Success stories spotlight McNeese State University students, professors, donors and alumni to share their experiences and accomplishments and to spread the news of all the good things happening at McNeese.
Each story will share how professors have utilized a professorship award to enhance their teaching, how students have succeeded in their college journey, how donors have given back to their community and/or alma mater and how alumni are excelling in their chosen fields.
Click on the names below to read their success story.
The McNeese Cowboys Baseball program has hit a
home run in terms of its ballpark and its players.
New artificial turf was installed at Cowboy
Diamond in late 2014 – the first major renovation in recent memory that did not
happen as a result of a hurricane. The new turf covers the infield, foul area,
batter's area and baselines. The outfield and pitcher's mound are still natural
grass and dirt respectively.
Head Baseball Coach Justin Hill says the
upgrade gives the program a boost when it comes to recruiting, field
maintenance and playing the game.
"We now have one of the nicest fields in the
Southland Conference,” he said. "It's a huge recruiting advantage.”
Gone are the days of coaches and players
spending five to six hours striping, dragging, raking or tarping the field
before a home game. Now that time is filled mentally preparing for the game or
squeezing in extra family time which is rare during the season.
The new turf also equals a more consistent playing
surface. A more consistent surface leads to players being able to better judge what
direction the ball will go after hitting the ground. It also means that the
game can resume in as little as five minutes after a rain delay.
Renovations such as this usually don't happen
overnight and depend greatly on money and time. When Hill was hired in June
2013, he started looking for ways to improve Cowboy Diamond. The idea for new
turf was "more of a dream than anything,” according to Hill. Longtime McNeese
supporter and baseball enthusiast Joe T. Miller Sr. heard about Coach Hill's
dream and helped make that dream a reality by donating money for the turf.
The turf installation lasted approximately 30
days from mid-November to mid-December 2014 – a highly unusual cooperation from
the weather during that time of the year. "A lot happened in a short amount of
time to make this project come together,” said Hill. "Mr. Miller is a very
selfless and generous man and we can't thank him enough.”
Academics also play a big part in the makeup of
the Cowboy Baseball team. Last season one of the team goals was to have a 3.0
team grade point average. The team ended the season with a 3.10 team GPA and
plans to do the same this season.
Coach Hill stresses that baseball is not the
only thing players are here to learn. "If baseball is the only thing our
players learn during their time here, then we have failed,” Hill said. "We want
our players to be successful both on and off the field and want them to become
good young men, husbands and fathers.”
The Cowboys certainly put on a good showing for
the first games played on the new turf. The team has more than twice as many
victories than losses at home.
"Cowboys senior outfielder Andrew Guillotte is
the recipient of the Joe Tommy and Mary
Joyce Miller Scholarship in Baseball
through the McNeese Foundation. Guillotte
has been recently selected as a candidate for the 2015 Senior CLASS Award in
collegiate baseball. He is the only representative from the Southland
Conference and just one of two from the state of Louisiana on the 30-person
list, which recognizes student-athletes who excel both on and off the field,
and have notable achievement in four areas of excellence – community,
classroom, character and competition." www.mcneesesports.com
and dedicated are two of the many adjectives that would describe McNeese
graduate Kathryn Mary Leonards. Even as an accomplished distance runner and
all-district basketball player at Bell City High School, Kathryn made sure that
her studies always trumped her participation in athletics. She excelled at
both, graduating from high school Summa Cum Laude and named an American Press
winner in 2010.
achievements continued at McNeese where she participated in the Student
Government Association as a senator and served as both treasurer and president
of the Pre-Medical Society. Her basketball team, the Geeks -n- Sneaks, won the University's intramural contest and
continued on to represent McNeese at the Louisiana Collegiate Intramural
Recreational Sports Association Tournament at Louisiana Tech University in
Ruston this past May. Kathryn's involvement in campus life didn't stop her from
maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
weekdays throughout the semester in preparation for the Medical College
Admission Test (MCAT) and taking practice tests on weekends ensured her passage
of the test on the first attempt.
graduating from McNeese in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biological
science, a minor in chemistry and a concentration in pre-medicine, Kathryn
entered Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans this fall.
