Alumni Magazine of Nicholls State University
CEO in 5
Former Colonel quarterback Cooper Collins uses his youthful drive to grow a multimillion-dollar business
Page 12 The Foundry nightclub returns Page 7
1,500 additions to baseball park Page 8
Alumni help at-risk teens in El Salvador Page 10
In this issue
Nicholls State University Alumni Federation Spring 2012
ADMINISTRATION UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert VICE PRESIDENT FOR INSTITUTIONAL ADVANCEMENT Dr. David Boudreaux DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI AFFAIRS Debbie Raziano (BA ’74)
Photo by Matthew Noel
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI AFFAIRS Jessica Harvey (BA ’06)
10 Dispensing hope
In El Salvadoran villages, where gangs and poverty are pervasive, two Nicholls nursing graduates use their Christian faith and health care experience to minister to at-risk youths.
12 A 32-year-old CEO? Don’t be fooled. Former Colonel quarterback Cooper Collins is young and laid back, but he’s also helped grow Pernix Therapeutics into a multimillion-dollar pharmaceutical company.
Departments 3 Colonel Chatter 17 Alumni Federation News In your words; Remember when? Well-seasoned fun; The Colonel through 4 Around Campus the years; Growing up with Nicholls; The 20 things you might not know about Larry best of the best Howell; Grand Isle preservation and pride; 20 Colonel Notes Virtual classes catch on; Can by can Alumni updates; Teacher champions 7 Then & Now tech tutoring; Defying expectations; In Foundry flashback memoriam 8 The Red Zone 23 In the Colonel Spirit Polishing the baseball diamond; Athletics Cameras, combat and cowboy boots hits airwaves; Calling for nominations; Upcoming upgrades
DIRECTOR OF UNIVERSITY RELATIONS Renee Piper
EDITORIAL STAFF EDITOR Stephanie Detillier (BA ’06)
ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT FOR ALUMNI AFFAIRS Elizabeth Iver
ART DIRECTOR Jerad David (BA ’00) PHOTOGRAPHER Misty Leigh McElroy (BA ’03) WRITERS Jamie Bustos Lee Daigle (BA ’06) Dr. Al Delahaye Graham Harvey Jessica Harvey (BA ’06) Renee Piper Clyde Verdin Jr. (BA ’08) Mike Wagenheim
2011–12 ALUMNI FEDERATION OFFICERS President — Stella Lasseigne (BA ’67, MEd ’80) President-Elect — Stephen Peltier (BS ’75) Vice President — Eddie Hebert (AS ’71, BSN ’92) Secretary — Gayle Tauzin (BS ’73) Treasurer — Tommy Eschete (BA ’80) Past President — Glenn Chance Jr. (BS ’90, MBA ’95)
2011–12 BOARD MEMBERS Charles Bourg (BA ’93), Monique Crochet (BS ’98, MEd ’00), Luke Ford (BA ’63, MEd ’69), Susan Gilbert (AS ’76, BS ’79, MEd ’88), Philip “Trey” Greco (BA ’95), Lynn Guidry (BS ’70), Herbie Kimble (BS ’75), Richie Naquin (BS ’93) and Paula Rome (BS ’02)
CONTACT INFORMATION The Colonel is published twice each year by the Nicholls State University Alumni Federation. Send comments and address corrections to: Office of Alumni Affairs Nicholls State University P.O. Box 2158 Thibodaux, LA 70310 Phone: 985-448-4111 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: nichollsalumni.org Social media: facebook.com/nicholls.alumni.federation
In your words W
e asked the Nicholls Facebook community to tell us about a professor who changed their lives or careers. Here are a few of the highlights. Thanks for sharing, and keep commenting on the Nicholls Alumni Federation’s Facebook page.
Dr. Judy Theriot [former professor of family and consumer sciences]. She was one of the most professional teachers and an excellent role model. While I’m sure I fell short, I never wanted her to be disappointed with my work. Susan Schmidt Gilbert (AS ’76, BS ’79, MEd ’88)
Dr. Glenn Antizzo [former associate professor of government]. Believe it or not, he proved to me that there was more to government than I ever thought possible. Great man. Inspirational. Mary Downer (’99–’07)
Buff Daniel [former assistant SURIHVVRURIHFRQRPLFVDQGÀQDQFH@ was an amazing teacher. He made students feel confident and was excellent at making the subject matter interesting and navigable. Denise Schwark Ponce (BS ’86)
Dr. Bonnie Bourg [former vice president for student affairs] gave this first-generation student the empowerment needed to earn my PhD in counselor education and higher education curriculum and instruction. She was proof that a woman could go that far. Tammy Cheramie (BA ’90, MEd ’93)
Laura Lott Valenti [instructor of marketing]. Her personality made students feel comfortable with her, and her life stories and journey were a strong part of her teaching methods. She is truly inspiring in showing us that we can achieve our goals no matter what. Ben Jones Jr. (BS ’11)
Professor Jim Barnidge [associate professor of history]. He taught me the true meaning of education. His lessons are so great, full of in-depth descriptions and re-enactments. He has such a strong passion for history. You can’t help but be awed by him. Christina Emily Hebert, sophomore psychology major
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it would be Dr. Ralph Gremillion [deceased professor of education]. Years later, he still knew my name and knew where I was teaching. God rest his soul. I will miss him greatly! Paul Simoneaux (BA ’76, MEd ’80)
Anne Trahan [former assistant professor of English]. I was not an English major, but she is such a good teacher and person inside and out that it made me want to go to class, not just have to go. Paula Catoire Foote (BS ’83, BSN ’96)
Dr. Jerry Gee [deceased professor of education]. He always had time to guide your academics. He wanted successful students and truly cared about providing his students with good, solid career advice. Dr. Gee played a vital role in my success. I will be forever grateful to him. Sheryl Lasseigne-Coglaiti (BS ’92, MEd ’97)
Dr. Alice Pecoraro [former vice president for academic affairs] will always hold a special place in my Nicholls memories. She genuinely cared about everyone who came in contact with her. She gave of her time and advice so willingly. Dana Bonvillain Aucoin (BS ’06)
Both Dr. John Doucet [associate professor of biological sciences] and Dr. Marilyn Kilgen [professor of biological sciences] were not only excellent academic faculty. Both of them went above and beyond during and after my time at Nicholls to provide what higher education faculty should, including career guidance, extra academic enrichment and friendship. Lindsay Mayet Lasseigne (BS ’08)
John Robichaux (BS ’65) marches triumphantly after catching the greased pig during Western Week. The 1963 La Pirogue photo caption says hundreds cheered Robichaux, who refused to “let his greasy conquest struggle or slip free.” Share your stories about this photo or the memories it brings to mind by emailing email@example.com. The
COLONEL SPRING 2012
you might not know about Larry Howell If you’re familiar with Nicholls, you’re likely familiar with Larry Howell (BS ’72). It’s been more than four decades since he first arrived as a computer science major, and in November 2011, Nicholls named Howell as its first executive vice president. His familiar presence on campus and in the community might lead you to believe that you know all there is to know about the Paris, Ill., native. Not so fast. 1. I like to listen to ZZ Top really loud. 2. I have 90 first cousins on my mother’s side. 3. I knew I wanted to marry Tina Bordis the minute she walked into the room. In fact, when I popped the question — two weeks after meeting her — I didn’t know how to spell her real name.
Executive Vice President Larry Howell is a dedicated family man — married for 43 years, father of two and grandfather of six — and a dedicated educator — 28-year Assumption Parish School Board member and 37-year Nicholls employee.
In August 1993, Larry Howell, 47, drove to property he and his wife owned in Napoleonville — the site of their future home — to cut the grass shortly before the sun went down. “A kid on a bicycle approached me, pulled out a gun and demanded I give him all my money. I did; $40 was all I had. He took the money and my watch and peddled away, or so I thought. … He got into my truck, forced me into the passenger seat and started driving toward a cane field. I pleaded for my life, telling him that I have a wife and two kids, offering to
13. I used to smoke three packs of unfiltered Camels every day. 14. I think the best place to eat out in Thibodaux is Bistro, but I do love Friday night dinner at Politz’s. Tina and I end up spending as much time at other people’s tables — just catching up and visiting — as we do sitting at our own table eating dinner.
