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Looking Back at the

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In this issue


From the Desk of the President . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 3 Radio at McNeese . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 4

2014 Foundation Board of Directors

History, Haiti and Harvard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 5 Reducing the Stigma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 6 One of the Luckiest People in the World . . . Page 7

Officers • Judy Fuller, President • Patricia Prebula, Vice President • Willie Mount, Secretary • James E. Taussig, Treasurer

Members • Glen Bertrand • Roxie Boxie • Emma DiCarlo-Vincent • Tom Henning • Willie King, Jr. • Ben Marriner • Joe T. Miller, Sr. • Lee J. Monlezun, Jr. • Ryan Navarre • George Paret • Billy Rose • Ric Sanders • John Scofield • David Stine • Charles Timpa • Ray A. Todd, Jr. • Aubrey White

Ex Officio Members • Philip C. Williams • Richard H. Reid

Advisory Board Members • Billy Blake • Coral Crain Byrd • Fred R. Godwin • Marilyn Hays • James Serra • Charles Viccellio 2

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Driving the Program Forward . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 8 The People Make the Place . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 9 Tin Soldiers & Sugar Plum Fairies . . . . . . . . . . Page 10 Red, White and Blue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 11 A Woman of Many Hats. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 12 Deserving of Praise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 13 Extraordinary Feats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 14 Finance-Ing Your Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 15 A Matter of Safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 16 Changing Standards. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 17 Looking Back at the 75th Anniversary . . . . Page 18 Pillars/Foundation Staff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 19 Robert Noland Alumni Pavilion . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 20

PILLARS magazine is published for YOU! The McNeese Foundation values your feedback. If any of the articles strike a chord with you or you have suggestions for future issues, please share your comments by emailing:

From the Desk of the President Over the past six years it has been no secret that McNeese has faced a significant reduction in appropriations. As the nation and our state of Louisiana have felt the strain of difficult economic times, higher education has particularly been affected by the shortage of state funding.

The hard truth is that now and in the future McNeese must continue to find ways to do more with less. The environment has changed, and in order to survive these economic challenges, McNeese has no choice but to cut costs to make up for the multi-million dollar cut in revenues.

The graph shows the decline of the University’s state funding since the first cuts began in 2009-2010. Yes, state appropriations have now been reduced by the startling amount of over $26,000,000 per year ($45,427,000 to McNeese in fiscal 2009 versus only $19,232,000 this fiscal year.) When the total reduction is determined over the six-year period, McNeese has lost nearly $100,000,000 in direct support from the state.

One action we have reluctantly chosen is to avoid replacing employees who have opted to leave because of retirement or other opportunities. This saves us money in the form of salaries and benefit packages that are eliminated from the overall operating budget. This means that job duties have increased for those employees in departments where colleagues have left and where positions remain unfilled. In most instances, these employees who remain take on additional duties for no additional pay.

To offset this loss, tuition at McNeese has grown at the steady rate of 10% per year since 2009, much faster than the rate of inflation. Revenue from our partnerships with our friends in business and industry has also grown exponentially. The reality is, however, that tuition increases and public-private-partnership revenue cannot be expected to offset such a huge reduction in state appropriations. Despite the fact that we have done our part—selfgenerated funds at McNeese have increased by over 47% since 2009—total revenues at McNeese remain 18% below the level McNeese enjoyed at that time.

Of perhaps greater concern, employee salaries have remained frozen despite the fact that our faculty and staff have seen significant workload increases in the last several years. All the while, our employees have been asked to suffer increases in insurance and related benefit costs, not to mention rising costs in consumer prices. McNeese has not been in a position to grant raises since the 2008-09 academic year. Fortunately, we have so far been able to avoid layoffs of faculty and staff; however, we have 246 fewer employee positions than we had in 2008-2009.

In light of the increased workload and along with the challenges of doing more with less, it is remarkable that for the fourth consecutive year, McNeese State University has received national recognition as one of the best regional universities and one of the top 50 public schools in the southern region. Times are tough economically, but times have been tough before. Over the past 75 years McNeese has endured difficult and challenging circumstances, including at least one World War, several major hurricanes, and a severe economic recession. We have always battled back using the strength of some extremely valuable resources in our corner. We have developed a reputation for having faculty and staff who are experts in their fields and who care deeply about the students they instruct. We also have a loyal community filled with dedicated stakeholders who have demonstrated phenomenal support for our University. When I addressed our faculty and staff at the beginning of this academic year, I quoted Sir Winston Churchill, who reminded us that “Kites rise highest against the wind.” On behalf of everyone at McNeese, I want to say “thank you!” for your role in helping us to pioneer the rising future of McNeese.

