Success Stories spotlight McNeese students and professors that have been chosen as recipients of scholarships and professorships for their academic and teaching excellence. It also features McNeese Foundation and Athletic Foundation donors.
Each story will share how professors have utilized the professorship's funds to enhance their teaching, how students have succeeded in their college journey and how donors have given back to their community and/or alma mater.
Endowed professorships are established through the Foundation with a $60,000 private gift and matched with a $40,000 donation by the Louisiana Board of Regents, bringing the endowment to $100,000. Scholarships are endowed when they reach the $10,000 level. In/out scholarship funds are donated for a specific account for immediate payout to the recipient and can be established with as little as $100.
Click on the names below to read their "success story."
Lakeisha Guilliam's passion for nursing began in the living room of her St. Martinville, La., home. She grew up an avid watcher of the Discovery Health Channel and medical television shows such as ER.
After graduating as valedictorian from St. Martinville High School with a 4.0 grade point average, Lakeisha enrolled at McNeese State University as a nursing major. She had seldom visited Lake Charles before but chose McNeese based on the College of Nursing's respected reputation. "I heard about the great nursing program at McNeese and its high success rate,” Lakeisha says. After touring the campus with her mother and a friend, Lakeisha decided to make the move to Lake Charles. "I thought it would be a chance for me to grow, and I love the decision I made.”
Lakeisha graduated in May 2010 with a bachelor's degree in nursing. She credits the "awesome” nursing faculty members for helping her and other nursing students obtain a degree. "The professors challenge you to think critically,” Lakeisha says. "They do an excellent job in preparing us to become successful nurses for tomorrow.”
Lakeisha also received financial help along the way. In addition to her tuition being covered through the TOPS program, she was awarded the Frances Thompson King Memorial Scholarship. She remembers the day she learned of being selected as a scholarship recipient. "I received a call saying I had qualified for a scholarship,” she recalls. "I was so surprised and thankful for that blessing. The scholarship helped me achieve my goal of obtaining a nursing degree and helping others.”
After graduation she plans to move near family in Orlando, Fla., and begin working as a nurse. When she has a few years of working under her belt, Lakeisha plans to pursue a master's degree and become a nursing home administrator. "Nursing is a way of giving back to the community,” she explains. "It's more than treating someone who has an illness or disease; it's treating the person as a whole. Some patients just want someone to talk to. It's fulfilling to help someone and make them feel better.”
When talking with Lakeisha, you can see and feel how passionate she is about nursing. That passion is something that hasn't gone unnoticed by her professors. "I enjoy getting to know all of my clinical nursing students during the time they are assigned to me, but there are those like Lakeisha that touch my heart with the sincerity and compassion with which they surrender to those who are entrusted to their care,” says Rhonda Johnson, assistant professor of nursing. "Her strong religious faith and dedication to nursing will enable her to become a nurse that is truly focused on delivering high-quality, patient-centered care with a very personal touch!”
From a young girl watching nurses on television to becoming one herself, Lakeisha is fulfilling her dream. "As I look at it,” said Lakeisha, "the sky is the limit.”
A Little Effort Goes A Long Way
A little bit of effort paid off in a big way for McNeese State University senior Allison Logan.
Completing a scholarship application and writing a short essay landed her the Hollins Family Scholarship
dedicated to junior or senior business majors.
The Lacassine, La. native is no stranger to putting in extra effort. Allison's high school grades earned her the TOPS award and an H.C. Drew Scholarship. She also worked on campus at McNeese in the financial aid office. In reflecting on her college experience, Allison sometimes wishes she had participated in more "fun” things instead focusing on her studies. Her focus, however, has garnered her a 3.95 grade point average.
Allison began her studies at McNeese as a radiologic science major. After reaching the clinical phase of the program she decided to transition to the College of Business and major in general business administration. Allison noted the fact that the College of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business as one of the reasons she chose business.
In March 2010 Allison began interning with ENGlobal at Sasol North America's Westlake facility in the human resources department. While interning she gained valuable real-world experience and a well-rounded view of the disciplines associated with her business degree.
Allison's responsibilities with ENGlobal included recruiting employees, maintaining Department of Transportation files, assisting on a development of a performance management system, one that will be enforced in all of Sasol North America's operations, and auditing labor relations documents and personnel files. Allison's extra efforts were rewarded again, and she was retained through December 2010 to work in Sasol's accounting department.
Kerri Courville, Sasol North America human resources manager, praised Allison's work and her work ethic. "Allison has been such a joy to work with,” said Kerri. "She has a can-do attitude and is always willing to learn new things. My goal was to give her a well-rounded view of the disciplines associated with her business degree while assisting Sasol with a variety of administrative tasks during her internship. Allison's performance has exceeded my expectation.”
