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Girl Scouts honor Gainesville State president
Nesbitt honored as 2011 Gainesville Woman of Distinction
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Martha Nesbitt's personality is contagious, even infectious, her close friends say.

"She shares her talent, conviction and courage very generously," said Bevel Jones, the bishop in residence at Emory University and First United Methodist Church of Decatur. "She's one of my favorite people."

The Gainesville State College president was honored at a luncheon Tuesday at Gainesville First United Methodist Church as the 2011 Gainesville Woman of Distinction by Georgia's Girl Scouts. The award is given each year in honor of a woman who serves as a role model in the community.

"To me, she is one of the superior examples of an educated person, which is what makes her so effective," said Jones, Nesbitt's high school minister who married her to Pete Nesbitt. "She embodies this high quality of education, dedication and leadership in one person."

Comparing Nesbitt to legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, Jones called her a "go-to player."

"In the last part of a game when the score is still at stake, the team looks to a particular player because of accomplishments and ability," he said. "She is that go-to player in anything."

Nesbitt, one of seven female presidents in the state's 35 colleges and universities and the first female president of Gainesville State, took over leadership of the college in 1997. She served as president of the Northeast Georgia History Center in 2007, is a member of the Northeast Georgia Health System board and is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Gainesville.

"She's the example of all of things we're trying to teach our girls," said Cheryl Legette, community relations officer for Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia. "Our Women of Distinction embody the values and principles found in the Girl Scout Promise and Law and are successful women found in traditional and nontraditional roles."

Nesbitt marks Gainesville's 13th Woman of Distinction, joining a list that includes Lessie Smithgall, Frances Meadows, Myrtle Figueras and LeTrell Simpson.

"Truly, words cannot express how I feel," Nesbitt said. "But the tables should be turned, and this should be name the community of distinction. I've become a part of the fabric of this community, and I couldn't be more pleased to have my name on this list."

When Nesbitt first moved to Gainesville, Simpson and SunTrust president Martha Simmons held receptions to welcome her.

"I thought there would be 15 to 20 women, but there were 80 women there, which really told me a lot about the importance and influence of women in this community," Nesbitt said. "LeTrell also sponsored the transfer of my Rotary membership, which meant a lot."

Several weeks ago, Nesbitt participated in an annual conference for Georgia women in higher education, which brought up the message of leadership.

"We talked about teamwork and the importance of competence, which girls learn when they earn their merit badges, and it's important to their growth and development as leaders," Nesbitt said. "I have few regrets, and one is that I was never a Girl Scout. I was a Brownie, but there wasn't a Girl Scout troop where I lived. This is a day I will never forget."