4. Mornings are my favorite part of the day; I 15. At 10 years old, I got tuberculosis, spent six usually get up at 5 a.m. months in the hospital, missed my entire 5. My favorite TV show is Revenge. fourth-grade year of school and was twice given last rites. 6. I look forward to traveling back to New England next fall. Every time you turn a corner, 16. I’m the oldest child — with two younger there’s a postcard in front of you. brothers; both are taller than me. 7. Bigotry makes me angry. 17. I love dessert. I always say, if there are dessert choices, don’t hurt anybody’s feelings — get 8. I’d love to have a long conversation with John one of each. F. Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln to learn more about how they made the critical decisions 18. I bring my wife coffee and breakfast in bed that helped lead our country through two of every morning. the most challenging times in history. 19. One day I’m going to play the stock market. 9. While in the Air Force, I analyzed Russian 20. The best advice I’ve ever received came intercepts and copied Morse code. from my momma. She used to say, “If I have 10. I’ve been kidnapped at gunpoint and shot at. a good attitude, then this [washing and ironing clothes for others] is fun because 11. I’ve been to 44 of the 48 contiguous states in I’m doing something good for somebody.” the United States. That evolved into my motto, “Attitude is 12. My favorite movie is The Great Escape with everything.” Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. — As told to Renee Piper
give him the truck and suggesting that he could get away without being caught. He eventually pulled into a headland and told me to ‘get out.’ … I felt the gun pressed to my side. I grabbed his wrist, slung him around, and the gun flew. Three shots came at me before I was able to get into the cane.” Howell and his 15-year-old kidnapper played a deadly game of hide-and-seek in and out of the cane field for more than an hour. A state trooper eventually spotted Howell on Highway 1. The teenager was later sentenced to 40 years — and served 13 — at
Angola State Penitentiary. “The trooper drove me back to the lot, where nearly 80 people had gathered. They were all there for me. The toughest thing was when I saw my son, Jonathan. He was 15 at the time, and I heard that he was in the cane field with a flashlight shouting ‘Daddy.’ That really choked me up. That event changed my life. It made me really, really understand what’s important. Before then, things that weren’t important seemed like they were. If you have family, faith and friends, there isn’t too much that’s more important than that.”
During Scholars Night — an annual three-day event for top-caliber high school seniors — Nicholls offered 246 scholarships, valued at $5.6 million over the next four years. As the Office of Admissions recruits more and more high-ability students, the university has noticed positive trends, including higher average ACT scores, better retention and stronger graduation rates.
Virtual classes catch on
Photo courtesy of Gary LaFleur
ith only five required courses left, Ross Durocher eagerly awaited his May 2012 graduation. But when he began registering for his last semester, he realized that some of the class times overlapped, creating a scheduling conflict that he feared would mean an extra semester.
Biology graduate student Clayton Kern explains to elementary students and their parents about the transition zone between cheniere forest and the marsh. The academic lesson and field trip help Grand Isle students learn about their hometown’s ecological significance.
Grand Isle preservation and pride
n January, graduate student Michelle Felterman and fellow biology majors headed to Grand Isle School to share conservation lessons with its elementary students. When the second- and third-graders began eating the flowers from the hibiscus plant, she quickly realized that the students were open-minded and ready to learn. “One of the biology students mentioned that the hibiscus flowers were edible,” Felterman recalls. “Before we knew it, they had picked the bush clean!” Felterman was one of 10 Nicholls students who accompanied Dr. Gary LaFleur, associate professor of biological sciences, on the educational field trip across one of Louisiana’s last surviving barrier islands. For the past three years, LaFleur has visited Grand Isle elementary students to educate them on the unique nature of their hometown — a place he describes as an “ecological gem.” “We are not just teaching Grand Isle students. It’s a teaching moment for Nicholls students as well,” LaFleur says. “It allows us to explain to them what we, as biologists, think is so unique and important about Grand Isle.” LaFleur and his team of students walk the children across the beach and through the cheniere forest and leeward marsh ecosystems while explaining the plants, animals and environmental impact of the various sections. Once they’re back in the classroom, the children have one-on-one discussions with Nicholls biology majors about what they observed. LaFleur hopes to continue visiting the same class each year to build on their previous knowledge and introduce other relevant topics. Jean Landry, project manager at the Grand Isle branch of the Nature Conservancy, says the experience carries a message of preservation and community pride. “Inviting people from the university gives our students a chance to show off their home,” says Landry, who arranged the trip. “We want them to take pride in Grand Isle as they learn how to take better care of it.” The project is among several Grand Isle preservation initiatives that the biology department spearheads, including organizing beach clean-ups and planting restoration plants along the coastline. “Nicholls brings an expertise and enthusiasm to the island,” says Landry, who has lived in Grand Isle for 50 years. “I see the difference in the quality of our coastline and the increase of knowledge and awareness. I see the difference the biology department makes.” — Lee Daigle
Due to an increase in the university’s distance learning courses, however, he was able to schedule all five classes by taking three on campus and two online. “The only real difference between the classes is that we don’t physically meet for the online ones,” says Durocher, a history senior from Houma. “The discussion and quality of instruction are the same. It’s also nice to save that gas money.” From 2010 to 2011, enrollment in distance learning courses increased by nearly 1,600 students, and the number of unique online courses increased by more than 80. Dr. Andrew Simoncelli (BA ’94), director of distance learning, says the program allows Nicholls to better compete with other universities because online classes have become so popular with both traditional and nontraditional students. “The classes could prove to be beneficial to Nicholls alums who want to further their educational goals without having to attend regular classes that may interfere with their jobs or family lives,” he says. “These distance learning courses are just a virtual extension of our physical courses. Even though our online classes and participation are growing, we are still the brick-and-mortar campus that so many of our alums have come to know and love.” — Jessica Harvey The
COLONEL SPRING 2012
Becoming top chef
For the fifth consecutive year, a John Folse Culinary Institute student has won the regional title in the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition in San Antonio. Paul Terrebonne, culinary senior from Larose, wowed judges with his pan-roasted red snapper with corn maque choux puree, Jazzmen Rice prepared with Abita beer, and pickled vegetables.
Can by can A
mid racks of brightly colored dresses, rompers and skinny jeans at Queeny’s Boutique in downtown Thibodaux sat a cardboard box with canned goods. Each shopper who donated a nonperishable item could register to win a $20 gift card. Queeny’s owner Terry Percle (BGS ’93) says the idea for the philanthropic promotion came when Debbie Raziano (BA ’74), director of alumni affairs, asked her to participate in the first Nicholls CAN! food drive. “Just about anything Nicholls asks us to do, we’re on board with,” Percle says. “I think the food drive is a great cause, and as a smallbusiness owner, I feel that it’s important to support the local university.” The university-wide initiative was the brainchild of Jean Donegan (BA ’73), head of the Department of Art, who began pondering how her department could serve the community. Then, she started imagining what could be done on a grand scale. She envisioned a food drive held twice a year — before Thanksgiving and before spring break — uniting the university in its efforts to give back to the area. Proceeds and donated items would be divided among area food banks, which have recently experienced a marked increase in demand. In 2011, the Thibodaux Food Bank alone reported a 30 percent increase in the number of people who sought its services — from 2,221 to 3,467. Donegan quickly assembled a team of faculty, staff and student volunteers. For two weeks in March, collection bins were conspicuous throughout the campus and in 13 local businesses. By the project’s end, Nicholls had collected more than 6,500 food items and more than $3,300 in cash donations. “Almost every campus department and office participated in this first endeavor,” Donegan says. “All indications point to even greater success the next time around. Hopefully in the future, the Nicholls CAN! project becomes as familiar to our students as Crawfish Day or Family Day.” Raziano hopes to get more local businesses and alumni involved as the project grows. Ben Jones Jr. (BS ’11), social media manager at Jones Insurance in Thibodaux, says the staff enjoyed partnering with Nicholls for this initiative and is already looking forward to the fall drive. “We’ll keep a box here year-round if we can,” he says. — Stephanie Detillier 6
Jean Donegan, art department head, counts and sorts canned goods for the first Nicholls CAN! drive. The initiative led to donations of more than 6,500 food items and $3,300 to local food banks.