"As the recipient of the Hollins Family Scholarship, I won't have to take out student loans,” explains Allison. "The scholarship allows me to focus more on school. I thank the Hollins Family for their dedication to McNeese and its students. Providing a scholarship is one of the best things you can do with your money. The scholarship has bettered me as a person, and in turn, betters society.”
Allison will graduate in May 2011 and plans to work in the business field and possibly attend graduate school. She understands the value of education and hopes to pay it forward. "Giving to a scholarship is a trickle-down effect, and I hope to give back to McNeese through a scholarship after I graduate.”
Sharing Peace and Knowledge
The dream of obtaining a higher education and the opportunity to reach his full potential
brought Pankaj Chandra, Ph.D., and his wife, Meera Raj, from India to the United States.
Growing up in India, Pankaj saw firsthand the poverty that exists there and the vast difference between his native country and the United States. "In America, you work hard to achieve your goals, and no one prevents you from achieving your goals,” states Pankaj.
Pankaj always knew teaching would be his life profession; it was the perfect way for him to give back by sharing his knowledge. His educational influences included his mother, a college professor; his father, a post office employee; and his father-in-law, a high school principal. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics, chemistry and mathematics from Meerut University in India, he obtained a second bachelor's degree and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.
Pankaj made the move with his wife and two sons to the United States to attend Texas A&M University, where he received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 1987. He was then hired by Dr. O. Carroll Karkalits as an assistant professor at McNeese State University in the department of engineering and moved up the ranks to professor in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. "This was my first job out of college and hopefully my last," he remarks.
Pankaj enjoys teaching because it always makes him feel young. "You learn every time you teach something—maybe how to teach a different way so students will better understand. It adds to and enriches your knowledge."
Teaching at McNeese allows Pankaj to know his students by name and their background. He often runs into former students and is happy to see them doing well in life. "They ask me if I'm still here at McNeese, and I say ‘Yes, I'm still here,'" he says with a laugh.
After his father, Shanti Chandra, passed away in 2009, he and Meera created the Chandra "Peace" Memorial Scholarship to honor his father's memory. Shanti means "peace" in Hindi. The scholarship is designated for junior female engineering majors.
"I recognized that my parents saw the value of education” Pankaj says. "Education is the most important part of life—it opens your mind. If I can give someone the same help to see their dreams come true, then I have done my part.”
Pankaj received the Distinguished Faculty Award in 2000 and has obtained over $400,000 in grant
fundings for research and equipment in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.
He and Meera, a 1999 McNeese graduate, continue to give back to society through teaching and tutoring and serving as coordinators for India Night, a celebration that showcases the Indian culture and food.
"Search your soul and try to give as much as you can," Pankaj encourages. "It doesn't matter what it is—time, money or knowledge—just give." A Lifelong Passion
If you've ever attended a McNeese State University Theatre production, it's probably
because of Anita Tritico. Anita served as the publicity and promotion manager and has been involved with McNeese Theatre for 30 years.
As a young girl in Crawford, Texas, Anita dreamed of moving to New York and becoming an actress. "I wanted a day job on a soap opera,” she recalled.
Anita majored in mass communications at the University of Texas at Austin and took courses in journalism, public relations, radio, music, social sciences and theatre. Theatre, though, has always been her passion.
"All I wanted to do was act,” Anita said. "I took speech lessons from the time I could stand up. I've never thought of doing anything else besides theatre.”
Eventually, she made it to New York; however, she didn't become a professional actress – she became a wife. Anita eloped to New York with Joseph "Joe” Tritico just three weeks after they met. Those three weeks turned into 46 years of marriage and two children.
The couple moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana, Joe's hometown. Anita remembers how much Joe loved Lake Charles. "He loved to look at the lake from the view in the Pioneer Club and would always say ‘why would anyone want to live anywhere else in the world?'”
Joe worked as a lawyer and served as first assistant district attorney for the 14th Judicial District and as the U.S. Magistrate for the Western District of Louisiana's Lake Charles Division. He also served as part of the Judge Advocate General department in the United States Air Force and tried cases all over the world including Europe and North Africa.
McNeese always had a special place in the Triticos' hearts. Joe represented McNeese as an attorney and enjoyed serving in that capacity. The couple attended McNeese football games and cultural events. Joe was also the first president of the 100 Club, now known as the Quarterback Chapter Club.
Anita enrolled at McNeese and took classes for "fun.” "I've always loved class and wished I could go forever.”
When Anita was a McNeese student, not much emphasis was placed on promoting McNeese theatre productions, so Anita put her communication and theatre background to use and volunteered to help with publicity. Soon after that, a publicity assistant job was created at McNeese, and Anita has been working ever since.
Her responsibilities include program and brochure printing, mailings, and exhibits in the Shearman Fine Arts Center. She also established season memberships to provide needed income for the performing arts department.
Anita is a strong believer in the theatre program and is proud of the work produced. "McNeese theatre has produced high-quality performances over the years. It's comparable to bigger universities who have more resources.”
