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  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Peter Davis rubs the top of his head while expressing his gratitude during The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner after being named Citizen of the Year award Thursday evening at The Crowne Plaza in Nashua.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Citizen of the Year, Peter Davis rests his head on his hand as he listens to friends talk about his lifetime accomplishments during The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner at The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua, Thursday evening.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Paul Ramsey, left, Vice-President of Energy Delivery at PSNH and Cathy Schmidt, right, New Hampshire and Vermont President of Citizens Bankclap as Michael Conway's shadow is cast on the wall as he talks to attendees of The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce's Annual Dinner at The Crowne Plaza in Nashua, Thursday evening.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Former CEO of St. Josephs Hospital, Peter Davis, walks to the stage to accept The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award Thursday evening at The Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Friday, October 29, 2010

Peter Davis named Citizen of the Year

NASHUA – When Peter Davis called Michael Sawyer to tell him he landed his first hospital administration gig, Sawyer figured his longtime friend would be doing some type of important work having to do with the day-to-day operation of the hospital.

“Nope,” Sawyer said. “The first job he was assigned to was to flush every toilet in the hospital.”

Davis has come a long way since then, Sawyer told the audience in the Crowne Plaza Hotel Thursday night. From 1985 to his retirement this summer, Davis worked as the CEO of St. Joseph Hospital. Davis, 65, was named as the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year Thursday night. The announcement was made at the organization’s annual dinner.

“Nashua has been part of the fabric of my life,” Davis said, accepting the award.

It’s been more than that, he said after the ceremony. In fact it may have saved his life. After announcing to the hospital’s Board of Directors in the summer of 2009 that he planned to retire the following summer, Davis was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2009. He’s spent his time since then undergoing chemotherapy at the hospital.

At a checkup on Tuesday, Davis said he was told the cancer is almost gone. And it was under Davis’ watch that the hospital created its oncology center. The hospital has also grown in size significantly during his 25-year tenure.

In 2006, the hospital completed a $25 million ambulatory care center – an expansion of the emergency department to include a six-bed “fast track” department, a service for less acute cases and a CT area to accommodate new technologies.

Davis also received the Business Person of the Year honor from the chamber earlier this year.

Davis said he chose to pursue hospital administration as a major after talking with his cousin, who was a professor of public health. He ended up getting accepted into the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Davis said at the time in 1969, the school only took 12 students each year.

“And it went from there,” he said. “I just hit the field at the right time.”

After the dinner, people came over to congratulate Davis, who stands at a towering 6 feet 9 inches. He said role at the hospital has evolved over years, starting out as an administrator, and then becoming more of an entrepreneur and helping to create new programs.

“My role was to get people invigorated and that’s what I love,” he said.

Prior to the announcement, Sawyer and Claudie Mahar, who worked under Davis as vice president of hospital services at St. Joseph, talked about their friend and what he has done for the community. At the time, the winner was still a secret, but as they talked about the work he has done in the health care industry, it became clear to most in the audience who the winner was.

“He’s just a terrific friend, a great guy,” Sawyer said.

Mahar, the 2005 winner of the Citizen of the Year, added: “He’s somebody with really high values and great character.”

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or