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Greeneville businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger has been named Humanitarian of the Year by the American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee.

Niswonger was honored Thursday, March 16, at a breakfast meeting attended by regional business and community leaders, held at the Millennium Centre in Johnson City.

The Humanitarian of the Year award, presented annually by the American Red Cross, recognizes local individuals or groups whose efforts and accomplishments have made their community a better place to live and work.

The award is based on the fundamental principles of the World Red Cross Movement - humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteer service, unity and universality - and specifically recognizes the first of those principles, humanity.

At the Thursday breakfast, Niswonger was introduced by Tom Wennogle, president of Jarden Zinc in Greeneville.

Wennogle shared his perceptions of Niswonger's accomplishments as a community servant through his work with the Niswonger Children's Hospital, the region's only children's hospital, the Niswonger Performing Arts Center and the Niswonger Foundation.

Wennogle also recognized Niswonger's accomplishments in supporting the growth of downtown Greeneville, his contributions to Tusculum College and his recent appointment as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at East Tennessee State University.

Wennogle commented that, while substantial evidence of Niswonger's contributions is seen in structures like the Tusculum College library, Niswonger Commons and the Tusculum College's Pioneer Park baseball field, where the Greeneville Astros play, the true humanitarian is evidenced in "the many selfless acts of helping others which will never be publicly known."

In accepting the award, Niswonger commented that the recognition had caused him to reflect on events in his life. "There could have been a little skill involved, but, for sure, there was a healthy dose of blessings," Niswonger said. "Without a doubt, the greatest blessings have been the people who have come into my life at just the right time."

Niswonger named former Tennessee Senator Thomas J. Garland and Larry Estepp, executive vice president of Citizen's Bank, as individuals who "believed in a young man with a big dream" and provided the support that led to the success of his first company.

"Tom (Garland) is one of the many people in my life who has taught me that we all have a finite number of heartbeats, all that matters is the help we can be along the way."

Niswonger credited the philosophy of Andrew Carnegie as having taught him a valuable lesson about success and responsibility.  He commented that Carnegie believed that people should return the investments their communities make in them.

"Not only do I believe this is an imperative, I personally believe that giving back is fun.  I enjoy watching the successes of our work in the community," Niswonger said. "At the heart of my personal philosophy is the motto we instill in our Niswonger Scholars - we should "Learn, Earn and Return."

In closing his acceptance comments, Niswonger shared that the award is  a reminder of the Biblical instruction outlined in Luke 12:48: "To whom much is given much is expected." He also encouraged all attendees to "use their finite number of heartbeats wisely."

Following this award presentation, a keynote speech was provided by Dave Sanderson, a passenger on flight 1549, the "Miracle on the Hudson."  The last passenger off the back of the plane, Sanderson was largely responsible for the well-being and safety of others.  His motivational leadership message focused on how to help others make a difference through the way one does business and lives their life each day.

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