Historical photo courtesy of University Archives
Then & Now
Before The Foundry nightclub opened in 1974, the downtown building on West First Street housed a chemical company and then a wholesale grocer. In July 2011, the building reopened as The Foundry on the Bayou, complete with a restaurant, bars and an outdoor patio.
ailroad equipment, chemical mixtures, wholesale groceries, an illuminated dance floor and rock musician Ted Nugent are rarely found in the same building. Nevertheless, one of Thibodaux’s nearly two-century-old landmarks has seen them all, and after years of being vacant, it’s making a comeback. Re-opened in July 2011 as a 15,000-square-foot multipurpose facility, The Foundry on the Bayou features a restaurant, three bars, second-floor outdoor patio seating, a VIP room, as well as a music and dance hall. Open daily for dining, night life and private events, The Foundry is bringing older patrons back while attracting a new generation. Built circa 1840, The Foundry originally served as one of many iron-works facilities in the area. According to Marge Barker (BA ’66), chairwoman of historic preservation for the Lafourche Heritage Society, the building housed several different businesses since its construction, including a chemical company and a wholesale grocer. “In more recent times, people came to associate the name ‘Foundry’ with the dance hall and barroom that made it popular among the younger set, especially during the ’70s and ’80s,” Barker says. Mac LeBlanc (BS ’76), who managed the nightclub from its opening in 1974 until 1982, credits The Foundry for making Thibodaux “a mecca for night life.” LeBlanc, a self-described jack-of-all-trades, says The Foundry owner wanted to attract people of all ages from all areas. Having convinced the owner of what he knew was a growing trend, LeBlanc helped create a nightclub heavily influenced by the movie Urban Cowboy — complete with a mechanical bull — and he began booking bands — the first being Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes. “We would just fly by the seat of our pants,” LeBlanc says of the first few months as a night spot. “We happened to have the right ideas at the right time.” Before long, The Foundry installed a $50,000 illuminated dance floor,
mirror balls and a 14-foot-high DJ booth to usher in the disco era. “People would come from Metairie, Baton Rouge, Morgan City and everywhere else,” LeBlanc says. “On any given night you would see clientele from 18 to 80 years old.” One evening, his mother, who was collecting cover charges, stopped famous musician Charlie Daniels at the door. “What do you want me to do? I don’t want to charge him,” she said to her son. LeBlanc let Daniels in, free of charge, and spent the evening entertaining the musician. Such memories remain vivid for LeBlanc, who says he “lived The Foundry” during that time. He can still even recall bar prices. Then, top-shelf drinks were $2, canned beer was 75 cents, cover charges were $3, and last call came at sunrise. Wednesday nights attracted Nicholls students with nickel draft beers. Quite a bit has changed since the days of the original Foundry, but the building’s structure has been preserved. New owners Lance Blakeman, Frank Henning and Michael Schexnayder have capitalized on the industrial look, showcasing exposed original brick, archways and concrete flooring. To the delight of preservationists, who feared Share your memories the landmark would be torn down, the building of The Foundry with remains a part of Thibodaux. Described as a place like no other, The Foundry has once again become The Colonel by a spot where older patrons can rekindle longemailing us at forgotten memories while younger generations firstname.lastname@example.org. make new ones. — Lee Daigle The
COLONEL SPRING 2012
The Red Zone
A new wooden party deck overlooking right field is only one of the recent additions to Ray E. Didier Field. The stadium also received 1,500 seats, increasing the seating capacity to 3,500 fans.
t’s become tradition to invite former Colonel baseball players back before the season begins for an old-timers game and a competitive alumni-versus-current players matchup. When more than 50 former Colonel sluggers returned this year, they were surprised by the ballpark’s newest additions — 1,500 of them. Over the past year, Ray E. Didier Field, like several campus athletics facilities, has received significant upgrades. The biggest change has been
the addition of 1,500 chair-back seats, bringing the field’s seating capacity to 3,500 — more than double what it was the year before. Best of all, the seats along the first and third baselines came free of charge thanks to a relationship head Coach Seth Thibodeaux formed with the University of New Orleans. As the Privateers overhauled their own Maestri Field, they donated the seats to Nicholls rather than tossing them out. “To be able to attract the kind of recruits we
want to play here, it was important that we use every avenue we could to make Ray one of the best parks in the conference,” Thibodeaux says. Keeping up with the Joneses in the Southland Conference has been a priority for the Nicholls second-year head coach. In addition to the seats, the field itself has been improved — with a newly sodded infield as well as palm trees behind the outfield fence and lining the stadium entrance. Overlooking right field is a new wooden party deck, which is rented out during games. “I live here in Thibodaux, and just seeing the change from this year to last year is amazing,” says Jared Gros (BA ’97), a player from 1992 to 1995. “When I played, there was no sprinkler system. When you planted the new grass, it wouldn’t always come up, and the field was as hard as a rock. Seeing the way it is now is such a great sight.” Dustin Malbrough, who attended Nicholls and played baseball from 1999 to 2002, visited the field for only the second time in the past eight years and was equally impressed with the tremendous changes. “The surface is a little plusher, and it looks like a place where you can get kids to come and want to play for you and your program,” he says. Now that phase one of improvements is complete, Thibodeaux hopes to continue adding more landscaping and raising funds for a new press box. He’s also looking forward to playing LSU at home again in the upcoming seasons. In 2011, that matchup left standing-room only at Didier Field, but with the new seats, it’ll mean a packed stadium. “We want our fans to enjoy themselves when they come out to games,” Thibodeaux says. “Hopefully we are on the path to creating a great product both on and off the field.” — Clyde Verdin Jr.
Athletics hits airwaves
ttending every Colonel athletic event would be a challenge even for the most dedicated fan, but a new weekly show on Cox Sports Television makes it easy to keep up with all of the action. This Week in Nicholls Athletics recaps games and events and gives viewers a deeper, more personal look into the athletics department, its players, coaches and staff. For most of the year, the weekly show, sponsored by State Farm Insurance, airs on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and is uploaded to the Nicholls Athletics YouTube channel, youtube.com/nichollsathletics. 8
During baseball season, This Week takes a break and is replaced by The Seth Thibodeaux Show, a baseball-dominated program featuring head Coach Seth Thibodeaux. The spring show airs on Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. and includes a segment called “Colonel Connection,” which updates fans on other sports. Mike Wagenheim, coordinator of broadcast media for athletics, serves as the host and executive producer. “I hope the shows bring folks a greater understanding of all the good things that are going on here,” Wagenheim says. “Only so much gets covered in the newspapers. We
really have a chance to go in-depth and provide coverage of student athletes and sports that don’t generally get exposed, all while giving the hardcore football and basketball fans enough to be satisfied.” Produced in-house, the show also provides mass communication majors with opportunities to gain experience in reporting and video production. The first two students involved with the project, Julie Boudwin and Angela Boudreaux, have used their experience to land competitive internships at FOX 8 in New Orleans and WAFB in Baton Rouge, respectively. — Jamie Bustos
The women’s basketball team earned its first victory in a Southland Conference Tournament by upsetting top-seed Central Arkansas in the opening round. Although the women fell short during the semifinals, they broke the program’s record by earning 15 wins this season. Despite numerous player injuries, the men’s team also qualified for the tournament for the fourth-straight year, tying a school record.
The Red Zone
Upcoming upgrades 6RFFHUÀHOGKRXVH
tarting with the 2012 inductee class, a college degree will be preferred — but not required — of former athletes nominated for the Nicholls Athletics Hall of Fame. Since the Hall of Fame began in 1983, the criteria have included earning multiple letters in a varsity sport, demonstrating superb athletic performance, maintaining a personal reputation of integrity and earning a degree from Nicholls or another accredited institution. The philosophical argument was that, as an academic institution, Nicholls should require a degree of its Hall of Fame inductees. For quite some time, however, disagreements have arisen among the university’s Athletics Council members. “Some of the committee members felt that the degree requirement was leaving out a lot of former student athletes who had performed well on the field and had helped promote the university by doing so,” says David Zerangue (BS ’82, MS ’85), Athletics Council chair. “The committee decided that the lack of a degree shouldn’t prevent deserving student athletes from being honored in this way.” During its fall meeting, the council voted to remove this requirement while noting that a degree is preferred and enhances a nomination. “This change will open up the pool of candidates whom we can honor,” says Rob Bernardi, athletics director. “Whether they graduated or not, they are still alumni of the university, and we want to reward and recognize those who have achieved the highest athletic accomplishments at Nicholls.” Nicholls is now calling for nominations for the 2012 Hall of Fame class. Anyone can nominate a former athlete by submitting the appropriate form, available at geauxcolonels.com, under the “Fan Zone” tab. Nominations will be accepted until June 1. — Stephanie Detillier
Photos by Bridget Mire
Calling for nominations
After years of hopscotching across campus to use various locker rooms, training rooms and restrooms, the women’s soccer team will move into its own facility this fall. The complex, which is adjacent to the soccer field, will house locker rooms for home and visiting teams, a meeting space, a coach’s office, and training and laundry areas. For fans, the building will include public restrooms, a concession stand and a large concrete surface, where they can seek cover to avoid the sun or rain. The facility will be completed in time for the fall soccer season.
Replacement of the elevator and shaft at John L. Guidry Stadium will transform the stadium’s exterior façade. Nicholls received emergency state funds after a structural engineer determined that the steel columns as well as the elevator car — the original one from 1972 — were unsafe. The new elevator shaft will be mostly glass with a large, illuminated red “N” at the top. Improvements will also be made to the stadium’s entrance area and lobby. University officials hope that the project will be finished before the first home game on Sept. 22. The
COLONEL SPRING 2012
In a country ravaged by gangs and poverty, Jacob Noel (BSN ’06) and his wife, Amanda Meche Noel (BSN ’07), use their nursing credentials and Christian faith to minister to at-risk youths.
