Posted by Jim Fitzgerald
The fascinating history of Marshall Rotary is filled with stories of ordinary men and women doing ordinary things; many times, with extraordinary results.  To visualize and understand an entity as old and complex as the Marshall Texas Rotary club, is to think of it as a giant transparent balloon filled with butterflies.  Anyone outside of the balloon can see the butterflies, but the only way to really know how the Marshall Rotary club has changed, or is changing the world around it, is to study those butterflies; in this case, two very special butterflies, Gail Beil and Sebastian Hammann, who were drawn into the “Rotary balloon” through a Rotary International program called Rotary Youth Exchange, which encourages high school students in one country to spend a year as a student in another country.

Sebastian Hammann was born in Germany and made his way to Texas in 1995, along with thousands of others, via that program. The Marshall Rotary Club arranged to send a student to Germany and the Rotary club in Germany sent Sebastian to Marshall. 

Sebastian came to Texas through the Rotary International Youth Exchange program.  He and his brother Benny both attended Marshall High school, but, Benny came through a different exchange program two years later   Sebastian was hosted in Marshall for the entire school year by Greg and Gail Beil. 

He played on the Junior varsity MISD soccer team, sang with the choir and was also a member of First United Methodist Church. There is a funny story regarding the FUMC MYF.  Sebastian went to the first meeting, came home and said "That is my kind of youth group. There are ten girls and two boys and I'm one of the boys". In addition to his association with FUMC, he also formed a close relationship with Believers Bible Fellowship through Pastor Bob Bryant’s son Jamey.

Sabastian and Benny were the grandchildren of Katie and Wolfram Jung, whom the Beils met while Greg was studying for his doctorate at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Wolfram was chairman of the Methodist Church in Mainz, which they attended.  Their daughter Angelikca, (Sebastian and Benny's mother), kept the church nursery.

Most of the church members, including the Jungs, were East German refugees. Coincidentally, the Jungs were here in Marshall when the Berlin wall came down, November 9, 1989.  Gail Beil remembered: “They both sat in my breakfast room watching the CNN story most of the day, watching the story unfold with tears running down their faces.”

Sebastian’s father Gunter and mother Angelikca, and their sons Benjamin and Fredrick came over from Frankfurt, Germany to spend some time with Sebastian, April 1996.  Gunter Hammann spoke at the Lion’s club meeting, where he shared his experience following the fall of the Berlin Wall, orchestrating the sale of thirty state-owned companies of East-Germany to buyers in the west and lay the groundwork for the sale of hundreds of others.

Sebastian and his wife Helene, have two children, son Finn Lias Hammann, four, and daughter, Lia Clara Hammann, three.

Sebastian now works for a German Chemical Company called Evonik in Sales as a Global Key Account Manager. His business unit Evonik Oil Additives is producing and selling Oil Additives to lubricant producers like Shell, BP, ExMo, Chevron. In total Evonik Oil Additives has 5 production plants around the globe of which one is in Deer Park, Houston. Sebastian already requested an expat assignment and hopes to get it realized soon.   

Sebastian’s story continues to this day in friendships formed during the year of his exchange.  His is an incredible story.  He came to Texas to have fun and meet girls, but, in the process, he made lifelong friends and left with a new perspective and a much better understanding of the world around him.  In his own words, Sebastian says:

“I am very grateful of the opportunity given by Gail and Greg Beil and the Marshall Rotary Clubs to be living a teenager-year in Marshall.” This year has given me so much. It was the best experience. I can only recommend to young students to go abroad and experience a new culture. This will broaden your horizon, you will see and visit new places, meet new people, learn a new language. If you follow my recommendation I have two advices: 1) Be open minded and 2) Enjoy!!!”

Rotary butterflies, Sebastian Hammann and Gail Beil’s story, and hundreds of others like theirs, are the reason the Rotary club of Marshall Texas will be “Celebrating a Century of Changing Lives in Marshall – and Beyond” August 24th, 2019.