Martin honored as First Citizen

Published 10:43 pm Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rotary Club honoree M. Caroline Martin, the 2012 First Citizen, accepts congratulations from family friend Branch Lawson. Martin was feted at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts on Thursday evening.

The Suffolk and North Suffolk Rotary Clubs honored M. Caroline Martin as their 2012 First Citizen during a ceremony and reception at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts on Thursday.

“I suppose no one ever feels totally deserving of this award,” said Martin, a member of the North Suffolk Rotary Club. “So I accept it on behalf of all of you.”

The First Citizen award has been awarded since 1956, when the Cosmopolitan Club of Suffolk began it. The award ended in the late 1990s when the club disbanded, but the Suffolk Rotary Club picked it up in 2003. In 2010, the North Suffolk Rotary Club joined the partnership.


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Martin became the 53rd recipient of the award.

“Many of you here have defined the shaping of my mission, vision and values,” she told the audience.

A retired health system administrator with Riverside Health Systems, Martin currently serves as president of the board for both Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community and the Western Tidewater Free Clinic.

She also was a founding member of Edmarc Hospice for Children, served with Physicians for Peace and serves on the board of the Virginia Association of Free Clinics.

She also is on the board of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, where she is the assistant treasurer and chair of the governance committee, and is vice president of Suffolk Sister Cities. She also serves on the board of directors for Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and is spearheaded efforts to create the Virginia STEAM Academy, a magnet school for high-school students who excel in science, technology, engineering and applied math.

“These organizations are changing lives,” she said during her speech on Thursday.

Instead of celebrating her, she implored, she asked guests to “celebrate the will of those who volunteer regularly or do small acts of kindness every day.”

Martin honored her husband, Brian, and her children and grandchildren during her speech, telling family anecdotes that kept the audience in laughter.

She also recognized people she has worked with in the many organizations where she is involved.

“People are our greatest asset,” she said. “I have been blessed to be surrounded by wonderful assets my whole life.”

Though she said she has enjoyed each phase of her life, she is having the most fun right now.

“I love the opportunities I have today — working with people,” she said.

She said she hopes to learn how to ballroom dance and re-learn how to play the trumpet in the next 20 years.

“I believe it is not how old you are, but how you are old,” she said.