Another way Anita contributes to theatre is through the Anita and Joe Tritico Theatre Scholarship she established through the McNeese Foundation after Joe passed away in 1994. The scholarship recipient works as her assistant throughout the year.
She receives the most enjoyment from working with the students. "It's most rewarding to see the students come in as timid freshmen and see them develop into wonderful actors,” she said. "What a transformation!”
As a longtime Foundation supporter, Anita is honoring Joe's memory and giving back to the University he loved.
A fundraising effort is underway to name the new theatre in the Shearman Fine Arts Annex in Anita and Joe's honor. You can support this effort by purchasing one theatre seat with a $1,000 gift which can be spread out over five years. As part of your gift, your name will be engraved on the seat. Seats may be named in honor or in memory of a loved one as well. If you are interested in purchasing a seat, contact the McNeese Foundation at 337-475-5588.
Marching to the Beat of His Own Drum
It all started with a Christmas present. McNeese State University senior Eric Boyett received
his first drum set during Christmas of his seventh-grade year. That drum set nurtured a talent that has carried Eric through junior high, high school and now college as a member of the Pride of McNeese Marching Band.
Eric began playing the drums in middle school and was a member of the Barbe High School band for four years. In high school, he played the bass drum his freshman and sophomore years before moving to the snare drum his junior year, which he continues to play today.
When the time came to choose a college, he applied to McNeese State University and Northwestern State University. After researching both schools and talking with friends, he ultimately choose McNeese. "I've been coming to McNeese football games since I was 9 or 10 years old,” Eric says. "Watching the drum line was one of the things that made me want to come to McNeese.”
The University noticed that Eric was also talented academically and awarded him the Sam Emerson Memorial Music Scholarship. As a music education major with goals of teaching music to junior high and high school students, he says the scholarship helps tremendously. Music majors have courses that count as one or two credit hours instead of the normal three credit hours per class, which can lead to taking anywhere from nine to twelve classes in a semester. Eric also helps teach drum line and percussion at Westlake High School.
"Being so busy with classes, practicing with the marching band twice a week, Friday night Westlake games and Saturday McNeese games does not leave much time for a job,” explains Eric. "The scholarship is my biggest source of income. It helps me pay for things such as books, musical equipment and tuition.”
He credits Lonny Benoit, performing arts assistant professor, as a positive influence during his college career. "[Lonny] always pushes me to do my best and to strive for excellence.”
In addition to the marching band, Eric is a member of the McNeese Wind Symphony, McNeese Percussion Ensemble, McNeese Steel Band and McNeese Brazilian Bloco. He has performed with the Lake Charles Symphony for three years and is the McNeese drum line section leader.
You can catch Eric performing Saturday nights with his fellow band members in Cowboy Stadium during his final football season since he will graduate in spring 2011, at his senior recital through the Department of Performing Arts or at one of the many campus events.
A Big Impact in a Small Town
In most small towns, everybody knows everybody, and everyone in Lacassine, La., knows Eva
and Frank Bryan. The younger generations may have never met the Bryans, but they know of their importance to the Lacassine community.
The Bryans first began teaching in Lacassine in 1936 when the local school offered first through sixth grades. Frank was principal and taught math while Eva taught English and served as librarian. Immediately, the Bryans began planning to expand the school to 11 grades. With Eva's encouragement, Frank often traveled to Baton Rouge to convince the state board of education that the community merited and could support a high school.
Grades 7, 8 and 9 were added in 1938, but students had to travel to Welsh for grades 10 and 11. The Bryans took it upon themselves to make sure that each student would receive a full high school education, even teaching the higher grades without pay. A small number of students graduated in 1941—a memorable achievement.
Gloria, the Bryans' daughter-in-law, described Eva as "an energetic person that knew how to inspire people to reach for the gusto,” and Frank as "a little quieter but loved ‘his' students and community.”
Both Eva and Frank retired in 1963 and continued living in Lacassine until their deaths, less than a month apart, in 1975. "They dedicated their whole lives to Lacassine High School and loved every single minute spent there,” said Gloria.
Through the efforts of Joyce Hoffpauir Michel and Frank Wilkinson, two former students, and Leroy Thompson, the former Lacassine High School principal, The Bryan Scholarship was established in 1976. The fund was originally maintained in a Lacassine school account. Years later the scholarship committee decided to transfer the funds to the McNeese Foundation to ensure that the fund would exist in perpetuity with only the interest earned awarded as the scholarship. Over the years this homegrown fund has steadily increased from gifts made by family, former students, friends and community members.
"The Bryan Scholarship has resulted from the efforts of a few tireless sponsors who still cherish the education they received because of Frank and Eva. A little school in a little community felt the Bryans' BIG impact,” Gloria remarked.
Sisters Amanda and Brandi Myers both received the Bryan Scholarship for their respective freshman years at McNeese State University.
