2015 Recipient Bios

It all started with an idea. While serving on the East Lansing Arts Commission, Yvette Robinson came up with the idea of creating a public art gallery at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center and, in 2003, Yvette made her idea a reality with the creation of the East Lansing Public Art Gallery. 

In its 12 years, the East Lansing Public Art Gallery has been home to approximately 144 rotating exhibits, featuring artwork by local and regional artists. Yvette is the heart and soul of this arts and cultural gem in East Lansing, having coordinated every aspect of the gallery since its opening more than a decade ago. Yvette’s entirely volunteer, unpaid service to the gallery includes everything from selecting and working closely with the artists to promoting the exhibits, installing the art and organizing/hosting a gallery opening every month. She has dedicated countless hours of hard work to keeping the gallery operational and has brought rich cultural experiences to hundreds upon thousands of art patrons who have visited the gallery over the years.

Yvette is passionate about making art accessible to the community at large, while also helping to bring exposure and opportunities to artists in the local community. She is also dedicated to making the East Lansing Hannah Community Center a more vibrant and cultural place for community members to visit. 

In addition to her work with the East Lansing Public Art Gallery, Yvette served on the East Lansing Arts Commission from 2001-2007, serving part of that time as chair of the commission. 

Yvette is a true advocate of the arts and a tremendous community volunteer. The East Lansing community has been positively impacted by her hard work, passion and dedication.

Joan Fairey, a resident of East Lansing’s Glencairn Neighborhood, is an excellent example of a volunteer who gives generously of her time and has a true passion for and commitment to her community.

Joan volunteers twice a week at the East Lansing Public Library and is also a regular volunteer at East Lansing Prime Time. In addition, she has served as an election inspector during a number of East Lansing elections and has been an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church and her neighborhood. Her work within her church and neighborhood has included everything from running church sound equipment to hosting monthly church dinners, organizing neighborhood potlucks and educating her neighbors about activities going on in the community. Joan has also been a volunteer at the East Lansing Food Co-op for 30+ years and has regularly volunteered her time at Sparrow Hospital, WKAR, the Greater Lansing Food Bank and other community organizations. When it comes to community service, moderation is not in her vocabulary. 

Joan loves East Lansing and believes in the importance of building community. She is a bright star of community support for local organizations, businesses, programs, events and people. Given that she is 80+ years old, she is an amazing example of how vital and active we can continue to be in our later years. When she’s not volunteering, Joan spends much of her time involving herself with the community in other ways, including poetry groups, book clubs and other activities. She is also a big supporter of buying local.

Joan has inspired many who have met her over the years to give back to their community. East Lansing is a better place because of her hard work and commitment. 

John Duley was at the leading edge of the Civil Rights movement in the East Lansing-MSU community and has dedicated much of his life to advocating for equal justice for all people.

John came to East Lansing in 1962 to serve as a minister on the Michigan State University campus and soon became friends with Dr. Robert Green, a professor at the college. When Robert and his family became the first African-Americans to buy a home in East Lansing, John and his wife, Betty, were their staunchest supporters.  John later accompanied Robert to Selma during the peak of the Civil Rights movement and, prior to that, he traveled with Robert to Mississippi, where they would work together to launch the Student Tutorial Education Project (STEP) at historically black Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss. The project was a collaborative effort between MSU educators and student volunteers and Rust College administrators and high school seniors entering as freshmen at Rust College. The program provided opportunities for staff, volunteers and participants to gain diverse knowledge and understanding about Civil Rights and its effects during the heart of the Civil Rights movement in US history. The launch of STEP resulted in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to the MSU campus in 1965, where he commended students and faculty for "engaging in this important part" of the civil rights movement.

John directed STEP from 1965-1968, joined the Justin Morrill College faculty as director of the Off Campus Cross Cultural Program and was a founder of the National Society of Experiential Education – the seedbed of the Service Learning Movement. Today, John is referred to by many who know him as the Grandfather of the Service Learning Movement. 

Among his many other accomplishments, John was involved in the formation of the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, developed the Michigan Peace Network in the mid-1980’s and assisted children/families to overcome the digital divide at the Black Child and Family Institute. More recently, John has provided leadership in the growth and development of Edgewood Village, including a Scholars Program to assist low-income youth in getting into college and the dedication of an energy efficient Network Center. 

For more than 50 years, John has worked to make East Lansing and the surrounding communities of mid-Michigan a better place. He fought for equal housing ordinances in East Lansing at a critical time in the City’s history and has never stopped advocating for the equal treatment of all people. At the age of 94, his service is ongoing. He remains a quiet and effective advocate for justice and will never stop serving as an important voice for education, equity, justice and human development

The Rotary Club of East Lansing has served the local community for more than 50 years in a variety of ways – from philanthropic efforts that help local families in need to major community projects – many of which have significantly enhanced the City of East Lansing’s parks and recreational offerings. 

Between 2011 and 2014, the club spearheaded the fundraising efforts and community build for the new playground at Patriarche Park, otherwise known as the Playground in the Park “Re-Imagined” project. The club’s fundraising campaign for the new playground surpassed $200,000 and the community build brought together 200 community volunteers to construct the new playground over a four-day period. It is safe to say that, without the Rotary Club’s support, the new, 1.2-acre playground could not have become a reality. The playground project demonstrates how a partnership between a local service club, a municipality and a community can result in the creation of a place that will bring health and happiness to countless children over countless years. 

In addition to the playground project, the Rotary Club initiated and spearheaded the fund-raising for the Medal of Honor Memorial Project located at the entrance to the Hannah Community Center, raised close to $100,000 for the new splash pad at the East Lansing Family Aquatic Center and was one of the first organizations to make financial contributions to the East Lansing High School football stadium renovation project and the East Lansing Soccer Complex stadium project. Additionally, the Rotary Club was instrumental in raising the funds and building the previous wooden playground at Patriarche Park – both playgrounds were signature projects for the club. 
On an annual basis, the club is also extremely active in a variety of philanthropic endeavors, including providing Thanksgiving dinners and home start-up kits to families at Haven House, providing Weekend Survival Kits (backpacks filled with nutritious meals, supplies and books) to low-income students at local schools and providing over $8,000 each year in service grants to several East Lansing-area community service agencies. Ever year, the club also provides four scholarships valued between $1,000 and $2,000 to East Lansing High School students. 

Internationally, the club is involved with the Bio-Sand Filter Safe Drinking Water Project, the NYAKA School for Orphans of AIDS Victims in Uganda and the Polio Eradication Project. 

The motto of Rotary International is “service above self.” The members of Rotary Club of East Lansing have truly embraced and live up to this motto and the East Lansing community has greatly benefitted from their service.