By Stephanie Detillier Photos by Matthew Noel
n the frenetic pace of an emergency room, among beeping monitors and panicky faces, Jacob Noel (BSN ’06) thrived. As a registered nurse at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, he took great pride in caring for and comforting people who desperately needed medical attention. As a devoted Christian, he felt grateful to work with a team that valued not only the scientific but also the compassionate side of medicine. But after a year’s worth of scrubs and prayers, Jacob quit his job. He brushed up on his Spanish and flew to El Salvador to fulfill his childhood dream of working overseas. Now, as a youth pastor for King’s Castle Ministries, Jacob nurtures people in a different way, though he says their need for care is still urgent. For instance, take Moises, a young man who joined Jacob’s youth group of 17- to 25-year-olds. “If it wouldn’t be for what I’m doing here, my life would be in the gangs,” he told Jacob. “I was really taken aback by that, but it’s true,” Jacob recalls. “It’s really a life-or-death thing for many students because that pull is so real in a lot of the places they live.” A tiny country roughly the size of Massachusetts, El Salvador has one of the world’s highest murder rates, largely from gang violence. A civil war from 1980 to 1992 left the country in economic and social turmoil. More than 90 percent of children live in broken homes, and minimum wage for industrial workers is $6 a day. “Children throughout the country are searching for where they can fit in, where they can be
accepted,” Jacob says. “The scary part is that gangs have started realizing that if they recruit new members when they are children, they’ll be less likely to run away when they’re older. The stresses are real, but one of our main goals is to help students learn what it means to live a Christian life in the midst of dire circumstances. If we can share with these teenagers the love of Jesus Christ, we can find real hope.” Jacob and his wife, Amanda Meche Noel (BSN ’07), meet weekly with their youth group in San Salvador, the capital city. In addition to sharing their faith and serving as mentors, the Noels lead the youths in creating and putting on theatrical performances as well as concerts in the community. They use clowns, games, loud music and yo-yo tricks to attract crowds to their sidewalk Sunday schools. The couple also heads up the Ambassadors In Missions program, which hosts about 50 groups a year from the U.S. and Canada, and the King’s Castle internship program, which gives students the opportunity to spend their summers ministering to El Salvadoran teens. Although Jacob interned with King’s Castle during his college summers, his path to El Salvador was a winding one, for sure. In high school, he competed in national and international yo-yo tournaments — winning several regional titles and being ranked as the 11th best yo-yoer in the United States (15th in the world). After graduating from Vandebilt Catholic High School, he enrolled at Louisiana Tech University to study mechanical engineering. Deciding that a people-oriented career would be more fulfilling, Jacob transferred to Nicholls because of
its reputable nursing school. “Probably the best part was that the professors didn’t just teach us the science of nursing; they taught us how to care for and how to relate to people,” Jacob says. “That was one of the first things Todd Keller [assistant professor of nursing and BSN program director] taught us in Nursing 225. Seeing a patient is not about seeing a sickness. When someone comes into the clinic, you’ve got to see how you can care for this person, or now in our case, how can we share the love of Christ. How can we connect with them on an entire level?” Both Noels still put their Nicholls nursing skills to use each day, though perhaps in nontraditional ways. “It was a culture shock when I first got here,” recalls Amanda, who worked as a registered nurse in the labor and delivery unit at Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center before getting married in 2010. “I quit my job a few weeks before we got married, then we had two weeks of a honeymoon, and then we were here in El Salvador as youth pastors. I’m still learning the language, but I love being able to be there especially for a lot of the girls who don’t have moms or dads.” Jacob says he couldn’t have envisioned such an ideal job that makes use of his nursing skills along with his strong Christian faith, but he’s open to wherever this ministry path will take him. “Our goals are very much wrapped up in who Christ is and where he wants to lead us,” he says. “We love what we’re doing here, but we’re willing to go even deeper and find those in the most need.”
Left, for Amanda, the most fulfilling aspect of her work is caring for girls and young women who live in broken homes. Above, Jacob prays over an El Salvadoran child. The Noels minister to young people in hopes that they will choose a Christian life rather than one in the gangs. The
COLONEL SPRING 2012
A 3 2 -‐
y e a r -‐ o l d
CEO? If you knew Cooper Collins, you wouldn’t be surprised. The super-bright, super-competitive, supercasual Nicholls graduate was only an intern bg+)),';nmpbmabgÛo^r^Zkl%a^Z\\^e^kZm^] up the corporate ladder to become Pernix Ma^kZi^nmb\l\ab^_^q^\nmbo^' And now?A^lmkrbg`mhl^^cnlmahp[b`a^ can grow this multimillion-dollar company.
By Stephanie Detillier Photos by Misty Leigh McElroy
COLONEL SPRING 2012
o coat. No tie.
No leather briefcase or power-grip handshake. Cooper Collins (BA ’02, MBA ’03) never thought of himself as the CEO type. And even though he has earned the title, he hasn’t adopted the stuffy characteristics that typically accompany it. As president and CEO of Pernix Therapeutics, Cooper does, of course, suit up for big boardroom meetings with investors and flashy presentations to partners. But on an average day, he’d rather pull on a polo shirt and slacks and discuss ideas at a roundtable, where his suggestions are just as likely to be shot down as those of his nearly 100 employees. Such a relaxed style and quick career rise could easily lead some people to underestimate the 32-year-old former Colonel quarterback, but he quickly disproves that notion. After all, when he joined Pernix (then known as Zyber) as an intern in 2003, the specialty pharmaceutical company was a mere startup in Gonzales. Within five years, Cooper was named CEO of the operation, now based in The Woodlands, Texas. Two years later, Cooper ceremoniously rang the Closing Bell at the New York Stock Exchange, signaling Pernix’s rise to a publicly traded company. And just a couple of months ago, Pernix reported that its net revenues increased 82 percent in the past year to reach $60.6 million. “What I’d like is to see how big we can really make this company,” Cooper says. “The best thing would be to build this company to a level where everybody knows it and recognizes it, so that people in the industry will say, ‘Oh, you were a part of the Pernix team?’ “The funny thing is that I never looked at myself as a salesperson. But after taking an e-commerce class at Nicholls, I saw the potential and got hooked on the idea of growing small businesses.”
Cooper and his executive staff discuss how to keep the company values of teamwork and competitiveness intact. In four of the past five years, some sales representatives have earned a higher salary than Cooper himself due to Pernix’s sales incentives. “I don’t care who makes more money than me,” Cooper says. “I’m one of the biggest shareholders, so when the value of the company grows, I’m happy.”
Realizing his business acumen Although born in Slidell, Cooper moved a lot because of his father’s job in the oil industry. As he relocated to Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alaska and Abbeville, sports allowed him to easily make friends and fit in. As a result, when Cooper thought about his future, athletics were a very big part of his plans. Recruited by Nicholls with a full football scholarship, he played quarterback and majored in mass communication, hoping to work in sports broadcasting or public relations. Luckily for Cooper, the New Orleans Saints were holding their summer training camp at Nicholls, and he scored an internship with their media relations office. For several years, Cooper stuck with the organization, helping with player interviews, press conferences and game reports. But he was young and ambitious. Cooper considered pursuing a master’s in sports administration but didn’t want to be pigeonholed into a specific field. An MBA seemed like a better — albeit more difficult — choice. Unlike most of his cohorts in the Nicholls MBA program, he didn’t have a business undergraduate degree, so he spent his first few semesters taking prerequisites. Although some business professors initially pegged him as a goofy athlete, it didn’t take Cooper long
to prove his business potential. “His learning didn’t stop in the classroom,” says Dr. Chuck Viosca, associate professor of marketing. “He often stayed after class to talk with me and was the kind of person who was a pleasure to be around. He was very bright and capable — more so than he probably thought at the time.” It was in Viosca’s e-commerce class that Cooper began finding his niche. He devised an idea for a website that would provide exposure to high school athletes who hoped to play on the collegiate level. After finding two partners and getting encouragement from Viosca, he jumped into his first business venture. Cooper attributes his competitive edge to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Nicholls College of Business Administration, which actually helped direct him to Pernix in the first place. Dr. John Lajaunie, professor of finance, knew that Zyber Pharmaceuticals was looking for interns, and Cooper seemed to be a good fit. He had never taught Cooper, but the graduate student showed up on his radar one day and made an instant impression. “Some people have unique qualities that stand out,” Lajaunie says. “Some call it driven; other times you hear it called fire in the belly. Cooper learns very, very quickly from his errors. Others
spend too much time lamenting, but he’s already figured out how he’s going to get up before he even hits the ground.” Prior to his interview for the internship, Lajaunie gave Cooper this advice: Buy a decent pair of dress shoes. Black athletic shoes would not suffice.