"I've always heard of the Bryan Scholarship,” said Amanda. "It's an honor to have received the scholarship because it's a part of our school history. You see the picture of Mr. Bryan every time you walk in the school.”
Older sister Brandi appreciated the opportunity to further her education. "It was exciting to receive a local scholarship and to see the doors it opened,” Brandi said. "Working hard to make the grades in high school and participating in high school and community activities paid off.”
Eva and Frank's dedication to the Lacassine community and education has been evident for over 70 years and will surely be felt for many generations to come.
Make no bones about it, Connie Young loves her profession. Since 1989, she has instructed students as an assistant professor and clinical coordinator in the biology and health sciences department at McNeese State University.
Her path to teaching began in a hospital. After graduating from McNeese with a Bachelor of Science degree in radiologic technology, she worked at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital (LCMH) as a staff radiographer in surgery and mammography. A promotion made her a clinical instructor and mammographer at LCMH.
Part of her job duties then included providing clinical instruction to radiologic science students assigned to the hospital site. Her work with the students and the accolades from her supervisor piqued her interest in becoming an educator. In 1989 she began working on her Master of Education degree and teaching at the university level, and she hasn't looked back.
In addition to presenting numerous papers and being a published author, Connie is a past recipient of the Judge Edwin F. Hunter Jr. Endowed Professorship in Health and Science. She utilized the professorship award to hire two radiologic science students to assist with research and data gathering for a project studying breast cancer disparities in women based on race and economics.
Connie and her assistants created a form that analyzed patients who received mammograms during the last six months of 2008. The data studied were: age, mammogram date, ethnicity, if patients were insured or uninsured, mammogram results, and if a follow-up mammogram was scheduled.
The positive mammogram results are being further analyzed by reviewing treatment plans and studying the patient's health records. After the study is complete, Connie will prepare a lecture and paper based on the findings of her research.
This project is Connie's first foray into the research aspect of teaching. "This professorship has helped me become more confident professionally to seek out other research avenues,” she said. "It was also a good experience for those two students to be a part of this.”
Since the radiologic science program at McNeese started in 1978, it has grown to more than 200 student majors. Radiologic science majors receive a mixture of classroom and real-world experience. The first three semesters, or the pre-professional phase, of the program are spent taking general education courses, and the final two and a half years comprise the professional program. Students enrolled in the professional phase are rotated through area hospitals and clinics.
After completing the program, students are eligible to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists certification examination. McNeese alumni make up 60 percent of the x-ray technicians in Southwest Louisiana.
Connie also works part-time as a radiologic technologist at W.O. Moss Regional Hospital on the weekends. "Working on weekends helps me understand more of what my students go through,” she explains.
McNeese radiologic science students are fortunate to have a professor like Connie who goes above and beyond the call of duty on both a personal and professional level.A Rodeo Powerhoue
Rodeo has been a part of McNeese State University since 1947 when the first rodeo team was formed. The team was sponsored by the Horn and Hoof and Veterans Clubs.
The rodeo program has performed so well that they make it difficult for bigger schools like Texas A&M to recruit members for their rodeo team. In fact, a recent issue of Texas A&M Foundation's magazine, Spirit, described McNeese as a "regional rodeo powerhouse.”
The tradition began in the 1950s with the McNeese men's rodeo team winning three consecutive national championships from 1957 to 1959. Currently, the men's team is in third place in the Southern Region's team standings with only 100 points separating first and third place. The women's team is currently in second place in the Region, their best standings in over five years, and are on track to finish first.
In 2009-2010 the men's team finished first in the Southern Region for the second year in arow, and Kobyn Williams finish in the top five at the College National Finals Rodeo in saddle bronc riding.
The winning tradition continues with the most recent championship won in 2008 by Hope Thompson for ladies breakaway roping.
In 2007, three national champions were produced: Beau Schroder in bull riding, Ben Schofner in steer wrestling and Lydia Martin in reserved breakaway. The men's team took fifth in the nation that same year.
Winning those championships requires dedication and hard work, qualities to which rodeo team members are accustomed. According to McNeese Rodeo Coach Justin Browning, team members usually put in 12- to 16-hour days. "They [students] get up early to feed their animals, go to class, go to work, practice and study. A usual day is 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” he says.
The rodeo season consists of 10 rodeos. Traveling to each competition can be quite expensive. Entry fees and gas, lodging and animal feed expenses add up quickly. McNeese is able to provide travel assistance for the top six men and top four women on the team through a student assessment fee. That leaves some students to pay their own way, however, in addition to paying for common college expenses such as tuition, books, meals and housing.
In 2000, Billy Navarre and William Doré Sr. learned that local students were attending college out-of-state where more financial assistance was provided for the rodeo program and its students. In an effort to stem this exodus, the Golden Saddle Club was formed to provide scholarships for McNeese rodeo students. The initial fundraising effort raised $250,000 for scholarships. Each year eight team members are selected by the rodeo coach and are awarded scholarships varying from $1,000 to $1,500 per semester.
