Woman of the year award: Martha Nesbitt
Man of the year award: Jim Walters
Sidney O. Smith Fellowship Award: Dick Young
Guardian of Ethics Award: Carol Burrell
W. Lee Arrendale Vocational Excellence Award: Frank Norton Jr.
A man almost synonymous with Gainesville philanthropy and a woman who led a local college for more than a decade were honored at an elegant evening Monday put on by the Rotary Club of Gainesville.
Lee Highsmith introduced businessman Jim Walters as the Rotary’s Man of the Year, praising him for his service on numerous boards, his many philanthropic efforts and a willingness to advise others, not brushing aside those just starting their careers.
“It was very, very humbling, unexpected. (It) caught me by surprise,” Walters said Tuesday of the award, handed out at the annual banquet held at the Chattahoochee Country Club. He added that Highsmith’s introduction was one of the better ones he’s received anywhere for any award.
Walters has served on the state’s Board of Natural Resources for 10 years and was appointed in 2012 to the Georgia Ports Authority, where he is serving as chairman. His service with nonprofits has included 40 different organizations.
He is president of Walters Management Co., which provides management and supervision services for financial companies.
According to his nomination form, “Mr. Walters doesn’t serve in name only. He serves actively, encouraging others to join him in support of many causes.”
He was honored along with Woman of the Year Martha Nesbitt, past president of Gainesville State College, now the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.
In introducing Nesbitt, Jane Hemmer quipped about her competitive nature and listed numerous committees and boards on which she’s served. Nesbitt became president of the university in 1997 and retired in 2012.
“I certainly am very honored to receive the reward because I certainly am in a lot of wonderful company with women in Gainesville who’ve contributed so much,” Nesbitt said Tuesday.
She also noted it was a surprise; even her children who were notified beforehand didn’t leak the news.
“Those names are guarded as secretly as the Coca-Cola formula,” Nesbitt said, laughing.
Others awarded Monday night include Dick Young with the Sidney O. Smith Fellowship Award. Young, of Young Contracting Co., works with the Rotary’s effort to build ramps for those in need.
Carol Burrell, CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System, was given the Guardian of Ethics Award. The W. Lee Arrendale Vocational Excellence Award was given to Frank Norton Jr. of The Norton Agency.
“It’s a celebration of what we in Rotary do, and it just is always really the highlight of the year,” Nesbitt said of the event. “And of course being one of the recipients made it extra special for me, but it’s always been a very special evening.”