Neathawk establishes nursing scholarship

SALEM – For 15 years, Cindy Neathawk has given up the monthly pay she received as a school board member and donated it toward scholarships other people have started.

Now that she’s retiring from the Salem School Board, Neathawk is endowing a nursing scholarship.

Salem Educational Foundation President Tom McDonald gives a proclamation expressing thanks for her 15 years of service and support of Salem Schools to retiring Salem School Board Member Cindy Neathawk. Neathawk is establishing a nursing scholarship through the foundation. Photo by Meg Hibbert

“You have to have $12,000 in the scholarship before you can give out a $500 or $600 scholarship,” explained Neathawk Tuesday night. “We hope the first scholarship will be presented in June at graduation.”

Currently, school board members receive $300 a month in reimbursement for their time and expenses. Neathawk doesn’t remember what the pay was when she first started out, and emphasizes the amount of money she’s given over the years isn’t important. “What is important is I hope more people will support the Salem Educational Foundation, and the value of education for the children.”

Neathawk attended the school board meeting Jan. 8 not as a member, but as an honored guest. She received a standing ovation from board members and staff, a bag of cards made by Salem school children and a framed resolution presented by Chairman Sally Southard acknowledging her service to the children of Salem and its educational system. She also received a resolution presented by President Tom McDonald on behalf of the Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association.

It’s through the educational foundation that Neathawk, who is head nurse at the Roanoke-Salem Family Medicine Clinic that is part of Carilion, is establishing the Cynthia Neathawk Nursing Scholarship. It will be the foundation’s third scholarship available for students who study nursing.

All the attention given to her upon her retirement by Salem City Council which held a reception in December in honor of Neathawk – which she shared with members of the Salem High School Golf Team that won state – as well as a big article on her in the “Salem Magazine” published by the city, and now the school board’s tributes have been almost overwhelming for the woman who doesn’t seek recognition.

She and her husband, retired physician Jake Neathawk, have been touched, though, they said.

Cindy Neathawk is almost shy talking about the accomplishments while she’s been on the board.

“I’m not sure what else needs to be written about me,” she said.

Neathawk’s last official meeting was Dec. 11. She believes it is time to move on and give some younger people who have children in the schools a chance to be on the board and serve,” she said. Dr. Nancy Bradley, who was selected by Salem City Council to fill Neathawk’s position, attended her first official meeting Jan. 8.

Among her accomplishments toward Salem education, Neathawk has been credited with:

• helping make sure each of Salem’s six schools has its own nurse on staff;

• working to get students thinking about their interests, goals and careers long before graduation time. “I hope we can get students in middle school to realize what their gifts and talents are and understand better about career clusters,” Neathawk said.

Before she was on the school board, Neathawk served as president of the PTA at East Salem Elementary, Andrew Lewis Middle School and Salem High School;

School Superintendent Dr. Alan Seibert praised her sustained contributions, noting that most people get involved in something for a while and move on, but Neathawk continued because of her “interest in students and her sincere desire to see the quality of service we provide Salem’s children.”

She and Jake Neathawk have been married for 39 years. Their children are Betsy, a French teacher at Park View Sterling High School in Northern Virginia; Alison, a nurse and unit director at the emergency room at Roanoke Memorial Hospital; Jacob, a contractor in Boulder, Col., and John, who has just finished his third year of medical school at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg

Neathawk is a big believer in education throughout life. After raising their four children, she went back to school in 2001 for an intense nursing refresher course and in January 2002 began working for Carilion Clinic.

So what does she plan to do now? “I’m still working full time,” she pointed out, “and as far as volunteering, I would like to still be involved in the schools, whether through the Educational Foundation or career education.”

And as far as her Tuesday nights once a month that she would usually be attending a school board meeting, she said, “I’ll figure out something to do.”