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Naismith honored for great service

Dr. Douglas Naismith has finally gotten his just reward.

Naismith was awarded the First Citizen 2010 recognition in a Thursday evening ceremony at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. The award, given annually by the Suffolk Rotary Club and joined this year by the North Suffolk Rotary Club, was bestowed upon the former Nansemond-Suffolk Academy head of school.

“I suppose no one ever feels truly deserving of this award,” Naismith said in his acceptance speech, saying he felt others were more deserving because of their community service. “I feel that my small efforts pale by comparison.”

This was the first year the city’s two Rotary clubs had joined together in the presentation of the award. The ceremony included a slide-show tribute to Naismith, which featured his life story and surprise videos of congratulations from his grandchildren.

Naismith attributed receiving the award to the “leap of faith” he took when he moved to Suffolk in 1975. The northern native described how he blended in with the South.

“I can still remember the first time I said, ‘I reckon,’” Naismith said. “It just slipped out, like ‘y’all’ and ‘hey’ instead of ‘hi.’”

Naismith was honored not only for his long work at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, but also for his community service in several organizations, including the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, Obici Health Care Foundation, Suffolk Sister Cities, Suffolk Rotary Club, Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, and Citizens for the Preservation of Obici House. He is a member and former music director at Oakland Christian Church, and continues to volunteer at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy — especially by dressing up at Halloween as the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch.

Naismith called being the head of school at NSA his most rewarding career move, adding that he missed the children calling him “Dr. Naismith” and hugging him around the knees.

“There may be more important moments in the life of a head of school, but none that are more satisfying,” he said.

Naismith’s move to Suffolk came so that he could work in his father-in-law’s farm equipment business. He was working in that job and serving on the board of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy when the chief position became available. Naismith filled the position temporarily, and then was asked to apply to be there full-time.

Naismith said a number of divinely ordered happenings and choices led up to him receiving the First Citizen award.

“Some would call that luck, but luck’s for the lottery,” he said.

Looking ahead, Naismith thinks Suffolk’s future is looking up.

“The optimist in me believes Suffolk’s best days are ahead,” he said.

Naismith also stressed the importance of good schools — both public and private — to the future of any community.

“I have seen how important good schools are to the development of a community,” he said. “It needs to be our No. 1 civic priority.”

Finally, Naismith acknowledged the role his family and friends played in his life, and stressed the importance of community service.

“I view this award as a symbol of the importance of community service to our community,” he said.