Congratulations, Dr. Naismith

Published 9:34 pm Thursday, April 22, 2010

With only a four-year break since 1956, Suffolk’s business and community leaders have put their heads together to choose one person as Suffolk’s First Citizen. For many years, the award was bestowed by the Cosmopolitan Club of Suffolk; the Suffolk Rotary Club took on the responsibility in 2003. On Thursday, club members continued the tradition, celebrating the widespread and varied contributions of Dr. Douglas C. Naismith to the city that he adopted at the age of 35.

It was fitting that Naismith — whose 15 years as the head of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy were spent at a school that bears the name of the two communities that merged in 1974 — became the first First Citizen chosen by a combined effort of the members of Suffolk’s two Rotary Clubs. This 51st awarding of the honor of First Citizen is the first one to come as a result of consultation between both Suffolk and the former Nansemond County.

And a good choice it was, as Naismith’s influence on Suffolk reaches beyond the boundaries of old Suffolk and into the lives of people who never set foot in the halls of Suffolk’s largest private school. Indeed, there are folks in Suffolk who will best remember the city’s newest First Citizen as a tractor salesman, and there are others who have never crossed paths with him outside of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts or the Obici Healthcare Foundation, both of which benefit from his service as a board member.

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Education, commerce, the arts and healthcare. Four pursuits with seemingly little in common. But Doug Naismith winds a common thread through all of them — the desire to be a committed and engaged member of his community.

Webster’s Dictionary tells us that the term “citizenship” refers to the “character of an individual viewed as a member of society” and further makes reference to a citizen’s “behavior in terms of duties, obligations and functions.” In other words, citizens are not mere residents. Citizens take to heart the duties, obligations and functions they have in the society they inhabit.

A First Citizen makes fulfilling those duties and obligations part of his life’s work, even if the home he is representing is an adoptive one. Dr. Douglas Naismith epitomizes that dictionary definition of citizenship, and we are proud to be a part of a city that recognizes and honors his service.