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Radio at McNeese

On Dec. 7, 1941, a group of McNeese students were broadcasting a radio play from the KPLC radio station in the Majestic Hotel in downtown Lake Charles. One of the students, Harcourt Stebbins, heard the teletype machine in the next room begin to “ding,” signaling the arrival of a news bulletin. During a lull in the radio play, Stebbins went to the teletype machine and read the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Silently he passed the notice to each young man as the radio play continued. As more bulletins arrived, the KPLC staff took notice and quickly broadcast the news over the airwaves. Those McNeese students at the radio station on a Sunday afternoon were probably the first people in Lake Charles to hear the news that would change the course of history. Since the invention of radio at the beginning of the 20th century, through the Golden Age of Television and into the Digital Age, radio broadcasting remains an important medium for disseminating information and providing entertainment. This year McNeese launched station KBYS 88.3 FM to provide a new communication tool for the University community and real-life, hands-on experience for students in a variety of disciplines. KBYS is the only community-run, all-volunteer station in Louisiana. Although KBYS is the first McNeese official radio station, radio TEXT BOX broadcasting has HEADLINE played a role in many key moments throughout McNeese’s 75-year history. Bereius, ad maximinctem fugitias odite sundist velluptatis del directed the first OnutDec. 15,nim 1940, Dr. Francis G. Bulber moluptust, que sum fuga. Ita volorpo performance of Handel’s Messiah in the Auditorium and the saperum facit molor sit one facidus vit re annual event soon became of McNeese’s most beloved nos exInet1951, omnimi, sum laCharles nessimporis traditions. the Lake Association of Commerce quamfunding sus conse tem radio sed broadcast of the provided forconsequam, a state-wide molo que volupici derrum dolo eicfeaturing tor community performance. In 1953, now 220 voices and acerior magnien iendam eicatqui a 40-piece orchestra, KAOK radio stationblafirst recorded and edited boriam none consequatur? the program for later broadcast.Fernatent KAOK was a member of the at Radio fugit enti restrum rerum nobit qui the performance to Mutual Network, which re-broadcast officiis acid quoditatios ex Armed eari Itatibus a nationwide audience and the Services Network. et quid maionse quiandunt in re por molorrorion cullecto isque staff volupis During World War II, McNeese created a war information pliqueoffi peria simolor for radio broadcast centerdolore to organize cial elendipsa federal information eperundLouisiana uciisqu undit, siminustem to Southwest citizens. In the lateidi1940s, as the McNeese conserio inus esci doluptiatur seditatiplayers into a formal football team grew beyond a few scrappy eos essumqui. team, delis local niendunt radio stations began broadcasting the games for fans. Later, McNeese came to the aid of Hurricane Audrey victims, not only with food and shelter in the gymnasium, but also with space for ham radio operators to establish communications with the devastated Cameron Parish. In the early years of McNeese, radio was an important part of all facets of campus life. Various radio clubs, the drama department 4

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Ferchili quamet doloris dolupta quati conectam, ut unt velibus alitis doluptatibus maio quiaecercid utem arundamus ut omnienet quid eaquament. Ovit omnient ad ulluptur? As moluptis doluptate nia doluptius nat eum doloreius soluptati consentiatur simusant. Que nisto maximus. Oreni aut illabor umetur, occae quid qui doloreiusam, temoluptatis nonseribea est, vendandita distempe cuptaqu istiiss usandi unt de verorrore sit volupti onsequis et prem hariam, odisite que volupta as et laboand the debate team offered foreritatqui students to rumopportunities cum sectemp delperform est ea radio plays and hone their public speaking skills on the air. These comnimusa non num nimus solorempor opportunities to learn more about the world radio relied on rehentis explica tendisofprorum nihillu cooperative agreements ptassun between tusaecum McNeese and local stations for seque escia quuntio lab training. In 1943, McNeese acquiredtendam equipment to record sandebis nonsedi quassin culpa programs in the Auditorium, still relied on local prestiobut nsequib ustrum, cor stations apiet offitoc broadcast any of those recordings. te optat. McNeese staff, not students, were the main users of the Auditorium Rum quam sent equipment. abo. Ut modIn ut 1953, untur, McNeese began to offer comnis courses accuptium leading to aetdegree in journalism, prempos sam, cupradio and television and tatempos a few years sit quam later established qui arumquias a studio id top A caption for this and control room lab for undissi students qui to ut practice lit ad ut their et veliqua techniques. ecatur, image. While students finally ha quaepelit d their own poritaspedit equipment voluptibus with which acil eos to experiment, the studio rendae did notomnihit have broadcasting eum ne et labcapabilities ium facesbeyond the wired campus tiosloudspeaker si dolupti nonecte system. is acillo escidunt. Adia corectus dolorectat dis natenIn the 1970s and 1980s, imint, small quiaspe groupsrferum of interested ero quiparties as iusapiet kept the idea of a McNeese radio aut etstation pos esequi alive.a However, alis ditibus.funding At dolorru and management issues stymied mendiorro those efforts. ex exerferiberi McNeese administrators corionsed discussed leasing space on undignatusa the Louisiana qui con Educational nonempo Television rporum, Authority tower for broadcasting. comnistem Others que prae explored occulparum the possibility ius apitat of partnering with Nationalquam Public facid Radio most, as et many undiother comnim universities volupta do. In the 1990s, McNeese cus engineering rera volorem. students Dantemq created uasperist a mock radio station each year for omnimosam Engineeringlat Week. estibus Theut station etureri hadbeano set schedule, only operated tiumduring reperspEngineering errovitas diaWeek, quat expe and had vid a broadcast radius of about unt, 4 eations squareerovit, miles inis around conseque campus. vellaciThe annual project demonstrated isquethe molorendebit desire for a campus ate dolupie. radioRaecto station and the willingness of students inulla alia to run doluptatius it. everspe ruptiun tiasper ovitemque pe sustiumque eossit Today KBYS fulfills the imindream re omnimus. of a true campus radio station for McNeese State University in partnership with the McNeese Foundation. Broadcast atSubheading 88.3 FM and streamed at KBYS.FM, the station’s mission is to provide Henima McNeese dolupta newssperrum and information, et as experib local programming and musical usdaecum offeringsfaccumet to listeners elit in et its es Southwest estiorat Louisiana broadcast areavellabore and around nobis the world. ut ut optam, Supportintur? for KBYS Qui is provided through private untiatet donations, que nimprogram eossit, sitatusantem underwriting, ut business support and volunteers. autempere nos modipsaped qui odipsanis

History, Haiti and Harvard

Pill Pillars

“I was born a slave, but nature gave me the soul of a free man.” Toussaint Louverture

Dr. Philippe R. Girard, McNeese professor and history department head, is knowledgeable in the subjects of history and Haiti. After this fall semester, he can add the subject of Harvard to the list.

revolution in history. Ultimately, he was arrested and deported to the mountains of France where he died of pneumonia in 1803 in a prison in Fort de Joux (the castle Château de Joux).