Katie Perkins received a Golden Saddle Club Scholarship and competed for McNeese rodeo for four years in breakaway roping and goat tying. "McNeese is the only college in Louisiana that has a rodeo program. You can rodeo at other schools, but as an independent,” Katie explains. "The scholarship helps me pay for my books, rodeo entry fees and travel expenses.”
Coach Browning explained how the rodeo team invests the funds that they receive back into the community. "Horses alone can cost $200 each month including their feed, veterinarian bills, shoeing and so on,” he says. "Rodeo students spend money in the community for clothing, gas, saddles and animal boarding fees.”
The combination of talented rodeo athletes, a dedicated coach and financial supporters will ensure that McNeese continues its rodeo powerhouse tradition.
Bringing Technology to the Classroom
Dr. Linda Larson is bringing classroom technology into the 21st century. As an associate professor in the educational leadership and instructional technology department at McNeese State University, she teaches educators how to integrate technology into the classroom. She also instructs business professionals on how to effectively utilize technology in the workplace.
A born and raised California girl, Dr. Larson began teaching at McNeese seven years ago. Before coming to McNeese, she taught in various California secondary schools and at the university level. She obtained a bachelor's degree in English language arts from Whittier College and one in physical education from California State University at Long Beach. She continued her studies, receiving a master's degree in instructional technology from California State University at Los Angeles and a doctorate in educational technology and leadership from Pepperdine University.
At McNeese Dr. Larson serves as the coordinator of the educational technology program, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses, advising students, and developing curriculum. She is also responsible for program design and development. Her graduate classes cover research, video technology, mentoring, professional development, and design and development of multimedia for instruction.
"I view my teaching role as a guide and coach,” Larson said. "One of the greatest gifts I can give my students is to design course content, projects, and activities that instill in students the ability solve ‘real world' problems.”
Larson attributes improvements in her teaching in part to her research gained as the recipient of the Jack V. Doland Academic Professorship. The professorship award was utilized to conduct a pilot study on the Promethean Activclassroom to establish a baseline of technology integration and higher order thinking of the faculty in the Burton College of Education and to further faculty professional development.
Today she continues to research the Promethean Activclassroom that is being added to more and more classrooms throughout the United States. This latest technology makes the learning environment more interactive and engaging for students.
"The aim of my research is to promote higher order learning by students and teachers through integration of technology into the preservice and inservice teacher curriculum.”
Classrooms that incorporate Promethean technology have an interactive whiteboard and various software tools such as pens, slates, and remotes for students use.
"In traditional lectures, teachers don't know for certain if the students understand,” explained Larson. "With this [Promethean] technology, each student can have a slate or other device at their desk and interact with the instructor. Teachers can then see how their students responded and know immediately if they need to explain more or move on.”
Dr. Larson's dedicated and continuous research will ensure that teachers and students remain on the cutting edge of classroom technology.
"Technological change is traveling at the speed of light and to keep up we must be ‘lifelong' learners. Education is a constantly evolving, growing, changing set of experiences and the lifeblood of the information society. It supplies students with the nutrients they need to
create and synthesize knowledge.”
A Good Time for a Great Cause
Each year more than 400 Cowboy fans join together on a single night to have a good time while raising funds to financially support over 350 McNeese State University student-athletes.
Denim & Diamonds is an annual fundraiser sponsored by the McNeese Athletic Foundation. The event includes dinner along with silent and live auctions. Auction items range from guided hunting and fishing trips to wine baskets, home décor, sports memorabilia, and dinner cruises. Athletes from all sports will be on hand to serve food and visit with Cowboy supporters.
According to Pam McGough, coordinator of athletic development, the proceeds are dedicated for student-athlete scholarships and athletic programs.
"Denim & Diamonds is a fun event for people to attend, while at the same time, showing their support for the student-athletes and McNeese. We look forward to another successful year and greatly appreciate the Southwest Louisiana community for their support in advancing McNeese athletics,” stated Pam.
McNeese State basketball players Kiara Johnson and Stephan Martin are just two of the numerous athletes achieving their goal of a higher education with the aid of student-athlete scholarships.
Kiara, a junior early childhood education major, didn't plan on playing college basketball but was recruited by Cowgirls basketball coach Brooks Donald-Williams out of Carroll High School in Monroe.
The six-foot-one inch forward says the scholarship makes a big difference in her life, and she greatly appreciates it. She uses the scholarships monies to help cover expenses related to books and on-campus housing.
"It's a blessing to have my books, meal plan, housing and tuition covered by my basketball scholarship, Pell grant and TOPS,” said Kiara. "It also takes a burden off of my parents, especially with five girls in the family.”
Lacassine High School product Stephan Martin knew he always wanted to play basketball at the college level. He began playing basketball in elementary school and has been playing ever since, even playing on his high school team when he was in junior high. Receiving a scholarship has helped him achieve both his goals of playing college basketball and obtaining a higher education.
