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
There was just no telling about snow days
Winters get harder as we get older. Things change. It snows more. It snows less. It gets colder. It's a lot milder. It all changes as our knees start to creak and the thought of shoveling a foot of snow seems positively daunting.
And the music goes round and round
The day has finally arrived.
When did pranks turn into vandalism?
I was a teenage vandal.
Happy and sad memories of Jan. 7, 1966
Jan. 7 is always a big celebration day in the D'Imperio family. My twin sisters, Teri and Mary, plus my youngest daughter, Katie, all share it as a birthday. The date, however, is not without a dark significance.
Lesser known greats that passed away in 2013
The year 2013 is drawing to a close and as it does I would like to give a tip of the hat and a fond goodbye to a group of famous people who left the world stage. Their departures will be noted here in this column although they may have missed a final adios in the major media outlets. Letâ€™s give them their moment in the sun.
- Monday, December 16, 2013
Reunions all the sweeter amid WWII
There is nothing like running into old friends in the most unexpected places. Like on a vacation, or in a mall or even in the supermarket. It is always a time for a â€œHail and how are you?â€� moment.
- Monday, December 2, 2013
There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|
Winter weather is here. And so are outdoor winter activities.
- Monday, November 18, 2013
Vroman's Nose hike is no walk in the park
I haven't gone on a hike since 1961 when President Kennedy asked all Americans to take a 50-mile hike for physical fitness. I did it then. With a large group of my schoolmates and friends. We walked from Sidney to Oneonta and back.
- Monday, November 4, 2013
Being a grandpa will be better than just OK
I am going to be a grandfather.
- Monday, October 21, 2013
Some hits from the soundtrack of my life
As most people know, I wear two hats at my radio station.
- Monday, October 7, 2013
Some book picks from an avid reader
I came to reading begrudgingly. I was an impatient student easily bored with books. Finally an eighth-grade English teacher in Sidney, Kay Jester, figured out my problem. She told me that I had an inquisitive mind and had an affinity for storytelling. She also told me I was reading the wrong books.
- Monday, September 23, 2013
Swapping stories with a sweet centenarian
Marge Mathews is one very special lady.
- Monday, September 9, 2013
Farm honor system can grow on you
What a difference the flip of a calendar makes. I love September and the produce stands!
- Monday, August 26, 2013
My brush with a future president
President Obama came to town!
- Monday, August 12, 2013
Colonoscopy isn't much of a pain in the ...
When a professional looks you in the eye and says, "Sit down, I have something I want to talk to you about," your normal reaction is a flexing of the gluteus maximus and the appearance of sweat drops on the palms of your hands.
- Monday, July 29, 2013
An easy way â€¨to be a hero
It is not much to ask. Plus they give you a cookie and a glass of juice!
- Monday, July 15, 2013
Digging up memories, one box at a time
My Dad kept everything.
- Monday, July 1, 2013
Moms, girlfriends and wives of TV history
I recently saw on TV a birthday salute to actress Betty White. It included many archival videos, celebrity interviews and reminisces from her early days on television. There is no doubt that Betty has found the magic pill. Into her nineties she is still starring in a hit sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland!"
- Monday, June 17, 2013
Upstate theme parks offered affordable thrills
I saw in the news last week that Disney theme parks are raising admission prices to almost $100 a person. Children (who Uncle Walt considers 10 and under) are now $86 a day.
- Monday, June 3, 2013
Getting creative with gifts for grads
Well, it is graduation time again. So much pressure, so many decisions, so many things to take into consideration.
- There was just no telling about snow days