosted October 25th-27th at the Pfister. The executive directors and club leaders who joined us from large Rotary clubs all around North America raved about the people they met, places they visited and ideas they heard – and professed their desire to return to Milwaukee again.
The fun started at the airport, where RCM volunteers picked up attendees as they arrived and treated them to a tour of the scenic route to the Pfister. Transportation captains Jerry Stepaniak and Mike Graverson turned a travel chore into a delightful welcome.
The theme this year was “Lead to Make a Difference” and we believe that attendees left Milwaukee inspired in new ways to make a difference in communities around the globe. President Dan emceed the conference with grace and humor, and the Pfister provided the perfect setting for leaders to engage with topics in keeping with Rotary International’s three primary goals:
- Support and strengthen clubs
- Focus and increase humanitarian service
- Enhance public image and awareness
Presenters shared stories and started conversations on leadership, public relations, international projects, and more. We heard from national speakers:
- David Alexander of Rotary International on RI’s brand
- Kellogg professor Harry Kraemer on values-based leadership
- Peter Drury of Independent Means, Inc on large-scale sustainable international projects
- Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund on the Iran nuclear deal
And we heard from our own members:
- Marketing committee members Tom Branigan, Dave Murphy and Bill Sheahan presented a case study of the committee’s PR success around opening the Arboretum
- Past Presidents John Ridley and Jim Barry participated in a past presidents panel
- Margaret Crawford and Jon Dehlinger designed and led a leadership exercise
- Ian Abston gave a lively talk about millennials
- Doug Stahl and Mike Paddock introduced the group to our successful Global Grant projects in Guatemala
For the first time in the history of this annual conference, we incorporated social media into the mix. Attendees seized the chance to practice their skills and tagged their posts with #RotaryLCC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We saw over 100 tweets with the hashtag and attendees told us they are excited to keep practicing in the future as we all contribute to building Rotary’s recognition online.
Throughout the conference, we brought attendees to some iconic Milwaukee locations and highlighted places connected to our club. Those arriving early on Saturday joined us for a reception and tours of the Grohmann Museum, personally led by member Eckhart Grohmann. Maja Jurisic and Beth Fetterley Heller provided tours of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. Attendees took in spectacular views during dinners at the Pilot House at Discovery World and at the Harley-Davidson Museum.
Everyone’s favorite event was a dinner hosted at the homes of three RCM members, with a different local menu and signature cocktail at each home! Special thanks are owed to Dan & Sue Vliet, Jim & Nora Barry, and Kristin Bergstrom & Lloyd Dickinson for opening their homes to us.
The conference was a rousing success, and we thank Past President Kathie Eilers and the entire committee for their work. The conference was paid for with registration fees and sponsorships—so a big thank you to our sponsors for their generous support:
Marcus Hotels & Resorts
Brewers Community Foundation
George & Julie Mosher
A.D. Robertson Fund for the United Nations
All Rotarians should be proud of the conference and their roles in creating a superior experience for our guests from around the United States and Canada.