Her interest lies in studying parasitology and tropical medicine.
set her sights on medicine at the tender age of 4 as she watched her mom, Gil,
and her father, Andre, care for her baby brother, David, who was born with a
congenital brain disorder. She also had family role models with an uncle and
cousins that are physicians and several aunts that are nurses.
back on her accomplishments, it is hard to believe that Kathryn ever doubted
her abilities. She first enrolled at McNeese as a nursing student thinking she
didn't have the intelligence needed to become a physician. After completing her
freshman year with a perfect 4.0 GPA, she changed her area of study to
six-week summer internship at the Uniformed Services University of the Health
Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2013 provided Kathryn with hands-on
experience working in a research lab. She was also chosen to accompany Dr.
William H. Dees, McNeese biological science professor, at the 2014 Consortium
of Universities for Global Health Conference this past May.
February, Kathryn traveled to San José de David, Panama, with her cousin's
church family to offer medical care, Vacation Bible School and evangelism to
the Panamanians. She truly enjoyed working in the pharmacy and interacting with
the people and hopes to continue working in the mission field one day as a
was awarded the Dr. Charles D. "Chick”
White Memorial Pre-Med Scholarship and the David and Freda Buttross Scholarship while attending McNeese. She
also received the Ezreal and Hannah
Kushner Memorial Scholarship, which is a one-year scholarship awarded to a
student that is entering medical school to help offset expenses.
To say that Andrew Armand is involved in
McNeese State University campus life is an understatement. Immersed and
flourishing is more like it.
The senior nursing major balances the rigorous
nursing curriculum while serving as McNeese's Student Union Board President,
Student Government Association Senator, McNeese Student Nurses Association
recruitment director and previously served as a Peer Leader. Andrew is a Pi
Kappa Alpha Fraternity and Rotaract Club member and was recently selected as
Andrew believes there is a relationship between
student campus involvement and the classroom. "The more involved on campus
students become, the more driven they are to go to class and do well,” he
explained. "You meet people through clubs and campus events who could turn out
to be a study partner for class or a lifelong friend – the possibilities are
Something else he believes is a stigma exists
that nursing majors stay buried in their books and do not have time for
anything else. Of course effort and studying are necessary to succeed in
school, but there is room for extracurricular activities. "It's all about time
management,” Andrew said. If you love something, you'll make time for it. I
want to be a role model for students and show them you can be involved and do
Andrew's campus involvement and classroom
excellence are also literally paying off. He has received the Honors College Scholarship since his
freshman year and is in his first semester as the McIver Family Nursing Scholarship recipient.
"Receiving these scholarships is a huge honor,”
he stated. "The scholarships help me pay for books, tuition, class fees and
other expenses that come with a college education.”
At last year's McNeese Foundation Scholarship
Donor and Recipient Brunch, Andrew had the opportunity to meet Shirley McIver,
one of his scholarship's benefactors. "Mrs. McIver was very pleasant and
welcoming,” said Andrew. "We talked about the times when she worked as a nurse,
and it turns out she knows some of my family.”
Andrew's plans after graduating in fall 2015
include working for two years as a registered nurse in a critical care unit and
then continuing his education to become a certified registered nurse
anesthetist.He also hopes to one day start a scholarship
for nursing students who are involved on campus.
One of the Luckiest People in the World
people don't know what they want to do when they grow up, and some people grow
up knowing exactly what they want to do. Nicholas Edward "Nic” Hunter knew what
he wanted to do in life practically from day one – own and manage Harlequin's
Steaks and Seafood.
and Lucille Hunter, Nic's grandparents, opened the Harlequin's Steaks and
Seafood restaurant on the corner of Highway 14 and Legion Street in 1956. Nic was
born in 1984 and spent much of his childhood at the restaurant "banging pots
and wreaking havoc.” The distraction didn't bother Lucille who Nic said "meant
everything to me growing up.” By age 12 he was washing dishes and bussing
tables, and by age 17, Nic was completely running the business.
education was important to Nic, Harlequin's was just as important. While at St.
