|Donna Hurd, director of administration at
Perkins Cole LLP, is the Madison Downtown
Rotary’s first African American woman
Donna Hurd Is Madison Downtown
Rotary’s New President
Service First & Foremost
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
When Donna Hurd, director of administration at Perkins Cole LLP, walks out of her Capitol Square
offices to attend the Madison Downtown Rotary Wednesday luncheons, she is reminded of the
need for service.
And it is service that Hurd has dedicated her life to and that embodies the spirit of the Rotary
movement, service before self. While she already puts in many hours of service already. Hurd
joined in with many other community volunteers at the Urban League’s Unity Picnic, serving up
food to the people in attendance.
Hurd has an energy about her and a “can do” spirit. She believes that if everyone engages,
Madison — indeed the world — would be a better place. It’s just a matter of people engaging
where they are.
“I saw a piece on the news where this barber was walking down the street and saw a homeless
guy,” Hurd reflected. “He took out some money and gave it to him. And he said, ‘Is that what you
really need?’ And they got into a conversation and the guy said, ‘I would just like a haircut.’ And the barber came back and he regularly gives
them haircuts. And they said that they felt so much better. You can give me $10, but that’s not going to go too far. How can I make you feel as if
you deserve to be wherever you are? How can I do that? My son-in-law, my daughter’s husband, decided he was going to go to Aldi’s, get a
bunch of lunch meat, chips and water and he would go out on the weekend and hand it out to the homeless. I thought that was just awesome. I
said, ‘What made you want to do that?’ He said, ‘Because I was on the street. I know what they need.’ The second time he did it, my son at UW
Medical Foundation got people to contribute food and I gave him some money. And that was a huge thing.”
Hurd has brought her children up with that spirit to serve. Character is the most important thing. What you so is second.
“Education is so important,” Hurd emphasized. “It is so important to me. And what I’ve told my children is ‘What you take in your mind and in
your heart and in your body, that is the one thing that no one can from you. They can take your tennis shoes. They can take your jacket. They can
put you out of a job. But they can’t take the integrity, the character and education and heart of service, they can’t take that from you.’”
And her son has committed to providing service emanating from his experiences and knowledge gained in life.
“My son has a story to tell. He took a bad turn somehow. And he didn’t grow up that way. And I was totally shocked. Now he has three children
of his own and a step daughter. And he says, ‘I have to give back.’ And I said, ‘But you’re the person that can make a change with them
because you’ve been down that road.’ I can go and I can preach to the choir. I preached to him and he did it anyway. Until I have walked a mile
in their shoes, they need someone who has made a change. And now he is a supervisor at UW Medical Foundation. He works for their
customer care department. And he’s getting his master’s in hospital administration. My son and a couple of friends have started this group
working with young men who are constantly getting into trouble and then mentoring them. I don’t think they have a name for it.”
And so Hurd wants to bring that same energetic service to the Madison Downtown Rotary. Rotarians provide a lot of service, collectively and
individually. And she wants the world to know it.
“We have to provide new members with service opportunities,” Hurd said. “We have to do that. And Maria Alvarez Stroud is our special
Community Projects Committee chair. This is the first year we created t-shits that said, ‘Rotary at Work.’ The first project we did was go to
Second Harvest Foodbank. There were about 20 of us. We packaged food. We got to talk with Gary Cline, who is also a Rotarian about what
that need is. That’s what we need to do. We can stay in our safe little places, our safe little houses, and say that we wrote a check for whatever
and we’ve given so many scholarships. We can’t even tell the story that we’ve had an impact on the students. Where are they now? That’s
And most importantly, Hurd wants Rotary to be perceived as an avenue of service for everyone as the Madison area continues to undergo a
demographic change. She wants Rotary to be actively engaged with the community.
“Why aren’t we doing something big so that we are not only helping and serving, but we are also promoting Rotary,” Hurd rhetorically asked.
“That’s how you draw members. If we want Rotary to be sustainable, that’s how you do it. Most people don’t know what Rotary is. Most lay
people don’t know. To me, that’s the way that you keep this organization strong and thriving and you get people engaged. You get them out
there and you allow them to see that while they are blessed, there are so many other people who are struggling. And they can hear the
statistics and they can hear the stories. But to see the life is to me so impactful. And if you can go into a community and see that the playground
is horrible and there is gunfire and you can’t let the kids outside. If that doesn’t move you to do something, what will?”
A true believer in the Rotary’s commitment to service, Hurd wants to share that commitment with all segments of the Madison area to sustain
Rotary as well as the quality of life that Madisonians enjoy.