Dr. Girard is taking up temporary residence in Cambridge, Mass., this fall as he completes a biography of Haitian revolutionary hero Toussaint Louverture at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard’s Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, invited Dr. Girard to apply for a Sheila Biddle Ford Fellowship after reading one of Dr. Girard’s books.

Dr. Girard has published numerous books and articles about Toussaint and Haiti. One of his publications, “Exploring the Haitian Slave Revolution,” was written as the recipient of the Evelyn Shaddock Murray Professorship in History. Similar to Toussaint, Dr. Girard was born on a Caribbean island – Guadeloupe. After completing his university studies in Paris, France, and Athens, Ohio, he joined the McNeese faculty in 2002.

Toussaint Louverture was born into slavery in 1743 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, now known as Haiti. His father, Gaou Guinou, had been born a free man in Africa and sold into slavery. He instilled in his son self-respect at an early age. Toussaint grew up working on a sugar plantation owned by Count de Breda, a benevolent man that encouraged his learning of reading and writing. Toussaint devoured books, particularly those on the subject of equality and human rights.

Dr. Philippe R. Girard

The tools of the trade for historians are written documents, and for research, language skills play an important role. Dr. Girard’s oral and written proficiency in French, Haitian Creole, Spanish and English were integral as he translated Toussaint’s own handwritten prison memoirs for his book, “The Memoir of General Toussaint Louverture.” Harvard’s fellowship will allow Dr. Girard the luxury of dedicating a full semester to researching and writing without the responsibility of teaching and serving as department head. Toussaint is still revered in Haiti. Visitors flying in to Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, land at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport and his image graces the banknote.

After eventually being freed from slavery, Toussaint became a land and slave owner himself. Shortly after the French Revolution began in 1789, Toussaint led a slave revolt in Haiti, the only successful slave

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Reducing the Stigma According to the National Institute on Mental Health, about one in four adults suffers from a mental disorder, and one in 17 people lives with a serious mental illness like major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. “Until the stigma is reduced and it moves up to the level of a medical illness and until people begin to talk about it without fear or shame, the situation for those suffering from mental illness won’t improve,” said Dr. Sattaria “Tari” Dilks, McNeese professor of nursing and private practice clinician. Dr. Dilks has the credentials and experience to know. A recent inductee as a Fellow of the prestigious American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), she is one of only 250 AANP Fellows nationwide. She was selected based on outstanding clinical practice and policy efforts. While a nursing student at West Texas State University in Canyon, she worked a stint as a psychiatric technician and discovered her calling. After graduating and moving back to Lake Charles, Dr. Dilks took a position in St. Patrick Hospital’s medical-surgical unit where she worked all of one day. Upon being notified that the psychiatric unit had an opening, Dr. Dilks jumped ship. “This field combines nursing, psychiatry, art and music – it is the perfect storm to fit me and my personality,” said Dr. Dilks. Continuing her education, Dr. Dilks completed a Master of Arts degree in psychology and Master of Science degree in nursing at McNeese in 1988 and 2001 respectively, and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree (DNP) in advanced practice psychiatric nursing from the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in


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Memphis in 2006, becoming one of the first DNPs in Louisiana. Mental health care has changed dramatic all y over the years, but more positive changes are needed. Deinstitutionalization closed many of the state-run psychiatric hospitals, known more for their patient control techniques – strait jackets – than for patient treatment methods, she explained. According to Dr. Dilks, introducing psychotropic drugs combined with appropriate therapy may help approximately two-thirds of the mentally ill population. The others, however, are left to their own devices, and for those ages 18 and older, they can refuse to take a prescribed medication or follow a recommended treatment plan. Dr. Dilks believes that the key to effective treatment for the mentally ill is early intervention – during childhood. Hiring of psychiatric nurse practitioners is rampant, particularly in rural areas, but enticing students to enroll in the program isn’t always easy because of the stigma associated with mental illness. In addition to teaching and co-coordinating the graduate nursing program, Dr. Dilks is a therapist and psychiatric nurse practitioner in private practice and licensed to prescribe medications.

She serves as state president of the Louisiana Association of Nurse Practitioners and on boards and committees for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. After hours, Dr. Dilks enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren and scuba diving with her husband, Larry, a McNeese retiree and practicing neuropsychologist. She especially enjoyed a recent mission trip to Honduras where she felt “electronically disconnected and incredibly enriched.”