"Thank you to the donors for supporting us and letting people who can't afford to go to school have the opportunity to go to college,” Stephan said. "You [donors] are changing someone's life every day.”
The success of Denim & Diamonds is directly related to those who show their support by purchasing tickets and auction items. Leslie Harless has attended the fundraiser the past two years. "It is a great event with plenty of good food, good friends,a wide variety of auction items, andprovides a perfect opportunity to meet the MSU athletes, said Leslie.” "The atmosphere is fun-filled, entertaining and informal - a great way to support MSU Athletics!"
The third annual Denim & Diamonds fundraiser was held Thursday, March 4, 2010, in the Lake Charles Civic Center Exhibition Hall.
From a Covered Wagon to a Spaceship
From a covered wagon to a spaceship. That is how Linda Finley describes the changes she saw on the McNeese State University campus during her 35 years of service.
The time Linda has invested at McNeese could easily span over 40 years if you include her time as a student. After graduating in three years with a Bachelor of Science degree in business education, she began graduate school immediately and obtained a Master of Education degree in counseling and guidance. She also completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Spanish while working full-time.
Linda began her career in education at Marion High School (now Washington-Marion Magnet High School) teaching English, shorthand, typing and office practices. During her third year of teaching, she accepted a job as the first admissions counselor at McNeese. After two years in that position, she moved up the ranks to assistant registrar, associate registrar and registrar.
By the time she retired as dean of university services and registrar in 2001, students were enrolling and registering for classes online from the comfort of their homes. She was awarded Registrar Emeritus status for her many years of dedication and is the longest-serving registrar at McNeese.
Just to show how times have changed, she recalled registering for classes as an undergraduate. "We registered for classes by picking up individual class cards in the library on the second floor of Kaufman Hall,” Linda reminisced. "I remember filling out countless cards with my schedule. We had to fill out one each for the department head, dean, faculty advisor and student services.”
Linda has worked with the McNeese Foundation since its inception in 1965 - first as a university employee and now as a donor. She established the Linda Finley Scholarship, and is a charter member of the 1939 Living Oak Society.
The decision to endow a scholarship stemmed from working with so many students over the years. "I saw how essential it is for some students to have [financial] assistance,” said Linda. "It's a good investment to help those that are academically capable. I believe in the importance of assisting students either directly through scholarships or indirectly by grants given to faculty for research which filters down to the students.”
A variety of activities keeps Linda busy during her retirement years. She is a master gardener, Lake Charles and Louisiana Garden Club member, treasurer of the McNeese Federal Credit Union, a Calcasieu-Cameron Retired Teachers Association member, poll commissioner, past president of the Outriders, McNeese's retirement association, and is active in her church. When she's not working in her garden or attending meetings, you can find her exercising at the McNeese Rec Complex or exploring new travels across the United States.
A lifelong learner, Linda is currently enrolled in Biology 308, plant taxonomy, at McNeese. According to the McNeese catalog, plant taxonomy is described as "principles of nomenclature, identification, and classification and their application to the flowering plants.” Just another way for Linda to add to her "garden” of knowledge.
Recipient, Josi Andrus Brady Memorial Scholarship
To read the statistics that Derrick Fourroux has achieved in just three short years as a first-string quarterback is impressive. To get to know Derrick Fourroux as a person…now that is remarkable.
Derrick lives in Erath, a small Louisiana town with about 2,100 residents in Vermilion Parish, nestled between Abbeville and Delcambre on U.S. Highway 14. Unlike his cousins who spent hours hanging out in their grandfather's machine shop, Derrick preferred being outside playing ball. "Ball” could be baseball, basketball or football. He was proficient at them all. His first introduction to the quarterback position was playing parish league football at 8 years old. It was only natural that he was named quarterback his freshman year, playing the position all four years for Erath High School's Bobcats. He earned all-state honors as quarterback for football, all-district honors as forward for basketball and as pitcher and shortstop for baseball and all district and regional honors for javelin and triple jump for track.
Brothers, Bruce and Zach, sister, Jasmine, and extended family were always in the crowds cheering Derrick on. His most ardent supporter back then and to this day is his mom, Patricia. Derrick describes his mom as a "hard working mom” who never pushed, but provided consistent discipline and support. Recognizing Derrick's talent and passion, his mom worked hard to afford to send him to McNeese's football camps and to the Manning Passing Academy. It became obvious that the training was not in vain when McNeese's Head Coach Matt Viator recruited at Erath High School during Derrick's junior year and offered him a football scholarship. Derrick describes Coach Viator as "a great coach who really has a mind for the game.”
