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Community connections

Thomas Brush is president of Binghamton Rotary Club 64, the oldest club in the community and one of the first Rotaries established in the country.

The group, which counts the leaders of many businesses and nonprofits among its members, focuses on community service as well as networking. Its motto is “Service above self.”

The community service aspect of Rotary is what attracted Brush, who joined in 2002. He said Binghamton University has a unique responsibility as one of the area’s largest employers.

“We have to reach out and be supportive of the people who help us grow,” he said.

Binghamton Rotarians are major contributors to local charities’ fund drives, but they also do hands-on work in the community. Brush, for instance, volunteered with a team that cleaned out an older woman’s cellar after the late-June floods. The club also supports nursing scholarships at the University as well as Broome Community College, a student exchange program, a leadership academy for young people and other causes.

Brush’s club meets at noon Tuesdays at Terra Cotta on State Street in Binghamton. Other area Rotary Clubs meet at different times, including breakfast and dinner meetings.

Brush lives in Endicott but joined the Binghamton group because the meetings fit well in his schedule and because one of its members recruited him.

Each week, the group hears a speaker and enjoys a meal together. The talks touch on community and world events; occasionally, political candidates will come for a debate.

At 39, Brush is among the 100-person club’s youngest members. But, as president, he’s eager to change that and bring in new energy and fresh perspectives on the club’s goals.

Brush, who is married with three children, ages 7, 8 and 10, said he finds time for Rotary because its mission is meaningful to him. He lists three main objectives: supporting the community, meeting great people and making a difference.

“For me, it’s the opportunity to give something back that I don’t have in my daily life,” he said. “I feel it’s worth my time and effort.”

Day job: Assistant athletics director, development Off-campus group: Binghamton Rotary Club 64 Get involved:

Dr. Michael Leonard, medical director of University Health Service, served on the board of the Summer Savoyards for about 10 years. He has been the group’s treasurer, performed as a tenor, written grant proposals and worked on sets.

“I sometimes tell people that I’m the only doctor in Broome County with both black and white tights,” he joked. The Summer Savoyards, founded in 1961, put on a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta each year. About 100 people of all ages are involved with the group, which staged The Yeomen of the Guard in July at the Anderson Center. Rehearsals usually begin in mid-May, with technical work starting in early June.

The group’s productions often rival professional shows. When the Summer Savoyards participated in an international Gilbert and Sullivan festival in 1997, they took home several awards, including one for the best soprano lead.

Leonard, who enjoyed singing during high school in Rochester and with the Notre Dame glee club, found he had little time for it during medical school and as a young doctor. When his wife, Rachael, joined the Summer Savoyards, he soon was roped in. Their three children have all gotten in on the fun, too.

“I had no clue about Gilbert and Sullivan before all of this,” Leonard said. He was more comfortable with Broadway classics such as Carousel and Oklahoma!

Still, Leonard quickly grew more involved. He played one of the lead roles in Princess Ida in 1996. And his role as treasurer brought him into contact with people on campus and in the community whom he might otherwise never have met.

This year, Leonard, who is also an active member of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Vestal, guided the Summer Savoyards’ new treasurer and spent time in the set shop. Rachael Leonard helped with ticket sales.

“Seeing this whole thing come together,” Leonard said, “is almost as amazing as the show itself.”

Day job: Medical director, University Health Service Off-campus group: Summer Savoyards Get involved:
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Last Updated: 10/14/08