“I loved the McNeese Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program and received a lot of support from my peers and Dr. Dilks. Mental health patients are the most interesting people you will e ver meet. I ’m currently working with adults, but p l a n t o re t u r n to McNeese for further certification to work with children. Teaching children coping skills at an early age will help them to live healthier lives.” Sarah Newman Walker, APRN 2007 BSN Nursing and 2012 MSN Nursing

Pillar ars Pillars

ONE OF THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD Some people don’t know what they want to do when they grow up, and some people grow up knowing exactly what they want to do. Nicholas Edward “Nic” Hunter knew what he wanted to do in life practically from day one – own and manage Harlequin Steaks and Seafood. Edward and Lucille Hunter, Nic’s grandparents, opened Harlequin Steaks and Seafood restaurant on the corner of Highway 14 and Legion Street in 1956. Nic was born in 1984 and spent much of his childhood at the restaurant “banging pots and wreaking havoc.” The distraction didn’t bother Lucille who Nic said “meant everything to me growing up.” By age 12 he was washing dishes and bussing tables, and by age 17, Nic was completely running the business. While education was important to Nic, Harlequin was just as important. As a student at St. Louis Catholic High School, Nic would secretly skip class to go to work, and after three years at McNeese, he took a break from school in order to relocate Harlequin to its current location on College Street. “When I reopened Harlequin at the age of 20, I had obtained both a liquor license and a gambling license despite the fact that I was still legally too young to either drink or gamble,” stated Nic. Nic returned to McNeese and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 2007. “It was an awesome place for me and I loved it. I see McNeese as moving to that next level academically and aesthetically under the leadership of Dr. Philip Williams,” said Nic. “There is a look and feel to McNeese that is fresh, vibrant and exciting.” The driving force in Nic’s life is to serve others. Whether giving back through public service as a Calcasieu Parish Police Juror representing District 5 or by making financial donations to non-profit institutions such as the McNeese Foundation where he

Nic is surrounded by two of his favorite history faculty members, Dr. Janet Allured, left, professor, and Martha Hoskins, instructor.

established the History and Liberal Arts Scholarship in 2012, Nic is always looking for ways to contribute. “I’m one of the luckiest people in the world, genuinely loving what I do and inspired by public service on a daily basis,” said Nic. “More important to me than making a dollar or running the restaurant is to have a hand in determining the future of our community.”

“It is the best feeling to have a busy restaurant, to have faithful employees, to walk around shaking hands with customers and to know that you are in some small way contributing to their evening,” he added.

“Louisiana’s drastic cuts to higher education are disappointing. Though I’m a conservative Republican weary of new taxes, I would consider voting for a new tax to support higher education. When you are talking about Louisiana’s college graduates, you are talking about the future of our state.” Nic Hunter Nic’s future plans include marrying Becky Jacobs, an attorney with the Sanchez Law Firm, on Jan. 10, 2015, adding another role to the philanthropist and the public servant.

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Driving the Program Forward Former McNeese football players, coaches, managers and trainers continue helping the Cowboy football program succeed even though time has passed since they physically stepped on the field.

Leonard Smith spoke at the June 2014 event and is the first McNeese player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

What do scoring touchdowns, blocking runs, kicking field goals, devising plays, taping ankles and maintaining equipment have to do with the McNeese Football Club (MFC)? The MFC provides opportunities for former players, coaches and staff to remain involved with the football program while reconnecting with former teammates, meeting new friends and giving back to the program to encourage current and future Cowboys.

McNeese football has a proud tradition of excelling both on and off the field. As state funding to four-year universities has been reduced, achieving that success becomes more challenging each year. Head Football Coach Matt Viator emphasized that the funds given to the MFC strictly benefit the players. “Monies raised from the MFC are designated for needs like equipment, uniforms and summer school tuition and not for salary supplements,” he explained. “We want to sustain our level of excellence in spite of the state’s budget cuts.” Events were held this past spring and summer in Lafayette, Lake Charles, New Orleans and Houston, Texas, for potential members to learn about the club’s purpose and to hear a program update from Coach Viator.

Former Cowboys defensive end and 1988 McNeese graduate Rusty Guilbeau attended the Lafayette meeting and decided to get involved. “I respect the program and Coach Viator’s vision and mission to drive the program forward,” he said. “Playing football for McNeese turned out to be one of the best experiences in my life. I learned the value of teamwork, discipline and determination and how to succeed in business.” Guilbeau went on to play in the National Football League for the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns and is now the CEO and President for United Vision Logistics in Lafayette. Varying membership levels are available for those wanting to join. Once a person joins the MFC, that person holds dual-membership in the Deron Minor, from left, former player and former McNeese assistant strength coach, McNeese Athletic Foundation former head coach, Kirby Bruchaus, and and is eligible to receive Terence Cahee, former player. benefits from both groups. Anyone wishing to join may make an outright donation by cash or check or make monthly or quarterly payments towards a pledge. Online giving is also available at More information on the MFC can be found at www. or by searching for McNeese Football Club on Facebook. * Pictures courtesy of Summer Richard Boudreaux of The Bigger Picture.


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The People Make The Place


Blayne Rush, his wife, Starr, son, Greer, and daughter, Mallory.

Blayne Rush, president of Ambulatory Alliances in Dallas, Texas, will be the first to say he would not be the person he is today had it not been for McNeese State University. “I am the person that I am today because of McNeese and its football program,” Blayne stated. After a knee injury during a football scrimmage his senior year at Sam Houston High School in Moss Bluff, Blayne ended up walking on the Cowboys football team. Sam Houston coach Charles Vicknair and McNeese coach Sonny Jackson were instrumental in helping Blayne find a summer job and secure financial aid and a partial scholarship. He remembers Coach Jackson encouraging him to focus on rehabilitating his knee and working out with other freshman football players. Blayne redshirted his freshman year and afterwards started each year from 198993 – first as tackle and then as a guard. A member of the Southland Conference championship teams in 1991 and 1993 and named an All-American, he graduated from McNeese with Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees in health and human performance. Looking back on his McNeese experience, Blayne says he learned life lessons and made some of his greatest memories.

