I get a lot of requests for speaking engagements.
Most of the time I actually know who the audience will be. I've addressed more than 50 historical societies, dozens of reading groups, several museum groups and enough Rotary and Kiwanis luncheons to make me feel like the Toastmaster General of the U.S.
But some groups are trickier. Sororities and fraternities with their archaic Greek symbols confuse me. And there have been "secret societies," loosely formed reading circles, and clubs with names like "Pioneers," "Innovators" and "Star Gazers." They all proved far less mysterious in realty than they sounded.
Which leads me to PEO.
A few months back I was invited to keynote a banquet for PEO at the Traditions at the Glen Resort in Johnson City. I had no idea who they were.
They turned out to be a group of 75 energetic and charitable women who focus their activities on the advancement of women through fellowship, financial largesse and a spirit of sisterhood. I had a great time.
Three weeks ago, I was invited to keynote a banquet for the PEO in Peterboro. Upon arrival at the stunning Charlotte Amalie Inn, I was confronted with another 50 women from around central New York who also belonged to this group.
Hmm. I sensed a pattern forming here.
Last Saturday, I was the featured speaker for yet another PEO chapter at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown. More than three dozen women made this a most pleasurable experience for me. They were from Oneonta, Cooperstown and all the surrounding communities. I knew many of them.
It was time to get serious. What the heck is PEO? Is there a secret handshake involved? Are there behind-closed-doors rituals and incantations? Was there a mascot?
The Philanthropic Educational Organization is an amazing group of women with an incredible track record of benevolence and involvement. PEO began in 1869 at Iowa Wesleyan College. As an alternative to a sorority, this loosely based group was formed to help one another reach goals that seemed somewhat out of reach to women a century and a half ago.
Today, there are a quarter-million members of PEO in the U.S. and Canada. Their main thrust is educational philanthropy, and they contribute to the betterment of women everywhere with more than a half-dozen well-funded scholarships.
The PEO ladies I have come in contact with are from all stages of life. Most are 60 or older, retired, caring and all with a deep passion for helping women gain a toehold on the ladder of success. There are businesswomen, writers, housewives and a preponderance of retired educators. I have been richly rewarded to have been in their midst.
And this is one ambitious group, too! They even own their own college. A real-life, bricks and mortar, ivy-covered-walls college. It is Cottey College, built in 1884, in Nevada, Mo. It covers 11 city blocks, and awards bachelor's degrees in several fields of study. Three hundred and fifty students attend annually. And PEO owns it all _ lock, stock and dorm rooms.
I mean, who owns a college today?
I decided to contact Cottey College's president.
"Cottey is a special place," Dr. Judy Rogers, president, told me. "Each year we have students from more than 40 states and 20 countries enroll with us. We have a 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. And of course the PEOs love and support their college, which they have owned outright since 1927. They support Cottey through their dues, personal gifts and scholarships."
I asked Dr. Rogers if the school had a motto.
"We often say, 'Cottey is for women, by women and about women,'" she told me.
Cottey's oldest financial outreach program is the Educational Loan Fund (established in 1907), which provides for women who desire higher education and are in need of financial assistance. Regional PEO chapters suggest applicant names. Other programs funded by the sisterhood are merit-based, or for cross-border education with Canada, or for doctoral or post-doctoral studies. They even have a fund, established in 1973, for women returning to school to support themselves and their families after their studies have been interrupted.
PEO is a great organization. It does a tremendous amount of good but does it quietly. Very quietly.
I mean, have you ever heard of PEO before? I didn't think so. (It does have its own college, don't you know.)
If you'd like more information about this sisterhood, find PEO online at www.peointernational.org, or, locally, call Ginger Heitz at 547-9735.
I'll catch you in two ...
'Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.
I get a lot of requests for speaking engagements.
- Big Chuck
My pal Brucie, savior of Sidney's hospital
Ask any hospital administrators if they've ever heard of a closed hospital in New York state that has ever been re-opened. They will say, "Impossible." In a half century of going through records you can't find any.
Catching a whiff of 'Vermont Vapor'
We just came back from a weekend in Manchester, Vt., and my wife insists that something "magical" happens when you pass the state sign. "I think they spray 'Vermont Vapor' out of the sign or something," she opined, "something that actually changes us."
Selections from the virtual mailbag
Well, it's time to open up the email bag, and it's really full!
Recalling days of 'Doughnut King'
In 1969, I was "The Doughnut King" in Sidney.
Opera great's visit still a thrilling memory
Opera singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993) has been called the "most distinctive American voice of the 20th century."
- Monday, February 25, 2013
Film clip a window into Oneonta's past
One of my radio listeners sent me an astonishing piece of video recently. I posted it on my Facebook page (go to Facebook, search "BIG CHUCK") and it has been viewed by well over 1,000 people in just a week.
- Monday, February 11, 2013
Many made stop at upstate naval base
My father was in the U.S. Navy. Not for long, but he did enlist out of high school in 1944. He did his naval training at Sampson Naval Training Base in Romulus. Shortly after Dad's basic training, he was honorably discharged because of a health issue. So, although his service was brief, I needed to find out as much about it as I possibly could.
- Monday, January 28, 2013
Local foods worthy of national spotlight
Well, President Obamaâ€™s second inauguration is over and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and satisfaction.
- Monday, January 14, 2013
Remembering lives of the not-so-famous
I write about 25 columns a year for this paper. And I must admit, this annual one is always my favorite. A lot of famous people left this world last year, including General Norman Schwarzkopf, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, singer Andy Williams and TV's George Jefferson actor -- Sherman Hemsley.
- Monday, December 31, 2012
Canines create unforgettable moments
Last year, I used my holiday column to pay tribute to my dog, Stella. The darn dog actually received fan mail after that, and has insisted that I do a shout-out to her canine colleagues each year around this time. So, to keep Stella happy, here goes.
- Monday, December 17, 2012
Nothing like an old-fashioned movie theater
What is it about a movie theater?
- Monday, December 3, 2012
Chuck's daughter returns to a town full of memories
My daughter Frances, OHS Class of 2000, came home for Thanksgiving last week after not having been in her hometown for nearly five years. I asked her to be my "guest columnist" to share her thoughts about coming home for the holidays. I hope you enjoy her story.
- Monday, November 19, 2012
Time to move on after grueling campaign season
Nobody likes a presidential election campaign better than I do. But this one darn near took a piece out of me.
- Monday, November 5, 2012
One nasty hurricane more than enough for one lifetime
Hey, Sandy! Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
- Monday, October 22, 2012
Latter-day stunt men still knew how to thrill
What is it with all these crazy stuntmen all of a sudden?
- Monday, October 8, 2012
Andy Williams, last of the great crooners
When singer Andy Williams died a week ago, it truly was an end of an era.
- Monday, September 24, 2012
Senator's farm was all I imagined
Many years ago, when I first arrived in Oneonta, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was the senior senator from New York state. His top aide, Ross Frommer, used to come into the radio station for interviews and to tell my audience about the various legislative efforts involving "their senator."
- Monday, September 10, 2012
Family's history includes ancestor who knew Lincoln
- Monday, August 27, 2012
Making up for lost time on Facebook
If there ever was a true-blue phenomenon, it is Facebook.
- Monday, August 13, 2012
Father's Day gift prompted my first fish story
My family has given me a lot of interesting Father's Day gifts over the years. This year the wisenheimer 15-year-old in the house decided to bestow a special present to me on "my day."
- My pal Brucie, savior of Sidney's hospital