Balancing ambition and family Life’s a lot about luck and timing. Cooper is quick to admit that. After his internship, he became a Zyber sales representative in Florida and broke the company’s first-month sales record. He transferred to New Orleans and increased his region’s sales by more than 300 percent. Quickly, he climbed the ladder, gaining experience in training, hiring, development and quality control. By the time he was named Pernix’s CEO, he was working grueling hours, always armed with a tenacious attitude, determined not to let down people who had taken a big chance on him. He was spending as many weeks on the road as at home and was often seeing his two children only when Stacey, who met and married Cooper while at Nicholls, says it’s been fun watching her husband he kissed them good night.
get wrapped around their 2-year-old daughter Carsyn’s finger. On the weekends, Cooper and Colson, 4, enjoy jet-skiing, watching Nickelodeon and playing soccer.
Others spend too much time lamenting, but he’s already figured out how
and she doesn’t have a possessive personality,” Cooper says. “I knew that I’d have to go the extra mile in life, which meant working late, dinners and meetings out of town. I realized that Stacey was a partner who could really help me live the life I wanted to live.” Within six months of dating exclusively, Cooper proposed to Stacey, and they married in 2001, while both were still undergraduates. “At first, we lived in the married dorms at Nicholls,” says Stacey, a former Colonelette dancer. “I cried the first time I walked in. The refrigerator was held together by duct tape.” The couple eventually received a newer fridge and dressed up their small space with stick tile and carpet. While Cooper finished his graduate degree, Stacey taught at Labadieville Middle School and became a counselor at R.J. Vial Elementary School in Paradis. Since then, she’s put her career on hold to raise their son Colson, 4, and daughter, Carsyn, 2. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that Cooper has been this successful,” she says. “He has always had that drive about him. People are just drawn to him.” Lately, Cooper spends more time at home. He recalls the exact moment when he realized that his work-life balance was out of whack. Colson,
he’s going to get up before he even hits the ground.
His absences were nothing new to his eversupportive wife, Stacey Barbaro Collins (BA ’02, MEd ’04). In fact, he had to cancel their first date — a Delta Zeta sorority social — because he was traveling to an away game with the football team. A mutual friend tried to set them up numerous times before the couple actually met on a random night at Rox’s Bar in downtown Thibodaux. “Two of the first things I noticed about Stacey were that she doesn’t take herself too seriously
then 3, asked Stacey if his daddy was coming over to visit tonight. “He didn’t realize I lived there,” Cooper says. “I was like, ‘Oh my God. I’m not that guy, am I?’ At that point, I started bringing in more support and delegating. As a result, we’ve hired some great people, and I have breakfast and dinner with my kids when I am not traveling.”
Charting the future Cooper now spends less time reviewing sales reports and more time focusing on business development. Pernix doesn’t develop new drugs; rather it buys drugs that other companies haven’t been able to make successful. Think of it like flipping houses, except Pernix doesn’t sell the drugs off after making them profitable. For example, in 2009, Pernix bought a drug for $450,000. Although the 60 sales reps at the original company hadn’t had much success, 24 of Pernix’s reps generated $15 million in product sales within a year. In addition to finding good acquisitions for his $250 million company, Cooper has some unique expansion plans. The goal is for Pernix to become a horizontally integrated company that offers brand-name, generic and over-the-counter The
COLONEL SPRING 2012
versions of its products. Often, Cooper says, companies get rid of generics after they become available over the counter, but then customers have to pay more out of pocket because their health insurance won’t pay for drugs bought off the shelf. Pernix hopes to develop and keep all three options available for consumers. But as the company grows, he is cautious to ensure that the team atmosphere isn’t compromised. “As we expand this company, we’re going to be adding groups of people and baskets of products, and they have to fit with the culture or it’s not going to work,” he says. Cooper has fostered a competitive yet congenial work environment. A strong testament to
that is the company’s newly hired chief financial officer. David Becker was previously the CFO at Adams Respiratory Therapeutics, best known for its over-the-counter cough expectorant Mucinex — a product that led to the company being bought out in 2007 for $2.3 billion. “This is a guy who didn’t have to work anymore,” Cooper says. “He was a big shareholder in a billion-dollar company, but he signed on with Pernix right away. He wanted to be a part of our team. We work hard to create that type of environment where people want to be here, want to work, want to compete.” To find the right employees for such an aggressive yet team-oriented career, Pernix often
looks to former collegiate and professional athletes as well as Nicholls graduates. “People from Nicholls tend to be a little less self-absorbed,” Cooper says. “You feel like you still have to prove yourself because you don’t have the pedigree that a Harvard or Yale graduate does. That creates a certain type of person who is driven to work hard and go for it — not someone who leaves the office at 5 p.m. and rests on his laurels.” But now that Cooper has put in those long hours, proven himself and become a CEO before turning 30, where does he go from here? “When and if the company is sold, I’ll probably take something small and grow it into something big again,” Cooper says. “That’s the fun part.”
Cooper and more than a dozen Pernix employees celebrate Pernix’s rise to a publicly traded company at the New York Stock Exchange, where Cooper rang the Closing Bell on Jan. 12, 2011.
Photo courtesy of NYSE
Ride with Colonel pride
Sport the Nicholls logo on your vehicle by buying a customized license plate through omv.dps.state.la.us. The Nicholls General Scholarship Fund receives a portion of the fee charged.
Alumni Federation News
Growing up with Nicholls One of the luxuries of working at Nicholls for 30-plus years is having a front-row seat to the universit y â€™s growth. As Nicholls has expanded its facilities and transitioned to selective admissions, Iâ€™ve also watched the alumni federation advance to keep up with the demands of supporting an evolving university. Last year, our golf tournament moved to La Tour Golf Club in Mathews, and participation doubled. The federation now serves Nicholls students not only by offering scholarships but also by participating in Welcome Back Day, Family Day, Graduate Day and various other campus events. Even this publication, once a black-and-white newsletter, has changed. With this issue, Iâ€™m proud to present its latest incarnation â€” a magazine dedicated to celebrating alumni, your accomplishments and our beloved traditions. As we strive to better promote Nicholls on a local and national level, we need your help. Simply hearing from you about your careers and accomplishments helps raise the universityâ€™s stature. To collect this information, the Office of Alumni Affairs will publish a new alumni directory through Harris Connect, the nationâ€™s leading alumni directory publisher. I encourage you to update your profile when you receive a postcard or email from Harris Connect. Alumni updates help illustrate how Nicholls is producing graduates who contribute to their professions as well as their communities. Itâ€™s an easy way to do your part in spreading Colonel pride.
Well-seasoned fun 7KH1LFKROOV$OXPQL&UDZĂ€VK%RLOLVSHUKDSVRQHRIWKHRQO\ settings where people celebrate being the last ones served. Above, the lefthand table wins free drink coupons for being WKHVHFRQGWRODVWJURXSWRUHFHLYHWKHLUFUDZĂ€VKDQGWKHODVW table, on the right, receives T-shirts. Top right, Russ Cheramie and his fellow Sigma Alpha Epsilon members help serve KHDSLQJSODWHVRIFUDZĂ€VK Bottom right, Martha Madere Peltier (AS â€™75) and her husband, Stephen (BS â€™75), get ready to dig in. Stephen will serve as the 2012â€“2013 Nicholls Alumni Federation president.
The Colonel through the years COLONEL
In the Colonel Spirit,
ALUMNI MAGAZINE OF NICHOLLS STATE Fa l l 2 0 1 1
Three generations of Colonels Morgan Â Cityâ€™s Â Bergeron Â family Â maintains Â an Â impressive Â Nicholls Â tradition
Debbie Raziano (BA â€™74) Director, Alumni Affairs
Back row, from left: Phil Menard, Sara Shields-Menard, Mark Menard, AimĂŠe Gauchet Menard, Roy Bergeron Jr., Steve Bergeron, Alison Bergeron, Drew Bergeron, Matthew Tycer. Front row, from left: Anne Brown Rhodes, Catherine Bergeron Menard, Rosie Bergeron Brown and Karen Brown Tycer. Not pictured: Greg Brown.
