MINUTES OF THE 124th ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
FEBRUARY 6, 2009
L’Olivier Restaurant, San Francisco, California
The meeting was called to order at 8:20 PM.
President Hermann Attinger cordially welcomed the members and our guest of honor Consul Hans Bachmann. He was pleased to recognize Ernest and Rita Plattner, noting that Ernie had served as President for ten years. He also welcomed Silvia and Jacques Iselin, Mrs. Iselin being the sponsor of one of our scholarships. Hermann had invited Gene Boscacci, president of the United Swiss Societies of San Francisco but he could not make it due to an accident.
Our records show that we have 206 dues-paying members at this time. 10%, or 21 members, represent a quorum. In addition to 33 members present, we received 44 proxy statements.
Minutes of the 2008 Annual General Meeting
Marianne Aubert read the minutes of the 2008 Annual Meeting, which were then approved by acclamation.
Treasurer John Zeiter began his report by stating how different the year 2008 had been for the Society and that we had done pretty well under the challenging economic circumstances.
- The General Fund account balance for year-end was adjusted to include the 2008 year-end donations of $3,425 (checks having December dates), which were received and/or deposited into the Schwab account in January 2009.
- The endowment balance comprises of five separate cash and investment accounts for each of the funds listed. All cash and investments funds are separate and independently managed.
Hans Surber gave the gist of the report of the audit that he and Kurt Engel conducted. They reviewed the books, making sure that the numbers represent real amounts. They checked the five funds. They ascertained that the scholarship awards were properly authorized. They found that the books were kept in an orderly manner, as always.
Membership Report by Linda Maillard
Membership is now at 206 members, with numbers ranging between 205 and 210 over the past three years. She noted that we are fortunate to have a small core of loyal and consistent donors - they are the ones that keep the Society going.
Investment Committee Report by Andy Eggler
As we all know, the year 2008 was very dramatic in the financial markets. He noted that 50% of our portfolio is invested in cash and bonds and the rest in equities. This prudent mix allowed us to mitigate some of the losses. Whereas the Dow Jones Industrial lost 44%, our portfolio lost 23%.
We plan to maintain a high level of liquidity (cash and high quality short term bonds) until the markets demonstrate a sense of stability.
Welfare Committee Report
Melanie Facen reported that last year we received an email from a man in distress. He was living in his van and for health reasons needed to move into an apartment. Since he was living on Social Security Disability payments and was short of cash for a deposit on his rent, we helped him out. We also gave him a few extra dollars to move in and he was very grateful and is very happy in his new home.
An elderly lady needed some assistance in filling out some papers, which Melanie was happy to do for her. For Christmas, we mailed gift certificates to 3 people who we felt could use some extras for the holidays.
Melanie expressed her thanks to Consul Hans Bachmann and the staff of the Consulate for their excellent support. During the year we always follow up on people in need and try to assist them whenever possible. If you know of anybody who could use help, please let her know.
Scholarship Committee Report presented by Susy Lutsky
In 2008 we received a total of 24 scholarship applications and were able to award $34,700 to 20 qualified students. Susy mentioned in detail the amounts which were disbursed from each fund and described the achievements of some of the students we are helping.
This was Susy’s last report, since she is stepping down. She gave a recap of the history of the scholarship program, started in 1979 by Gus Strotz. Since its inception, we have given over $684,000 in scholarships to over 700 students! She expressed her appreciation for the help provided by Melanie Facen and is encouraged that John Andrew has accepted to take over her responsibilities.
Public Relations and Fundraising Report presented by Bernhard Daniel
Bernhard stated that we need more members. Please bring friends to our functions! We are looking into revocable trusts. We really appreciate the support from our loyal members.
Special Events presented by Robert Rieder
Robert commented on the 2008 Spring Party, which drew 138 guests, quite a few over 90 years old. The most senior received gift baskets created by Susy Lutsky. Raffle prizes included a trip to Las Vegas offered by the Zimmermann travel agency. We are hoping for equally attractive prizes this year. The party is scheduled for April 19 at Swiss Park. Keep an eye out for our invitation and don’t forget to bring friends and family.