“The people at McNeese took care of me like family,” he explained. “The difference between McNeese and other schools is the relationships you develop with your coaches and teachers. They taught me discipline and instilled in me a strong work ethic. I also learned how to overcome adversity and juggle multiple responsibilities.”

Football Coach Matt Viator was Blayne’s high school coach at Sam Houston and he played with assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Lance Guidry in college. Blayne admires their commitment to the program and to the players and hopes that his donation can in some way fill a need where state funding has left a void.

Now a successful businessman in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Blayne is giving back to the program that set him on his way by providing financial support to the McNeese Football Club (MFC). The donation is his way of showing his appreciation for what others did for him and his belief in how today’s coaches and teachers are effectively guiding students.

Blayne values the relationships, experience and education he received at McNeese and hopes to pass it on to others. “There is someone else in the same situation I was in. We all want a winning product on the field, but it is also important to pay it forward by giving other students the chance to graduate and succeed in society.”

“Someone helped pay for my education,” he said. “I am grateful for the donors who had the foresight to financially support scholarships. Who is going to help the next person achieve the goal of a college education if I’m not willing to step up to the plate myself by making a contribution? The MFC provides the vehicle for supporters to come together and give back to the football program.” Another reason for supporting the MFC is because of the personnel working in the Athletics Department now. Current McNeese Head

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Tin Soldiers & Sugar P lum F airies Just as the Sugar Plum Fairy welcomes the Prince and his beloved Clara to the land of sweets, four local sugar plum fairies welcomed the timehonored Christmas classic – The Nutcracker – back to Southwest Louisiana this past December, marking 50 years since its first local production. Proceeds from the performance benefited McNeese State University’s Department of Performing Arts.

Theatre and then moving to the Lake Charles Civic Center. In 2005 Hurricane Rita forced productions to stop altogether when set designs and costumes were damaged beyond repair.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, as it was initially titled, was written by E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816 to tell the story of 7-year-old Clara’s favorite Christmas toy coming to life. A battle ensues between gingerbread men, tin soldiers and dolls fighting against the evil mouse king and his minions.

“Words cannot begin to express my gratitude for the efforts of the Nutcracker committee in supporting the Department of Performing Arts,” stated Dr. Michael Buckles, department head. “In this era of belt-tightening in higher education, this gift was put to work right away-from maintaining our instruments to investing in our most important resourceour faculty.”

Ballet legend and choreographer Ida Winter Clarke and production designer Emily Coleman staged The Nutcracker in Lake Charles in 1963 and it soon became a Southwest Louisiana family tradition. The play was staged intermittently over the years beginning in the historic Arcade

The fairies responsible for The Nutcracker’s revival were McNeese graduates Colleen Cannon Benoit (‘88 and ‘05), Libby McCreedy Richards (‘95), Amy Honeycutt Sonnier (‘92) and Libby Tête Looney, McNeese performing arts librarian. Having collectively performed in or staged over 30 Nutcracker productions, they worked hand-in-hand as directors. Hundreds of volunteers worked behind the scenes to bring the production to stage. Original cast members were joined by new talent to delight the packed house with all five performances sold out.

The tradition will continue this December as The Nutcracker again comes to life in the Shearman Fine Arts Performing Arts Theatre. Performances for area school children will be held on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 11 and 12, at 9 a.m. Performances for the public will be presented on Saturday, Dec.13, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Dec. 14, at 2 p.m. For ticket information, visit

The Nutcracker was performed amazingly well and the energy and ambience of the theatre were wondrous. The dancers were excellent and the choreography top notch, especially when adult and child performers were on stage at once. This was the first Nutcracker performance for my daughters, Brianna and Abby, and they were delighted with the whimsical playfulness. Attending The Nutcracker is a great tradition to start with the family. Shelley Shaw


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SINCE 2005

Rouge [red] et Blanc [white] was held on campus this fall to celebrate McNeese State University’s [blue] 75th anniversary. The Quad’s towering oak trees and beautiful green space stood in contrast to Rouge’s traditional downtown location amidst the Lake Charles Courthouse, the Phoenix Building and the 1911 Historic City Hall. Rouge et Blanc, recognized as The Premier Wine and Food Event of Southwest Louisiana, delivered an afternoon of gaiety for the 1,750 people that attended. Entry to Rouge et Blanc, now in its ninth year, continued to be a hot commodity as tickets sold out in the first two hours on the market. According to Patricia Prudhomme, director of Banners at McNeese, “Rouge et Blanc is the only fundraiser for Banners. The proceeds from this

event provide additional resources for enhanced programming as a way to grow the educational and cultural offerings.” Banners at McNeese is a self-supporting arts and humanities program now entering its 23rd year. In 2014, Banners programming was brought to 73 area schools reaching approximately 13,000 Calcasieu Parish K-12 students. Banners also touched students at the collegiate level by presenting master classes in areas such as dance or theatre. The success of Banners at McNeese and Rouge et Blanc have not gone unnoticed. In April, the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development selected Banners to receive the statewide Outstanding Arts Organization of the Year Award, and

in May, the Lake Charles Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau named Rouge et Blanc a 2014 Partner in Tourism. Neither accolade would have been possible without the leadership of Patricia and her predecessor, Mary Richardson, and the dedicated staff and volunteers that ensure the program’s continued success. Since Rouge et Blanc’s inception in 2005, ticket sales from the event have generated over $1.5 million. Additional funds are generated from the sale of the “Best Ever Raffle Ticket” with the grand prize winner receiving a trip for two to the Napa Valley. Rouge et Blanc also receives income produced from a percentage of the wine sales made during the event.