lison Bergeron spent her high school days putting her own spin on wellestablished theatrical roles â€” the brainless scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, the eccentric Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland and the tyrannical Miss Hannigan from Annie. She respected the decades-old
classics while letting her personality come through in her performances. In her newest role as a Nicholls State University freshman, Alison faces a similar challenge â€” carrying on a long family tradition while also charting her own path. Many students have parents or siblings with Nicholls ties, but few have Colonel roots that
run as deep as hers. For starters, Alisonâ€™s brother, Drew, is a Nicholls senior active in campus organizations. Her father, Steve (BS â€™84), was among the first students to take classes in Gouaux Hall. Her two aunts have fond memories of riding the school bus to Nicholls in the late 1970s. Her cousins include a
former Nicholls Worth editor, KNSU station manager, Colonelette dancer, university tour guide and campus ministry leader. And, if that list isnâ€™t impressive enough, her grandparents Margaret and Roy Bergeron Jr. (DIP â€™55) are staunch Nicholls supporters, known to invite University President Stephen T. Hulbert over for coffee and See Three generations, Page 6
Renovated auditorium, new cafĂŠ..................................................................... Page 4 2011 Homecoming review .............................................................................. Page 8
Outstanding alumni honored ......................................................................... Page 10 40 years of Colonel football .......................................................................... Page 12
1972 The Â
COLONEL SPRING 2012
The BEST of the best Wetlands warrior
Kerry St. Pé, James Lynn Powell Award recipient When the Deepwater Horizon rig began gushing gallons of oil into the Gulf, Kerry St. Pé (BS ’73) took it personally. The Port Sulfur native’s lifework has been advocating for south Louisiana’s coastal communities, where his family has lived since 1760. As a former regional coordinator for the state’s oil-spill response team, St. Pé was not timid when national media asked his opinion on how to limit damage to the wetlands. “My degree in marine biology allowed me to be an advocate for people in the place I love — BaratariaTerrebonne,” St. Pé says. “Thank you to Nicholls for teaching me to fight for the things I believe in.” The battle has been a long one for St. Pé, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP). After graduating from Nicholls, he worked for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the state Department of Environmental Quality before becoming BTNEP director in 1997. Regarded as one of the nation’s top wetlands experts, St. Pé brings fishermen, oil industry executives and politicians together to preserve the environment, jobs and the way of life along the coast. “His passion for saving Louisiana’s wetlands has been a big reason why coastal restoration has gained attention on a national scale,” says Dr. David Boudreaux, vice president for institutional advancement. “If one day in the not-so-distant future, the inhabitants of the Bayou Region are able to say that we succeeded in rebuilding the wetlands, we will owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kerry.” — Stephanie Detillier
Retirees remain regulars James and Dr. Grace M. Gueydan, Harvey Peltier Award recipients
Dr. Grace Monk Gueydan feels like she never retired from Nicholls. She and her husband, James, still spend much time on campus: participating in Bite of the Arts, helping raise money for women’s athletics and becoming regulars at the culinary institute’s Bistro. The Gueydans go out of their way to showcase Nicholls, where Grace worked for 33 years as a professor, nursing department head and dean of the then-named College of Life Sciences and Technology. Dr. David Boudreaux, vice president for institutional advancement, says Grace was well known for her great relationships with students. “The number of hugs she received from her graduates at commencement is still legendary,” he says. “When a graduation would run over the anticipated duration, we always knew Grace was to blame.” A widow and widower, Grace and James became friends after a long chat at a Colonel football game and married in 2001. The couple has enjoyed traveling the world, entertaining guests in their home and adding new pieces to Grace’s extensive angel collection. “I’m one of her most recent angels,” James says with a laugh. James, who retired from Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. in Houma, helped strengthen the Nicholls Foundation’s portfolio by offering his financial planning guidance. He has also endowed two scholarships and a nursing professorship. A Har vard MBA graduate, James says he also loves being a part of Harvard on the Bayou. As a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and honorary Nicholls alumnus, he’s proud to call himself a double Colonel. — Stephanie Detillier 18
Dr. Gary LaFleur, Honorary Alumni Award recipient No matter the occasion, Dr. Gary LaFleur Jr. is consistent in his shoe selection. With a T-shirt and shorts? Cocodrie Reeboks. Jeans and a dress shirt? Cocodrie Reeboks. Suit and tie? You guessed it, Cocodrie Reeboks, better known to non-Cajuns as a pair of white fishing boots. LaFleur’s unconventional approach to fashion is indicative of the way he approaches his career as an associate professor of biological sciences. It’s not at all uncommon to see the Eunice native leading his biology students outdoors for class, turning a 5-gallon bucket into a seat, pulling out his well-worn guitar and breaking into an original Cajun tune. The lesson is unexpected, but the message is clear: For LaFleur, biology and Cajun culture are intertwined. “Gary’s love for Nicholls and south Louisiana is infectious,” says Debbie Raziano (BA ’74), director of alumni affairs. “The Nicholls Alumni Federation is proud to claim him as one of its own.” LaFleur’s contributions to Nicholls go well beyond the classroom. The father of two is also a founding member of the Louisiana Swamp Stomp Festival. Donating his time and talent to help make the annual three-day celebration of Cajun and Zydeco music a success is only part of the reason LaFleur originally got involved with the project. The other reason? To dance. He doesn’t miss a beat in his Cocodrie Reeboks. — Renee Piper
Alumni Federation News
Elaine Benoit, Ramon J. Labat Service Award recipient
Dr. Ramaraj Boopathy, Marie Fletcher Distinguished Service Award recipient A self-described wandering scientist who now calls Nicholls home, Dr. Ramaraj Boopathy found his way from India to Thibodaux by way of Scotland, Italy, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois. During his 13-year tenure at Nicholls, the distinguished service professor of biological sciences has become one of the university’s most prestigious and productive internationally acknowledged scholars. Boopathy’s academic accomplishments are impressive by any measure. The two-time Fulbright Scholar has brought nearly $10 million in sponsored projects to Nicholls, published 110 research papers in scientific journals and presented 227 papers at worldwide conferences. “Few faculty members become an invaluable, highly respected and beloved member of the Nicholls community after only a few years,” says Dr. John Doucet, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Raj has accomplished all of that and more. We are certainly a greater university because of Raj.” Described by his colleagues and students as principled, brilliant, humorous and humble, Boopathy transfers his extensive scientific knowledge to his students, as evidenced by their ability not only to compete — but also to win — at state, regional and national research competitions. “I truly enjoy interacting with students and mentoring them in their scientific training,” Boopathy says. “Seeing them go through the evolution from young freshmen to graduating, mature, productive citizens is a joy. Nicholls is a blessing. It is a pleasure to come to work every day.” — Renee Piper
It’s not unusual to find Elaine Benoit going beyond the call of duty, often working outside her standard schedule to assist students and serve the university. An administrative assistant in University College and 20-year Nicholls employee, Benoit is known around campus for her attention to detail, exceptional work ethic and reputation as a consummate professional. “I’m probably one of the first people a transfer student sees on campus,” Benoit says. “I like trying to help and guide them, and I always try to put myself in their shoes.” David Zerangue (BS ’82, MS ’85), director of University College Academic Services, says Elaine “has a knack for creating a professional and comfortable working environment. Her treatment of faculty, staff and students is always friendly and professional.” Away from the office, the Choupic resident enjoys fishing, camping, motorcycle riding and photography. “To me, photography is like therapy,” Benoit says of the hobby she took up in 2008. Benoit prefers shooting scenery, landscapes and wildlife. She recently photographed a bald eagle — a long-held goal — while on a fishing trip in Bayou Blue. “I didn’t catch any fish, but I shot an eagle,” Benoit jokes. The self-taught photographer’s work is sought after for silent-auction items for campus and community fundraisers. She generously shares her photographs to help raise money for causes that are personally meaningful, including Hope for Animals and Nicholls. — Renee Piper
Coastal Commerce, Corporate Mark of Honor recipient On the eve of Halloween, Coastal Commerce Bank employees assembled in front of Elkins Hall. They painted faces, organized a costume contest and helped children bob for apples and toss footballs. From start to finish, the bank staff orchestrated the Kasasa Rocks Nicholls event, featuring a concert by the popular ’90s band Gin Blossoms. “What was most impressive was that the main purpose of the event was to build community,” says Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert, university president. “And Coastal Commerce Bank was the catalyst that made it happen.” Established in 1999, Coastal Commerce has generously supported Nicholls by hiring its graduates and participating in various campus fundraisers. “We believe that making an investment in higher education will pay long-term dividends not just for the bank but for the community as a whole,” says Mark Folse (BS ’87), Coastal Commerce president and CEO. The bank’s officers also helped develop a strong bond between Nicholls and Fletcher Community College. Hulbert recalls first meeting L.J. Folse (DIP ’54), Coastal Commerce’s director emeritus, in 2003 and being put through a litmus test. While at a Rotary meeting, L.J. asked Hulbert what he thought of community colleges. “My supportive answer bought his loyalty and friendship for nine years,” Hulbert says. “Mr. L.J. Folse and his officers actively promoted good will and camaraderie between Nicholls and Fletcher, and the results have led to statewide recognition for both institutions.” — Stephanie Detillier The
COLONEL SPRING 2012
Brick by brick
Commemorate your campus years or honor a family member or friend by purchasing a carved brick to be placed in the campus quadrangle. Proceeds from $60 brick purchases go toward the Nicholls Foundation’s scholarship fund. For more information, call 985-448-4134.
