Call To Order - President Dudley Thompson
The first Civic Thursday meeting of the Rotary year kicked off with the Rick Baskin’s band, Layin’ Down the Law, playing music and a California Ballroom filled with members and guests. The crowd gathered to launch Mary Geong's year as president of the Rotary Club of Oakland. Mary is the 114th president, the 9th female president, and the first Asian-American president of Oakland #3. Members and guests settled in at their tables and discovered chopsticks, special "Mary Geong" fortune cookies, and a red envelope (more on the envelopes later) for each person.
Past President Linda Boessenecker, in her role as MC, called the meeting to order and immediately asked President Mary and the club officers and directors to march into the ballroom. The procession was accompanied by Layin’ Down The Law band's stirring rendition of "Celebration."
Thought for the Day - Maude Pervere
After Mary was seated on stage, Maude Pervere provided a thought for the day about using judgment to spark curiosity about new subjects.
Introduction of Mary Geong
MC Linda welcomed all visiting Rotarians and guests and shared Mary's fascinating background. Mary was born in Guangzhou, China in 1949, the year that Chairman Mao took power. She traveled to San Francisco on the SS President Cleveland with her mother in 1951 - her first cruise. Her four younger siblings were born in San Francisco. Because Mary's father was a "paper son" (claiming a false family relationship with a Chinese-American citizen), Mary was a "paper granddaughter." While growing up in a Chinatown housing project, her parents instilled a passion for education in Mary and her siblings. Mary worked her way through San Francisco State majoring in accounting and became the first member of her family to receive a college degree.
Mary obtained an MBA and masters in taxation at Golden Gate University. As a CPA, she worked at the California Franchise Tax Board as a tax auditor and later opened her own tax practice. Mary has served on the California Board of Accountancy, the board of Goodwill of the East Bay, and is active in the Asian Real Estate Association of the East Bay and the Piedmont Asian American Club. She served the City of Piedmont as a member of the park commission, budget advisory committee, and capital improvement committee.
Mary met her husband Bill in high school. They married in 1976 and are celebrating their 46th anniversary in August. Mary and Bill have two daughters. Jennifer teaches English in Cambodia and Danielle lives in Washington D.C. Mary and Bill are proud grandparents to granddaughter Lily Charlotte.
Mary joined Oakland #3 in 2002, served as a club director, an ORE trustee and past president, and chair of the Saroni-Lena Scholarship Committee among many other positions. She is a Paul Harris Fellow +7 and an ORE major donor. Mary's biggest Rotary claim to fame was winning a brand new Mercedes Benz at a club raffle in 2004. The car is still running.
The Lion Dancers
President Mary was welcomed to the lectern with a standing ovation. The Toishan Lion Dancers took over the ballroom with an energetic performance through the crowd and onto the stage. The dancers were accompanied by drums, cymbals, and gongs. For the record, there was one yellow lion and one red lion.
The energy generated by the lion dancers was matched by the huge number of bellringers that followed. President Mary reminded everyone that a bellringer was a legitimate tax deduction.
Ringing the bell in honor of Mary were:
Ruth Stroup (8 times), Dudley Thompson, Ken Richardson (2) for Mary and for the birth of his fourth granddaughter earlier in the morning; Keri Butkevich (2) for Mary and for Keri’s six-week old adopted daughter; Ces Butner (4) for Mary, District 1 Assistant Governor Saralinda Jackson, District 5170 Governor Savita Vaidhyanathan and Rotary International President Jennifer Jones; Sean Marx, Daniel Cheng (5), Merlin Edwards (2) for Mary and for his great granddaughter’s first birthday; John Protopappas (2) for Mary and for Bill Geong; Joycie Mack (2), Ricka White-Soso, Fanny Li, Pam Claassen, Saralinda Jackson, Renia Webb, Vivian Chen (5), Jim Boessenecker (2) for Mary and for Linda Boessenecker as emcee today; Ramona Chang (2), Georgia Richardson, Kristine Watson, Keith Uriarte, Joe Goralka (2) for Mary and for a Global Scholar from Japan; Joel Parrott (2) for Mary and his first grandchild born three weeks ago; Howard Lee, Carol Lum (2), Wendy Maclay, Tom Limon, Richard Schwarz, Jason Wizelman, Fred Morse, Ralph Sklar on behalf of the Meeting Production Team; Kymberly Miller, Kathleen Sims, Teresa Weyand, Celeste Gordon, Bruce Nye, Peter Sherris and Richard Flanders.
Guests, Club Board and ORE Trustee Introductions
Mary introduced a host of family members and friends, including: husband Bill Geong, daughters Jennifer and Danielle (online), California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Past District Governor Richard Flanders, S.F. Rotary #2 Past President Mary Liu, S.F. Chinatown Rotary Past President Richard Schwarz and President Rhonda Pierce; Past President Patty Kringle of Rotary Club of Dublin, Past President Kenneth Pon of San Leandro Rotary Club, Frank Pare’ of Oakland Uptown Rotary, Rotary District 5170 Area 1 Assistant Governor Saralinda Jackson, Juliet Ng and Vivian Chen.
The 2022-23 Club officers and directors and ORE trustees were also introduced.
Special Presentation to Dudley Thompson
Richard Flanders, Past Governor and first Asian-American District 5170 Governor, reviewed the many accomplishments of Oakland #3 during the 2021-22 year. He then presented a plaque to Past President Dudley Thompson which honored him as a Distinguished Rotary Club President.
State Treasurer Fiona Ma
State Treasurer Fiona Ma reported that she has been a member of the Lions and Elks but has never joined Rotary. She suggested that she may join Rotary now that the attendance requirements have been relaxed. Her background is quite similar to President Mary's although she started in private practice and then moved to the public sector. Fiona declared that while she may be the state treasurer, Mary is a state treasure.
Goals and Areas of Focus
Mary reviewed her goals for this year:
Since the number 8 is considered lucky in Asian culture, she is aiming to increase club membership to 288 or even 388 members.
Create a more open, inviting and inclusive club.
Present diverse speakers and expand club outreach to the community.
Mary's area of focus will be education. This year's speaker's gift will be a contribution to Oakland Promise.
Remember those red envelopes? Mary drew three winning tickets. Club members Carla Betts and Mike Bruck were two of the lucky winners. Thank you, Joe Goralka, for providing the prizes.
The action-packed inauguration of President Mary ended with the ringing of the bell at 1:37 pm.
Next Meeting, July 21 – Andy Naja-Riese – Farmers Market Movement
Speakers Committee Chair Ruth Stroup announced next week’s speaker will be Andy Naja-Riese, Andy is CEO of Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM) and producer of the Grand Lake Farmers Market. He will talk about the Farmers Market Movement including important changes in diversity and collaboration with various local groups.