I moved away for 17 years and was pleasantly surprised to find Banners at McNeese upon my return. I enjoy volunteering for organizations that enhance living in Lake Charles. I work the entry tent at Rouge et Blanc and get to witness, first hand, the variety of community members who support the event. Even though I am exhausted at the end of the day, volunteering for Rouge et Blanc is fun. Nancy Sanner, (McNeese Class of 1968)

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A Woman of Many Hats Keisha Christian wears many hats: wife, mother, sister, college student and graduate, intern and scientist. The Jamaica native received her “scientist hat” when she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and food chemistry and a Master of Philosophy degree in chemistry from the University of the West Indies. Add “engineering hat” to the list when she graduates in December with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering (chemical) from McNeese State University. Before opting to earn a third degree, Keisha thought her school days were behind her. “As I was searching for a job, I started thinking that an additional degree would make me more marketable,” she explained. Her husband, a fellow chemist, suggested chemical engineering, to which she replied, “Are you crazy?” She met with Dr. John Griffith, chemistry, civil and mechanical engineering department head, who presented chemical engineering in a way that appealed to her. Keisha took a deep breath and began her journey towards that degree in 2011. Although chemistry and chemical engineering have different approaches and ways of thinking, the two fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

Another hat Keisha has worn is recipient of the CITGO Engineering Scholarship. “I am grateful and happy to have been selected for the CITGO scholarship,” she “My scientist hat complements the said. “It has aided with school-related costs engineering hat and allows me to put my and rewarded the work I’ve done towards education and work experience together,” earning my degree. It’s important that said Keisha. CITGO sees this need to invest in our community’s future workforce.” Keisha’s work experience has included tutoring and instructing students in Keisha acknowledges that the road has chemistry, math and science at Lake not always been easy and that sometimes Charles Christian School, teaching organic it has been hard to don all the hats at once. chemistry lab classes at McNeese and With only half a semester to complete, she interning at Sage Environmental Consulting. can see the light at the end of the tunnel. “I’m glad I took this chance,” she stated. “Overall it has been a good experience.”


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In preparation for over $77 billion in capital investments from the local chemical and petrochemical industry that is coming to Southwest Louisiana, McNeese is offering two new concentrations in chemistry. Students can now earn an Associate of General Studies degree with a concentration in chemistry or a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry with a concentration in chemistry and management. For more information, call Basic and General Studies at 337-475-5135 or the Chemistry and Physics Department at 337-475-5776.

Kathryn, second from right, serving in the mission field in Panama.

Deserving of Praise Disciplined and dedicated are two of the many adjectives that would describe McNeese graduate Kathryn Mary Leonards. Even as an accomplished distance runner and all-district basketball player at Bell City High School, Kathryn made sure that her studies always trumped her participation in athletics. She excelled at both, graduating from high school Summa Cum Laude and named an American Press ScholarAthlete award winner in 2010. Kathryn’s achievements continued at McNeese where she participated in the Student Government Association as a senator and served as both treasurer and president of the Pre-Medical Society. Her basketball team, the Geeks -nSneaks, won the University’s intramural contest and continued on to represent McNeese at the Louisiana Collegiate Intramural Recreational Sports Association Tournament at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston this past May. Kathryn’s involvement in campus life didn’t stop her from maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Studying weekdays throughout the semester in preparation for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and taking practice

tests on weekends ensured her passage of the MCAT on the first attempt. After graduating from McNeese in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biological science, a minor in chemistry and a concentration in pre-medicine, Kathryn entered Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans this fall. Her interest lies in studying parasitology and tropical medicine. Kathryn set her sights on medicine at the tender age of 4 as she watched her mom, Gil, and her father, Andre, care for her baby brother, David, who was born with a congenital brain disorder. She also had family role models with an uncle and cousins that are physicians and several aunts that are nurses. Looking back on her accomplishments, it is hard to believe that Kathryn ever doubted her abilities. She first enrolled at McNeese as a nursing student thinking she didn’t have the intelligence needed to become a physician. After completing her freshman year with a perfect 4.0 GPA, she changed her area of study to pre-medicine.

A six-week summer internship at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2013 provided Kathryn with hands-on experience working in a research lab. She was also chosen to accompany Dr. William H. Dees, McNeese biological science professor, at the 2014 Consortium of Universities for Global Health Conference this past May. In February, Kathryn traveled to San José de David, Panama, with her cousin’s church family to offer medical care, Vacation Bible School and evangelism to the Panamanians. She truly enjoyed working in the pharmacy and interacting with the people and hopes to continue working in the mission field one day as a physician. Kathryn was awarded the Dr. Charles D. “Chick” White Memorial Pre-Med Scholarship and the David and Freda Buttross Scholarship while attending McNeese. She also received the Ezreal and Hannah Kushner Memorial Scholarship, which is a one-year scholarship awarded to a student that is entering medical school to help offset expenses.