Member of the Nicholls Alumni Federation Fall 2011 correction: Craig as fire chief from 1997 to Cheramie, a CPA and a trustee February 2012. to the Louisiana Public FaciliRaymond Peters (BA ’78) ties Authority, has a BS ’84. was appointed to the Workers’ Compensation AdviFRIENDS sory Council by Gov. Bobby Dr. Christopher E. Cenac Sr. Jindal. As a council member, wrote Eyes of an Eagle: Jean- Peters assists with reviews Pierre Cenac, Patriarch — An and makes recommendations Illustrated History of Early to the governor through the Houma-Terrebonne (Universi- Louisiana Workforce Comty Press of Mississippi, 2011) mission regarding the adminwith Claire Domangue istration of the workers’ comJoller (BA ’67). The book has pensation system. gained national and international attention and has been 1980s selected as an official book of John Gravois (BA ’80), the Louisiana Bicentennial a Fort Worth Star-Telegram Celebration. editor, wrote A Cajun FamDr. Terry Dantin, who retired ily Cookbook (Savory House in spring 2011 after a 42-year Press, 2012). career at Nicholls, was awarded the title of professor emeritus. Tim Robichaux (BS ’83, BA ’04) was named the 2011 Most Inspirational Teacher 1960s by the Diocese of HoumaLionel Naquin Jr. (BA ’68, Thibodaux’s parent associaMBA ’72), who retired in tion. He is the band director January 2011 after a 35-year at E.D. White Catholic High career at Nicholls, was award- School in Thibodaux. ed the title of vice president for finance and administration Glynn T. Boyd (BA ’84) is the public information spokesemeritus. person for Jefferson Parish Sheriff ’s Office. The Emmy1970s winning reporter worked at James Meza Jr. (MEd ’75) is WGNO-TV Channel 26 for acting superintendent of the 17 years. Jefferson Parish Public School 1990s System. Rick Foucheaux (BA ’76) played Nat Miller in Eugene O’Neill’s comedy Ah, Wilderness! at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in March and April. Mike Naquin (BS ’78) received the Outstanding Leadership and Chief for Life awards from the Thibodaux Fire Department. He served 20
Kenneth Cortez (BA ’95) has been certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) by the HR Certification Institute. He is the assistant director of human resources at Nicholls. Randy Pate (BS ’96) has been named chief of the Thibodaux Fire Department. Kara LeBoeuf Thibodaux (BS ’98) received the 2011 Louisiana Nursing Home Association’s Social Service Director of the Year Award. During her 13-year career as a social worker at Audubon Health and Rehab in Thibodaux, she counseled families and residents, offered spiritual guidance and mediated grievances. Korry Melton (BA ’99) and Shelly Pritchett Melton (BA ’00) opened Bella Productions Wedding Films in New Orleans in 2009. They were recently named a “Best of Weddings Winner” by theknot.com, a national wedding website. The award recognizes quality work and client satisfaction. 2000s
Scott Duplantis (BS ’01, MBA ’03) was promoted to senior financial adviser for JP Morgan Asset Management’s PriTerri McPhail Chaisson (AS vate Client Division in Austin, ’92) released her first country Texas. music CD, This Part of Me (self-released, 2012). She is a Shelly Marie Redmond (BS full-time respiratory therapist ’01), a dietician in Shreveat Ochsner St. Anne Gen- port, reached 1 million eral Hospital, where she has visitors on her website, worked for the past 20 years, collegelifestyles.org, which as well as a singer in the band began as a health and fitness CRUSH. blog. Her site features information on health, fitness, food, fashion and various products.
James Irwin (BA ’03, MBA ’06) is director of educational programs for Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity in Evanston, Ill.
Jacob Krieg (BS ’07) is a senior developer at Contract Land Staff in Richmond, Texas. He previously worked as a junior software programmer in Baton Rouge and a software Maggie Evans O’Quin (BS ’04) programmer for T. Baker is a board-certified critical Smith LLC in Houma. care nurse at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan, Anna Matherne (BA ’07) is a where her husband, Colby, is markets reporter for ICIS, the stationed. world’s largest petrochemical market information provider. Colby J. O’Quin (BS ’05), a She is based in Houston, U.S. Navy lieutenant, was where she covers the gasoline selected as the 2011 Junior trading market and assesses Nurse Corps Officer of the gasoline daily trading prices Year at the U.S. Naval Hospital in the United States. in Okinawa, Japan. For this David Vicknair (BS ’07) achievement, he received his second Navy and Marine earned a juris doctorate from Corps Achievement Medal. Loyola University’s College Since graduating from Nich- of Law in May 2011 and is an olls, he has received board associate attorney at Favret certification in critical care LLC in New Orleans, a pracnursing and mental health. tice focusing on corporate and He is currently serving as the general litigation. hospital’s night supervisor. Ashley Comeaux-Foret (BA Elizabeth Trahan Korf (BS ’06) ’08) has been a graphic earned a master’s degree from designer for Point of Vue magaSoutheastern Louisiana Uni- zine in Houma since February versity. She volunteers at The 2010. Parish School in Houston, which serves students with Christina Fontenot Gautreaux communication and learn- (BA ’08) has been hired to ing differences; St. Mary’s assist with the Terrebonne Seminary in the Archdio- Economic Development cese of Galveston-Houston; Authority’s Innovation Loan and the Autumn Grove, an and Technical Assistance assisted-living facility provid- Program, which aims to assist ing Alzheimer’s care. In her businesses affected by hurrifree time, Korf teaches RCIA canes. Gautreaux, who previ(Rite of Christian Initiation of ously served in the U.S. Army Adults) classes and confirma- Reserve, is a graduate student tion classes for her Catholic at Louisiana State University’s School of Library and Inforchurch. mation Science. Tabatha Utech-Stewart (BS ’06) is an adjunct professor Lardarius Webb (BGS ’08), of psychology at Mississippi cornerback for the NFL BalGulf Community College, timore Ravens, led his team George County Center in with five interceptions during the regular season and three Lucedale, Miss. in the postseason. In April, he
signed a six-year, $50 million 2010s contract with the Ravens. Ryan Donegan (BS ’10) has Caitlin Morris Bacon (BS been promoted as senior mar’09, BSN ’11) is a labor and keting producer for WBRZ delivery nurse at Terrebonne News 2 in Baton Rouge. He General Medical Center in is the youngest person the Houma. station has ever hired in this capacity. He produces on-air Brandon Champagne (BFA image promotions, including ’09) helps promote local art in writing, shooting, directing Houma through his creation and editing. He previously of Art Versus, an exhibition worked as the station’s spethat features artists’ work for cial projects and marketing up to three months. coordinator, overseeing community service, social media Thomas Duplantis (BS ’09) and contests. was promoted to assistant controller at Teche Regional Jesse Gautreaux (BSN ’10) Medical Center in Morgan is an emergency room nurse City. He previously served as a at Lady of the Sea General staff accountant for two years. Hospital in Cut Off. Jamie Folse Geesling (BA ’09) is a park ranger at Coronado National Memorial Park in southern Arizona. She is also a substitute teacher in Sierra Vista, Ariz., having earned a master’s degree in writing and linguistics at Northwestern State University. Amy Shows (BS ’09) earned a master’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of St. Augustine in August 2011. She works as an occupational therapist at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.
Rachal Sollie (BS ’10) teaches second grade at Escuela Internacional La Lima, an English school in La Lima, Honduras. She previously taught at Max Charter School in Thibodaux. Since moving to Honduras in July, she has met two other Nicholls alumni who are parents of her students.
Jeremy Breaux (BFA ’11) received the Carriage House Paper Merchandise Award for fourth place at the Fifth National Collegiate Handmade Paper Art Triennial, held at Rutgers in New Jersey. His winning pulp painting will Kimberly Detillier be exhibited at the Corcoran Westmoreland (BS ’09) College of Art + Design in received a certification in Washington, D.C., in fall 2012. lymphatic therapy through the Norton School of LymSarah Thibodeaux (BA ’11) phatic Therapy in St. Louis. is the digital sales manager at She is a licensed massage the Houma Courier and Daily therapist at Essentials Hair & Comet. Massage in Lockport. Mallory Vedros (BS ’11) is a staff accountant at Bourgeois Bennett, a CPA firm in Houma.
Tobey Sullivan Naquin (AS, BS ’01, MEd ’11) assists fifth-grader Faith Simon, 10, with her Colonel Chat session at South Thibodaux Elementary School. The sessions give students one-on-one time with education majors and provide them with technological experiences.