Hermann Attinger’s President’s Report
A year ago he characterized 2007 as the year of unusual changes and a challenge to deal with these changes. Little did he know then that this was only a trial run for 2008, the year of historic challenges!
The need for financial assistance was moderate, but Hermann suspects that it will increase this year, given the dismal economic situation.
Requests for scholarships were at about the same level as in the previous year. Thanks to an excellent financial result in 2007, we were able to increase the scholarship budget slightly to $35,000.
Because we again enjoyed good support from our membership in 2008, we were able to stay in the black and closed the year with a net income of $6,400.
On the other hand, the outlook for this year is very challenging. Our endowment has not been immune to the stock market meltdown and interest rates and dividends are down.
In order to keep supporting needy Swiss and deserving students in these very challenging times, we must increase our membership and volume of contributions. The Board will put special emphasis on this task and already several new ideas are floating around. But we need everybody’s help in signing up new members because personal contact is by far the most effective way.
And, of course, we would welcome any suggestions and help in fundraising. Talk to any Board Member – Hermann is sure they will lend you an eager ear!
Hermann’s fifth year as President was both challenging and rewarding. It was a privilege to have the strong support of an experienced and dedicated Board that works well together. Thanks to all of you. Of course, much credit is due to our loyal membership which is the foundation for our work.
At this point, Hermann opened the floor to questions and discussions. Willy Ostertag commented that the Board is doing the right thing. If everybody in attendance could bring in one more member our ranks would quickly increase. He pledged to bring in 4 new members in 2009. Thank you, Willy!
Since no matters to be voted on were submitted from the floor, it was time to proceed with the elections.
Under our new By-Laws, the Directors are elected based on a system of rotation over a three-year period. One third of the Board comes up for election every year.
Two of our board members will stand down: Gusti Strotz and Susy Lutsky.
Gusti had to hand in his resignation because of health challenges. He has been the elder statesman on the Board and we appreciated his wise counsel. When he joined our Board in 2005, he brought with him a wide experience based on his past service on the Board and as President of the Swiss Benevolent Society. And as you heard from Susy, he initiated our scholarship program back in 1979. His historical perspective has been very valuable for us. We are deeply grateful to Gus. We all wish Gusti "gute Besserung".
Susy Lutsky was known by all applicants as the "mother" of our Scholarship Program. She served for 17 years on the Scholarship Committee, often as Chairwoman. This involves a great deal of time and work every spring and everybody on the Board admired Susy for her energy and dedication to this cause. She will enjoy more time with her family and particularly with her grandchildren. To express our appreciation for Susy’s large contribution to the Society, Hermann presented her with a special plaque.
Now it was time to hand over the meeting to Consul Hans Bachmann, who conducted the elections.
Hans Bachmann began by saying how pleased he was to represent Consul Jean-Francois Lichtenstern, who was in Boise, Idaho, attending the Special Winter Olympic Games, of which 26 participants are Swiss. To Hans, 124 years is an incredibly long time and he was prompted to find out what significant events took place in 1886 when the SBS was founded. Among others, Carl Benz patented the first successful gasoline-driven engine. In the U.S., a general strike eventually resulted in the 8-hour workday; a carbonated beverage which would eventually become Coca Cola was invented; the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland.
The reelection of Board members proceeded by acclamation: Marianne Aubert, Andy Eggler and John Zeiter for 3-year terms, and Trustees Kurt Engel and Hans Surber for another one-year term.
Hermann expressed his sincere appreciation for the steadfast support we have been receiving from the Consulate.
Bernhard Daniel recognized our past Board member Pius Kampfen, also former President of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce. He also welcomed new members Tony Fasel and his wife Martha, who decided to join this same evening.
Marianne Aubert made a motion to close the meeting, seconded by Melanie Facen. The meeting was closed at 9:30 PM.
(SBS members may request a written copy of the minutes by contacting the Secretary)