Players may be "red-shirted” their first year to allow them time to learn "the lay of the land” or at another point in their college career due to injury. A red-shirted player may practice with the team but not play in any games. Red-shirting preserves another year of eligibility for the player. Derrick was red-shirted his first year at McNeese and younger brother, Zach, an entering freshman in 2008-09, was also red-shirted. Derrick now leads the Cowboys as starting quarterback. He is a dual threat in the conference, excelling in both his running and passing games. Zach, who seems destined to follow in Derrick's footsteps one day, is currently the third-string quarterback for the Cowboys.
While Derrick's activities on the field are to be commended, his accomplishments off the field are even more impressive. Derrick is a senior nursing student with an excellent academic track record. Students enrolled in McNeese's nursing program undergo a rigorous course curriculum that includes extensive off-site hours in a clinical setting. Despite the demands on his time, Derrick has been successful in all his endeavors and has been named to the Southland Conference Commissioners Honor List. His dad, Bruce, a nurse himself, served as Derrick's inspiration in pursuing a health care career. As a child, Derrick used to meet his dad at Lafayette General Hospital where Bruce worked in the Oncology Department.
He said the key to his success has been "time management.” With a schedule that starts with strength training on Monday, a full class schedule Tuesday-Friday, a game Saturday and football practices and study time in between, there is no time wasted. His nursing study group, which he meets with several times a week, has provided structure and motivation.
Derrick Fourroux is the recipient of the Josi Andrus Brady Memorial Scholarship, awarded to a deserving football player in good academic standing. "Financially, things are not that stable. If not for the scholarship, I wouldn't be at McNeese. I would probably be in the National Guard or the Marines or something. I'm very thankful for the scholarship,” stated Fourroux. Derrick hopes to become a nurse anesthetist one day. He graduated in May 2010, and if not playing football professionally, he will work for Lake Charles Memorial Hospital where he served as a student extern this summer in the intensive care unit. He will be the first child and the first grandchild in his family to graduate from college.
Derrick's mom, his high school sweetheart, Megan Dronet, and family members from Erath can be heard in the stands rooting loudly for their favorite quarterback. Right beside them are Erath's high school coaches and town folk who Derrick says are "like family…very supportive and caring.” Traveling by caravan, Erath supporters begin tailgating early on game day. When the lights of Cowboy Stadium dim you will find Derrick heading to the parking lot to join his extended family and greatest fans.
Dr. Banamber Mishra, Professor
Recipient, JPMorgan Chase Bank Professorship in Business Research
When Dr. Banamber Mishra developed a proposal to apply for a professorship, he knew it was not a simple undertaking. Cultivating an idea from concept to publication can take anywhere from three to five years.
Dr. Mishra obtained all of his degrees in economics, including a bachelor's degree
from Ravenshaw College, India, a master's degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, and a second master's degree and a doctorate degree both from the University of Alabama. With such a extensive education and 22 years of employment at McNeese State University, he serves as a tenured professor certified to teach economics and finance at the baccalaureate and graduate levels.
When McNeese awards a professorship, it signifies that the faculty member is highly knowledgeable about a particular subject. Professorships, often linked to research, are awarded to faculty who are academically qualified from an institutional point of view. Professorships provide a financial stipend which may be used at the recipient's discretion. These funds are expended to further the project and may include purchase of supplies, software or equipment or for travel to industry conferences. Dr. Mishra has received several professorships over his extensive teaching career including the JPMorgan Chase Bank Professorship in Business Research, which he now holds.
To be awarded a professorship, a faculty member must first submit a proposal on an appropriate topic. According to Dr. Mishra, "Topics often originate from the researcher's previous work on a related issue or from a subject area where the researcher has a great interest." The proposal may be a short-term project of one-year duration or a long-term project carried out over multiply years. Once the proposal is developed, it is submitted to the respective college for review. Professorships are awarded each fall pending available funds. Research results are submitted for approval for presentation at industry conferences and published in discipline-specific journals.
McNeese's College of Business is one of only 14 percent of all business schools internationally to be accredited by AACSB International-The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. According to the AACSB Web site, "Accreditation is a process of voluntary, non-governmental review of educational institutions and programs." To meet the high standards required of AACSB, faculty members must publish at least two articles in refereed journals within the past five years for undergraduate instruction or at least three articles in the past five years for graduate instruction.
Faculty utilize their own research as well as the research of others to create value in the classroom. Dr. Mishra's current project, "dynamics of Stock Market Return Volatility: Evidence from Singapore and Thailand," helps students to understand the global economy, to comprehend global markets and to invest on a global scale. With 52 foreign countries represented at McNeese, or 5 percent of the student population, integrating global understanding into the curriculum is sound business practice.
Dr. Ron Darbeau, Professor
Recipient, Calcasieu Parish Development Board Professorship for Industrial and Economic Development
About 10 years ago, Dr. Ron Darbeau and his student researchers discovered a
novel approach to making polymers – a discovery that could have a profound impact on industrial manufacturing.
The finding, made with the assistance of fellow chemists Dr. Ulku Ramelow and the late Dr. Mark Delaney, could not have been discovered without the preliminary data funded by the endowed Calcasieu Parish Development Board Professorship for Industrial and Economic Development, according to Darbeau.