Fall 2014



Extraordinary Feats Achieving extraordinary feats seems to be the norm for the McNeese Student Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The chapter is the first student organization to establish an endowment – the SHRM McNeese Student Chapter Scholarship – through the McNeese Foundation. At first the group planned to slowly but surely work towards a $10,000 scholarship goal by giving $1,000 per year for 10 years. The first $1,000 gift was made in 2012, followed by two $1,000 gifts in 2013. In April 2014, the chapter presented the Foundation with a $7,000 check to complete its pledge. Members raised money by collecting student dues, holding raffles and hosting a leadership conference each spring. One of their most unique and successful fundraisers was a raffle for a goody bag filled with items autographed by the History Channel’s Swamp People, Troy and Jacob Landry, and an alligator hunt with Trapper Joe. Cathy Martin, a non-traditional alumnus and former SHRM member, originated the idea for the Swamp People raffle. Her

determination and persistence helped the group connect with Troy, Jacob and Joe to raise money for the scholarship. “One of my proudest moments is being part of establishing the scholarship,” Cathy said. “The benefits I received through SHRM membership such as resume building and networking with local human resources professionals in the Imperial Calcasieu Human Resources Management Association was wonderful. You cannot get that anywhere else.” Raising $10,000 was an ambitious feat in itself, but more so when you consider that the chapter, which had gone dormant by the early 2000s, was revived in 2005 with just six members. Since then membership has grown to approximately 50 students. Through hard work and activities, the chapter has received the Superior Merit Award multiple years and the Outstanding Merit Award three times from National SHRM. “It’s unusual for a student chapter to receive Outstanding Merit more than once,” stated Mary Kaye Eason, university internship coordinator and SHRM adviser from 2005-2012. “Achieving this ranking is difficult because you have to top yourself each year.” Each chapter submits a workbook to National SHRM listing activities for that year and receives points based on how many are completed. The spring leadership conference is another reason the chapter received Outstanding Merit. The one-day conference showcases an opening and closing speaker, sessions on topics such as job readiness, a fashion show and a Q&A panel with local human resource professionals. SHRM secures sponsors to cover conference expenses so that monies can be directed to the scholarship. Dr. Susie Cox, McNeese assistant professor of management and current SHRM adviser, is proud of what the chapter has achieved. “These students are leaving a footprint and legacy that will live on forever,” she stated.


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Pillars The Bachelor of Science degree in finance offered by the College of Business at McNeese is one of the least pursued degrees for students enrolling in business curricula, but finance graduates are one of the highest paid and most sought after by employers of all undergraduates. The National Association of College Employers September 2013 Salary Survey ranked finance as one of the five top-paying industries and one of the five top-hiring industries for the Class of 2013 bachelor’s degree graduates. Finance graduates have an array of career opportunities that they can pursue – commercial banker, financial planner, corporate finance analyst, investment banker or insurance executive. Some have even decided to move into public service like Charles E. “Chuck” Kleckley, a 1993 McNeese finance graduate, small business owner and current speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, and Brett Geymann, a 1994 McNeese finance graduate, small business owner and current member of the Louisiana House of Representatives.

changed my major to finance with a minor in government, and through a combination of day classes and night classes, I finished [my degree] at the age of 33,” stated Rep. Geymann. “My time at McNeese laid the foundation for where I am today as a small business owner and a state-elected official with committee assignments dealing with state budgeting. My ability to understand and grasp the state budgeting subject matter and lead efforts for budget reform at the state level comes mainly from what I learned while at McNeese.”

Angelica Gonzalez-Pimiento, CPA, chose to double major at McNeese in accounting and finance. She currently holds the position of senior audit associate at KPMG in Houston, Texas. Peterson’s, a guide to colleges and universities, explains the difference in the degrees as follows: “Finance is specifically a subject of study which involves the management of money, while accounting is a subject which involves obtaining, collecting, organizing, and otherwise dealing with financial information. The difference, in other words, is pretty much that finance “I returned to McNeese at age 26 to is about actually shifting or manipulating finish my degree in business management, money, while accounting is about tracking and after taking my first finance class, I those kinds of manipulations.” knew this area of study was a better fit. I

Finance-Ing Your Education The Drs. Stephen Caples, Musa Essayyad, Banamber Mishra and Matiur Rahman Endowed Scholarship in Finance was established by these College of Business faculty as an expression of support for the University, as well as to encourage enrollment in the College’s finance program. “I value my time at McNeese and feel I learned much from the staff, many of whom are still there,” said Rep. Geymann. On that point, he is correct. Drs. Caples, Mishra and Rahman have a combined 79 years of teaching experience at McNeese and more published articles than it would take to wallpaper a room. Once the scholarship reaches the minimum endowed level of $15,000, the funds will be matched with a $5,000 contribution from the Foundation in recognition of the University’s 75th anniversary and its $15 Gets You $20 incentive.

From left: Dr. Stephen Caples, Dr. Matiur Rahman, Rep. Brett Geymann, Dr. Musa Essayyad and Dr. Banamber Mishra.

Fall 2014



A Matter of Safety The Institute for Industry – Education and Collaboration (the Institute) at McNeese State University serves industry by providing innovative training and education designed to enhance the technical skills and knowledge of employees and to improve workplace processes – ultimately creating a safer environment for everyone. According to Sheldon Stutes, training coordinator in Axiall’s quality and training department, “Operators are the frontline of defense. They control the processes which generate income, but more importantly, they keep us safe.” The Institute falls under the guidance of Dr. Nikos Kiritsis, Dean of the College of Engineering at McNeese. Although formalized as the Institute only four years ago, McNeese has been collaborating with industry for many years. Initially called Lake Charles Junior College, McNeese opened its doors in 1939. Cities Service Refinery, now known as CITGO, began construction of its facilities in 1942. In 1950, McNeese introduced engineering to its curricula in part to keep up with the demand for a trained workforce. In 1965, Cities Service lent its support to McNeese by donating $20,000 of used equipment to the engineering program then being taught at Chennault. In 1969, Dr. Thomas Leary left his career at Cities Service to become an educator and help further McNeese’s engineering program. Prior to the Institute, most training was conducted by the industry itself within its own physical plant – a loud, smelly and sometimes scary environment – and consisted primarily


