Last Week at Rotary

Thursday, May 11, 2017


This week we honored one of our members with the Walter Emmerling Award! This award recognizes a member of the Club who exemplifies the highest qualities a Rotarian can achieve, one who demonstrates Service Above Self, and one who lives as a model to others. In keeping with our tradition, this recipient will not be made public until the day the award is presented: TODAY!!

Wally Emmerling was an exemplary member of Rotary. His personal life demonstrated what a resourceful person he was. His father died when he was but five years of age. As a boy he had a paper route and was a member of the Boy Scouts. When he graduated from his high school in Norwood, he chose The Ohio State University and became a Business major. When he graduated, he began a forty year career with Procter and Gamble. 

Steve Haber, once a Wally Emmerling award winner himself, acted as the Master of Ceremonies this day. He described Wally Emmerling as a man of integrity who joined the Rotary Club of Cincinnati in 1949. He remained a faithful, super-involved member until his death in 2004. He made his mark in those years and Rotary has been celebrating his involvement by naming members who have also made their own mark continuing in his tradition. (You can see the long list of recipients in our Membership Directory.)

Steve announced the name of the 2017 Wally Emmerling Award Winner. It is Mike LeVally. Steve told us that Mike grew up in Dayton, Ohio. He and his sister graduated from Trotwood-Madison High School. Following high school, Mike came to Cincinnati to study Architecture at UC. We learned from one of his life-long friends that Mike had participated in ROTC and specifically the Pershing Rifle Team while he was there. When they marched, they precisely and in contagion threw their rifles to the row behind. They became better known as the “Dancing Bears.”  Mike graduated in 1974. 

During his time at UC, on June 24, 1972, Mike and Linda were married. They moved into their first home in College Hill. Determined to start a family, they adopted their son, Case. Mike participated regularly as Case grew up playing soccer and camping with the Boy Scouts. Case was at our meeting having flown in from Florida the night before where he is the supervisor of a golf course. (Yes, he loves to play golf! and No, he wouldn’t have missed this event for anything!)

Mike worked at an architectural firm for a few years before starting Architects Plus, his own firm, originally in Hyde Park Square.  A few years later he and his business partner built their own building and moved into Blue Ash. Tragedy struck some years later when one night while Mike and Linda were coming home from vacation, a tornado leveled their building. Fortunately it was on a Sunday night so no one was there. In time Mike and his partner designed a new headquarters in Blue Ash. This is where they have been ever since.

Mike has since retired and is spending a great deal of time in Florida where his mother who is 90 years of age lives. In addition his sister is there as well as his son, Case.

Bill Jackson, Mike’s friend for 49 years, described Mike as he was back when he was a student at UC. They met in ROTC at UC and both were members of the “Dancing Bears.” Bill told us Mike had much longer hair then and demonstrated it with a wig. He said, “It was a different time then. There was a lot of unrest on college campuses due to the Vietnam War.” He told us the Pershing Rifles was a military fraternity in an old house on Calhoun Street. Members would sharpen their wrestling skills on one floor of their “house” while on another members were involved in a multi-day, military strategy game called Risk. One night Bill told us Mike just put his head down and ran right through the fraternity house wall. That day has lived in “infamy!”  Linda was a member of the Chevrons.  Mike was different then, but he demonstrated many of the same traits that helped him to build such a successful career. He has always worked hard on projects and has volunteered often. He shared the same values, but today has a new way to channel them.

Another friend, Rick Taylor, spoke about Mike. He said that the two of them met in 1975 at work. They worked at Presler for 3.5 years together. One night they decided to meet after work at the Playboy Club, where Mike was a member, to discuss the possibility of starting their own business. Rick told Mike, “I can get the work, if you can make the buildings.” It worked out well for the next 33 years. Rick said that neither had ever raised his voice if there ever was a conflict. After the tornado, when we built the Design Center, we worked together with no wall separating us. I began to see how often Mike volunteered to serve at Camp Allyn. Mike was quietly serving, always serving. There were times, like in 2010 in the Great Recession, that Architects Plus hit a cliff. I thought we should sell the business, but Mike wanted to stay the course. We eventually got through it, largely thanks to Mike’s determination. 

Finally, our very own Fred Fischer spoke on Mike’s behalf. How many years we have worked together at the Condon School, at Camp Allyn, and at Stepping Stones! I remember the renovation of the Fisk Building. We took a summer cabin and turned it into a vital year-round facility. Mike served on the Board of Stepping Stones twice, in 1990 and 1993. He was the Foundation Board President last year. We raised $154,000 at Believe to Achieve for kids with autism and Down syndrome at Stepping Stones. 

Mike was a “Super-Involved Rotarian” two years ago. He continues to serve by attending all Rotary activities including recently handing out medals at the finish line along with Linda at the Flying Pig. What an example of an involved Rotarian for all of us!

In conclusion, we heard from Mike Levally himself, “I am totally shocked! My father was always involved in service clubs. We often went bowling or played baseball with orphanage kids. My family has always been behind me. My Rotary family has always meant so much to me. Today I am humbled to be part of the Wally Emmerlings.”