"This endowed professorship allowed us to purchase chemicals, supplies and equipment and to support student researchers among other things.” Although he was the principal recipient of the professorship, Darbeau prefers to delegate credit for the patent to his fellow researchers, both faculty members and students.
"If not for the three of us – Dr. Ramelow, Dr. Delaney and myself – being in the same building at the same time, we would have never earned this patent. It was a dovetail of each of our interests and areas of expertise,” Darbeau said. "And if not for the endowed professorship, we could have never funded the preliminary data to get to that point. Everything just came together.”
According to Darbeau, the professorship not only serves as seed money for future endeavors, it also demonstrates a university’s commitment to education and research.
"Without student-assisted research, particularly in the field of science, aspiring scientists may not receive the training they need to make breakthroughs that could shape the future, Darbeau explained. "That is why it is so important for universities to create a culture of research. There is nothing more encouraging to undergraduates than to do hands-on research with their professors. Students benefit from their research experiences and many continue their research studies in graduate or medical schools.”
He added, "People think it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to perform research, but that isn't always true. This patent is just one example of that."
Dr. Harold Stevenson, Professor
Recipient, Violet Howell Professorship in Environmental Science
In 1988, public concerns about the manufacture, distribution and use of chemicals prompted the International Council of Chemical Associations to develop an initiative known as Responsible Care, a voluntary program that encourages chemical companies and associations to work together to improve health, safety and environmental performance. When the initiative reached Southwest Louisiana in the early 1990s, Dr. Harold Stevenson, professor of biological and environmental sciences, was on the long list of potential members to serve on the organization's local community advisory panel.
"I was on the B-list, but I made it,” Stevenson said. "After about three meetings, I realized how great it was for the plant administrators and community to have an open dialogue and I realized I could utilize the university to do my own research about the relationships between industry and Southwest Louisiana.”
Stevenson was awarded the Violet Howell Professorship in Environmental Science through the McNeese Foundation and used that leverage to meet with plant administrators face-to-face and arrange his own community meetings. These meetings dealt with issues, problems and concerns specific to the area.
Community members, media, plant officials, scientists, doctors and activists packed into Baker Auditorium for Stevenson's first forum, which focused on regional cancer rates.
"My goal was for the public to know what's going on – the good and the bad,” Stevenson said.
Unlike the panels sponsored by Responsible Care, Stevenson had the flexibility to gear his forums toward a variety of biological and environmental concerns. He followed-up the forum on cancer rates with informational meetings on birth defects and other health concerns that had nothing to do with local industry. His students were able to use the forums as a foundation for research work.
"I learned new things and I was able to transfer that knowledge in my classroom,” Stevenson said. "The professorship with the foundation gave me the credentials and the opportunities to do things I otherwise would not have done. It provided another window to the world for myself and my students.”
Dr. Michael Buckles, Assistant Professor
Recipient, Henry C. Alexander Endowed Professorship in Music
Recipient, JPMorgan Chase Endowed Professorship in Music
For Dr. Michael Buckles, teaching and playing music go hand in hand. Buckles, an assistant professor of performing arts at McNeese State University, is also an accomplished violinist who has traveled and performed in concert and recital halls across the South.
Funding for his performances stemmed from two professorships, the Henry C. Alexander Endowed Professorship in Music and the JPMorgan Chase Endowed Professorship in Music.
"Until you have name recognition, you have to find venues that are interested in listening to you play. If you are invited to play, you have to have your own money for travel and expenses. It’s not easy, but it has to be done. Performances provide name recognition and money provides for the initial performances,” Buckles said.
Buckles has performed in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Tennessee and Texas with recitals at Texas Christian and Loyola universities planned for this fall. This summer he cut a recording at the University of Virginia for Innova, the music label of the American Composers Forum.
Another challenge he is tackling includes learning guitar solos from rock ‘n’ roll history. While other musicians may have played music outside their preferred genre before, it’s a different kind of situation for Buckles, who has listened mostly to classical music throughout his life and is only vaguely familiar with rock ‘n’ roll. Add that to the fact he’ll be playing a violin rather than a guitar.
His performance career may keep him busy, but Buckles emphasizes that being an educator is just as important as concerts and recital halls.
"I can’t place a monetary value on the endowed professorships because I’m still seeing the fruits of those awards. I have received calls based on my recent performances, and I would not have been able to make those performances without the professorship,” Buckles said.
Communities are also benefiting from Buckles’ knowledge and talent. String programs were developed in both the New Orleans and Lake Charles areas, and he has served as director of the Lake Charles area youth orchestra.
According to Buckles, in the end, it all comes back to where it started.
"The seeds of my current successes came from those initial awards. When you have a moment to stop, reflect and celebrate accomplishment with your colleagues and friends, it’s definitely special.”