TECH TUTORING Tobey Sullivan Naquin (AS, BS ’01, MEd ’11) had the opportunity to make a lot of money after earning her bachelor’s degree. Her family owns Always In Mind Inc., a local company that distributes promotional products and manages safety-recognition programs. But joining the family business wasn’t what the Thibodaux native wanted to do. “I’ve always had a passion for nurturing and teaching kids,” the South Thibodaux Elementary School teacher says. “That’s my ability, and that’s my purpose — to light a spark in students.” When Naquin returned to Nicholls as a graduate student, she created a program called Colonel Chat as her capstone project in the educational technology leadership program. A partnership between South Thibodaux Elementary and the Nicholls College of Education, the one-on-one video chats use webcams and free Internet software to provide virtual reading tutorials for fifth-graders. Without leaving the Nicholls campus, undergraduate education students gain field experience by leading the Web tutoring sessions. “The kids absolutely love it,” Naquin says. The
“To see their faces light up, to see how quickly they learn, is wonderful. Plus, we’ve noticed a definite increase in test scores with the fifthgraders who participated.” Colonel Chat has expanded to include partnerships with three local schools, and Dr. Cynthia Vavasseur, assistant professor of education, says she plans to add more schools to the program each semester. As she watches her project grow, Naquin is equally impressed with the technological savvy and dedication of the Nicholls students on the other end of the communication network. It’s often difficult for teachers to provide their students with oneon-one attention, so Colonel Chat provides the opportunity for students to interact with their own tutor, who can assess their individual academic needs and adjust accordingly. Naquin’s son, a straight-A student, took part in a Colonel Chat session and was quickly identified by his Nicholls tutor as a student who needed additional academic challenges. The tutor provided those challenges on the spot, without preparation, Naquin says. “I knew immediately; that tutor was definitely in the right field,” she says. — Graham Harvey
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oseph Wallace-Williams (BGS ’08) never thought he’d be admitted to a university in the first place. Now the New Orleans native is less than a semester away from earning a Master of Divinity from Sewanee: The University of the South’s School of Theology in Sewanee, Tenn. The Rev. Wallace-Williams says much of the credit goes to the Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders at Nicholls. “I didn’t think I was smart, but the folks at the dyslexia center helped me to have confidence in my own academic ability, to be an advocate for myself,” Wallace-Williams says with his trademark enthusiasm. “It turns out, I’m just as smart as a Yale graduate; I only learn things differently. The biggest gift I received was confidence.” Wallace-Williams says the most gratifying part of his undergraduate days was when he spoke publicly to parents of dyslexic children at a Houma library. Armed with the confidence and knowledge he’d gained at Nicholls, he told the group he was living proof that success is possible. “I let them know that I wasn’t even expected to graduate
from high school,” he says. “My message gave the parents hope.” Upon graduation, Wallace-Williams will serve as associate rector at Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Memphis, where he will be the congregation’s first African-American priest. His role will include welcoming new parishioners, overseeing the young adult group and preaching during school chapel services. He hopes to specialize in ministry to young adults, especially HIV-positive black males. Wallace-Williams says his experiences as a gay Christian have sensitized him to the roadblocks that others in his shoes might face. “There is a sense in the gay community that the church is not a welcoming place to be,” he says. “My mission is to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself.” Considering Wallace-Williams’ history of defying expectations and overcoming obstacles, there’s no doubt that he will have an impact on his Memphis congregation. “There was a time in my life when I couldn’t even read a newspaper,” he says. “Now I can — and so much more.” — Graham Harvey
Photo courtesy of Sewanee
Defying expectations J
Because of his dyslexia, the Rev. Joseph Wallace-Williams (BGS ’08) didn’t know if he’d make it through high school. With the help of the dyslexia center at Nicholls, he’s on his way to a master’s degree.
In Memoriam FACULTY/STAFF DEATHS Adrian Lawrence Gauthier (BS ’72) of Thibodaux on March 17 at age 62. He Regina “Reggie” M. Stegar of Thibodaux, a Nicholls library staff member was the campus photographer from 1971 to 2000. from 1961 to 1988, on Jan. 17 at age 88. Dr. Ralph Herman Gremillion of Thibodaux on March 6 at age 85. An emeritus Marguerite Ledet Thibodaux of Thibodaux on March 18 at age 89. She was professor of education, he taught at Nicholls from 1969 to 1994. a custodial worker in Ellender Hall from 1968 to 1983. ALUMNI DEATHS Willie S. John Maus Jr. (BS ’69) of Reserve on March 9 at age 64. The Christine Lyle LeBoeuf (BGS ’97) on March 2 in Donaldsonville at age 63. She superintendent of St. Peter Cemetery, he was previously employed by was a Nicholls Hall of Fame graduate and a teacher at Assumption High School. Isidore Newman High School, Godchaux-Henderson Sugar Refinery and Graugnard Farms. Marie Ory Dupont (BA ’04), director of development at St. Charles Catholic High School, on Oct. 23 in LaPlace at age 29. She was a Nicholls Hall of Joy Champagne Schexnayder (BA ’72) of Thibodaux on Dec. 26 at age 76. Fame graduate, a two-year Nicholls Worth editor and a national reporting She taught at St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School in Thibodaux for 29 competition award winner. years before retiring. Lanny David Ledet (AS ’07, BS ’08) of Gheens on Jan. 19 at age 43. He worked Timothy Ray Hebert (MBA ’86) of Houma on March 4 at age 50. He taught for Golden Ranch Farms in Gheens for more than 25 years. at Terrebonne High School and wrote several books on Acadian-Cajun history and genealogy. Fulton Mitchell Washington (MEd ’09) of Gibson on March 6 in New Orleans at age 38. He worked at B. Edward Boudreaux Middle School in Baldwin. 22
In the Colonel Spirit
Cameras, combat and
U.S. Navy veteran Cecily McMahan (BA ’84) is a cowboy boot-wearing television producer who choreographs stage sword fights on the side. At the core of this multifaceted, fun-loving woman is a proud Nicholls alumna who believes in giving Photo courtesy of Cecily McMahan
back to the university that made her feel like she mattered.
t 9 years old, I knew I wanted to work in broadcasting. I would rewrite movies if I didn’t like their ending, and I’d draw sets, showing where I wanted the cameras placed. Sometimes I would reshoot something so well in my mind that I’d forget how the actual movie ended. By 19, I had a job working for PBS in New Mexico. Because I wanted to do more television engineering, I joined the U.S. Navy in 1974, the last year of Vietnam. The Pentagon called and assigned me to work for the American Forces Radio Television Services in California. At that time, there weren’t many women broadcasters. I’d go out to shoots and come back with purple and green bruises from being elbowed by male broadcasters. Then, I learned to wear cowboy boots. The instep was really sharp, so when I could tell that someone was about to push me, I’d slide the instep of my boot down the guy’s leg. Within a week, word got around not to mess with me. A few years later, I was living in Texas when a friend of mine moved to Houma, so I went down to visit her for Mardi Gras. As you would have it, my first day in town, my friend and I were stuck
in traffic and pulled over at a car wreck to see if we could help. Directing traffic was a nice Cajun man — Frank Galliano — whom I met and later ended up marrying. With the GI bill and two school-age stepsons, going back to college was perfect for me. I didn’t think Houma or Thibodaux was the center of TV broadcasting, so I thought I’d get a degree in English education from Nicholls. I had taken college classes in every town I had lived. I grew up in a small New Mexico town of about 20,000 and then attended a state university of 30,000. It was the most awful place to go. The educators didn’t care; you were just a number to them. That’s not an education. When I got down to Nicholls, people called it Harvard on the Bayou. I thought, yeah, right. But going to Nicholls was one of the luckiest things to ever happen in my life. I was 10 years older than most of the students, but I had so many wonderful experiences — being a part of Homecoming and the whole campus. Bob Blazier [deceased broadcasting instructor] was one of the most dynamic people I ever met and one of the best in the industry. Nicholls expected as much from its teachers as
two. It gave me that ability to totally focus. Each semester, I had the same two roommates, and on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we’d drive to New Orleans together and see the sites. After moving back to California, I helped start a TV station in Richmond, KCRT, which I managed from 2003 until I retired in January. I also ended up getting into Renaissance blade work and fight choreography. I still teach sword fighting, and I choreograph combat scenes for low- and no-budget films in San Francisco. Of so many great things that happened in my life, going to Nicholls was one of the best. I remember thinking that I really wanted to make enough money one day to afford to donate to the student lounge so it could be improved. I got so much from Nicholls, so I enjoy giving back what I can now. I always felt like I was important to the school and that I mattered. I talk to high school students often and tell them to not just look at college rankings; choose a
it did from its students, and everyone wins in school where they will count. that situation. I taught remedial English while I — As told to Stephanie Detillier was there, and I was encouraged to build strong relationships with my students. When I was getting ready for finals, I would check into the dorms and stay on campus for about a week or The
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COMING UP Athletics Seafood Extravaganza .................................................Thursday, May 24 Homecoming Weekend ...............................Friday, Oct. 12 to Saturday, Oct. 13 Manning Passing Academy ........................ Thursday, July 12 to Sunday, July 15 Nicholls Alumni Federation John Brady Golf Classic ................Friday, Oct. 12 Sponsor A+ Scholar Wine and Food Extravaganza..............Wednesday, Oct. 3 Family Day.........................................................................................Saturday, Nov. 3
Parting Shot Sunny skies, swamp pop vibes
Cajun and Zydeco music, dancing, local art and cuisine drew big crowds to the fourth annual Louisiana Swamp Stomp Festival, held in March on the Nicholls campus.