McNeese State University conferred a
posthumous honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Billy Navarre, a prominent Lake Charles business
owner, philanthropist, outstanding civic leader, community volunteer and a supporter of McNeese, during the
150th commencement ceremony Saturday, May 12, at Burton Coliseum.
"This is the highest
honor that the university can bestow upon an individual,” said Dr. Daryl
Burckel, McNeese president. "Billy Navarre is deserving of this honor and for
his considerable support of McNeese. Mr.
Navarre greatly valued educational attainment and
lifelong learning and he was an exceptionally generous individual who strived
to improve our community.”
A native of Welsh,
Navarre came from humble beginnings with a strong desire to succeed. He
graduated from Welsh High School and attended McNeese State University, but he
would leave to take a job in finance.
several years, Mr. Navarre began his automotive career as a sales manager at a
small dealership in Louisiana, and in 1982, he purchased a struggling Chevrolet
dealership in Sulphur, where he started with only 12 employees. Within
18 months, his dealership was the No. 1 volume selling automobile dealer in all
of Southwest Louisiana.
1989, he opened up his second Chevrolet dealership in Lake Charles, which would
also be a top spot for automotive sales, and then over the next 30 years,
Navarre would acquire the Hyundai, Honda, Cadillac and Equus franchises, build
a new state-of-the-art dealership in Sulphur and add new quick lube and carwash
facilities in Lake Charles and in Sulphur.
Navarre’s death in 2016, Billy Navarre Chevrolet, Cadillac, Honda, Hyundai and
Equus was the second largest locally owned business in Southwest Louisiana with
more than 300 employees.
to his success as a business owner, Navarre made serving his community one of
his top priorities.
an ardent supporter of McNeese athletics and the Cowgirl Kickers and is a
member of the McNeese Athletics Hall of Honor. He was one of the founders of
the Golden Saddle Club that supports the McNeese rodeo team.
established a McNeese academic endowed scholarship for first-generation
students from Southwest Louisiana and was instrumental in establishing the
McNeese Rotaract Club to develop young adults into community leaders through
Rotary International. He also was a generous donor to Calcasieu public and
private schools and SOWELA Technical Community College, where he served on its
For more than 30 years, Mr. Navarre devoted his time to helping develop
youth through sports, and he served as a volunteer baseball, basketball,
football, soccer, and softball coach.
sponsored and supported many other area organizations including Calcasieu Head
Start, Boy Scouts of America, Family and Youth Counseling, the Children’s
Miracle Network, Calcasieu Kiwanis Club, YMCA Youth Scholarship Fund, Cajun
French Music Association, Junior League of Lake Charles, Boys and Girls
Village, the American Heart Association and United Way.
served as an outstanding leader in civic and professional organizations
through his service on a multitude of
boards and organizations. His leadership in the community
also received recognition. He received the
Citizen of the Year Award by both the West
Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce and the Southwest Louisiana Chamber - Economic
Development Alliance, Friend of Education Awards for
Calcasieu Parish and for Louisiana, Louisiana Association of Educators Award,
the National Association of Educators President’s Award, the Marine Corps’
Citizen of the Year; Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year; Blue Cross/Blue
Shield Angel Award, Literacy Hero Award; Rotary Distinguished Service Award;
Jaycees Outstanding Young Businessman of the Year for Calcasieu Parish and for
Louisiana, Delta Sigma Theta Outstanding Public Service Award; United Way
Silver Award; Honda President’s Award; GM Mark of Excellence Award; Better
Business Bureau Torch Award for Highest Standard of Ethics and the Family
Foundation Outstanding Community Philanthropist.
is survived by his widow, Carrie, and five sons – Ryan, Jareth, Barrett, Grant
and Bryce - and daughter, Kaitlyn.