Fall 2014

of slide shows on overhead projectors, photos found in books and animations of computer-generated processes. Since Axiall began collaborating with McNeese, over 100 of its operators and engineers have completed training through the Institute. Sheldon stated, “The Institute receives rave reviews from our engineers who can now relate to what operators go through each day. The Institute has evolved from being a convenience in supplementing Axiall’s training program – it has become a necessity.” According to Rick Nyberg, the Institute’s contract training coordinator, “We work hard to design training curricula tailored to the employer’s needs. Employers value the customer service provided, similar to that of a private business, but at the cost and convenience of a state agency.” Trainees are instructed on topics varying from construction site safety, hazardous materials transportation, process operations troubleshooting and industrial procedure writing. Utilizing state-of-the-art equipment such as a continuous distillation unit and a skid-mounted hands-on-trainer, trainees practice scenarios comparable to those that occur in actual industry operations, but processing water versus hazardous materials. A simulated control room, a computer simulation classroom and cutaways of pumps, power plants and other systems complement the training resources. For more information, contact Dr. Kiritsis at 337-475-5857 or visit


Changing Standards During this 75th anniversary year considerable attention has been given to how much McNeese has grown and changed over the years. A junior college consisting of three buildings has transformed into one of the finest regional universities in the South. As the years have passed, the footprint of McNeese has greatly expanded and the student profile has changed as well. Admission standards were first implemented at McNeese in 2000, and soon after, all public universities in Louisiana ended the days of open admissions. The Board of Regents recently increased the standards for freshmen, and transfer students must now complete 18 hours, including freshman math and English, before enrolling at McNeese.

The higher admission standards position incoming freshmen to be more likely to succeed in their first year, more likely to stay enrolled and on track with a degree plan from year to year and, most importantly, more likely to graduate in a timely manner. Raising the bar is also raising enrollment at community colleges. This fall McNeese received a record number of applications and rejected more applicants than usual. However, in the total enrollment of 8,349, there is a 10.5% increase in transfer enrollment. Now that SOWELA has achieved SACS-COC accreditation, transfer enrollment is expected to increase significantly over the next few years. While there is debate about the value of a college degree, statistics show that

Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment Education attained

Unemployment rate in 2013 (Percent)

Median weekly earnings

Doctoral degree



Professional degree



Master's degree



Bachelor's degree



Associate's degree



Some college, no degree







High school diploma Less than a high school diploma

Note: Data are for persons age 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers. Source: Current Population Survey, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Each fall and spring, McNeese hosts a career fair that offers opportunities for students to network with representatives of over 100 businesses and industries and a teacher fair that brings in representatives from both in-state and out-of-state school districts.

earnings rise and unemployment falls in correlation to educational attainment. A partnership with Folk Polk to deliver classes on the Post began last spring and enrollment increased by nearly 200% from 39 students to 114 this fall. The courses and degrees are available to the soldiers, their family members and all Fort Polk personnel. Dual enrollment, an early admissions program for college-bound high school students in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jefferson Davis parishes, increased by 7.8% this fall to 805 students. Participating students get a jump-start on their college career and can complete their college degree in a shorter period of time. McNeese awards nearly 70% of the public four-year college degrees earned by residents of Southwest Louisiana. The Student Innovation Center at the SEED Center, the Undergraduate Scholars and Research Program and professional internships are expanding McNeese’s reputation of providing a quality education and increasing interest in McNeese from high schools outside the Southwest Louisiana area.

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Fall 2014

Pillars Staff EDITOR Marianne White, McNeese Foundation Coordinator of Planned Giving and Donor Research STAFF WRITER Jennifer Leger, McNeese Foundation Planned Giving and Donor Research Specialist ART DIRECTION, DESIGN, PHOTOGRAPHY Anne Cobb, Public Relations Graphic Designer/Multimedia Specialist














CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Candace Townsend, Director, Public Relations Pati Threatt, Head, Archives & Special Collections

Foundation Staff Richard H. Reid

Vice President for University Advancement Executive Vice President, McNeese Foundation Melissa Ellis Northcutt Director for University Advancement Operations and Special Events Pam Tate Gift Management Specialist

Shelley Shaw Administrative Specialist

Cheryl Smith Associate of Foundation Financial Accounting

PILLARS is published by the McNeese Foundation to educate and inform the community of the role that the Foundation plays in support of McNeese State University. The name, PILLARS, was chosen to represent the importance of the Foundation’s support of McNeese as an institution of higher learning.

Shanie Miller Administrative Assistant

We know that there is a story behind your loyal support and we would really like to hear it. Contact Marianne White at 337-562-4107 or

Contact Information McNeese Foundation, Box 91989, Lake Charles, LA 70609 Phone 337-475-5588,

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Nonprofit Org.

U.S. Postage Paid McNeese Foundation, Box 91989, Lake Charles, LA 70609

Permit No 336 Lake Charles, LA

Robert Noland Alumni Pavilion The Robert Noland Alumni Pavilion opened this fall. The 4,709 square-foot outdoor facility - located in the McNeese Alumni Grove – is the culmination of years 20 of planningFall by the2014 McNeese Alumni

Association Board of Directors and construction on the facility began in August 2013. It was primarily funded through the generosity of Lake Charles businessman Robert Noland, who donated $460,000

to the project. Additional funds were received from the McNeese Alumni Association, the student Campus Development Committee and the PetroChem Athletic Booster organization. The facility

features air-conditioned restrooms, concession area, storage room, televisions, audio/visual equipment, large ceiling fans and McNeese


Pillars Fall 2014  
Pillars Fall 2014