Catholic High School, Nic would secretly skip class to go to work, and after
three years at McNeese, he took a break from school in order to relocate Harlequin's
to its current location on College Street.
I reopened Harlequin's at the age of 20, I had obtained both a liquor license
and a gambling license despite the fact that I was still legally too young to either
drink or gamble,” stated Nic.
returned to McNeese and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in
2007. "It was an awesome place for me and I loved it. Friends moved away to
attend some of the best colleges, but in comparison, I believe that I received
just as good of an education at McNeese. I see the University as moving to that
next level academically and aesthetically under the leadership of Dr. Philip Williams,”
said Nic. "There is a look and feel to McNeese that is fresh, vibrant and exciting.”
driving force in Nic's life is to serve others. Whether giving back through
public service as a Calcasieu Parish Police Juror representing District Five or
by making financial donations to non- profit institutions such as he did at the
McNeese Foundation when he established the History
and Liberal Arts Scholarship in 2012, Nic is always looking for ways to contribute.
one of the luckiest people in the world, genuinely loving what I do and inspired
by public service on a daily basis,” said Nic. "More important to me than
making a dollar or running the restaurant is to have a hand in determining the
future of our community.”
became a husband on Jan. 10, 2015, when he married Becky Jacobs, an attorney
with the Sanchez Law Firm, adding another role to the philanthropist and the
is the best feeling to have a busy restaurant, to have faithful employees, to walk
around shaking hands with customers and to know that you are in some small way
contributing to their evening.”
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. "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.
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 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.
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.
Dr. Phillippe R. Girard, Professor and Department Head
Philippe R. Girard, McNeese professor and history department
knowledgeable in the subjects of history and Haiti. After this fall semester,
he can add the subject of Harvard to the list.
Girard is taking up temporary residence in Cambridge, Mass., this fall as he completes
a biography of Haitian revolutionary hero Toussaint Louverture at Harvard
University's W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for
African and African American Research. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard's
Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, invited Dr. Girard to apply for a
Sheila Biddle Ford Fellowship after reading one of Dr. Girard's books.
born into slavery in 1743 in the French colony of Saint Dominque, now known as Haiti.
His father, Gaou Guinou, had been born a free man in Africa and sold into slavery.
He instilled in his son self-respect at an early age. Toussaint grew up working
on a sugar plantation owned by Count de Breda, a benevolent man that encouraged
his learning of reading and writing. Toussaint devoured books, particularly
those on the subject of equality and human rights.
eventually being freed from slavery, Toussaint became a land and slave owner himself.
Shortly after the French Revolution began in 1789, Toussaint led a slave revolt
in Haiti, the only successful slave revolution in history. Ultimately, he was
arrested and deported to the mountains of France where he died of pneumonia in
1803 in a prison in Fort de Joux (the castle Château de Joux).
Girard has published numerous books and articles about Toussaint and Haiti. One
of his publications, "Exploring the Haitian Slave Revolution,” was written as
the recipient of the Evelyn Shaddock Murray
Professorship in History. Similar to Toussaint, Dr. Girard was born on a
Caribbean island – Guadeloupe. After completing his university studies in
Paris, France, and Athens, Ohio, he joined the McNeese faculty in 2002.
tools of the trade for historians are written documents, and for research, language
skills play an important role. Dr. Girard's oral and/or written proficiency in
French, Haitian Creole, Spanish and English were integral as he translated
Toussaint's own handwritten prison memoirs for his book, "The Memoir of General
fellowship allowed Dr. Girard the luxury of dedicating a full semester to researching
and writing without the responsibility of teaching and serving as department
is still revered in Haiti. Visitors flying in to Haiti's capital,
Port-au-Prince, land at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport and his image
graces the banknote.
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. Michael Buckles, Associate Professor/Department Head
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.”