2023 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Awards

The McNeese State University Alumni Association will present its 2023 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year awards during halftime ceremonies at the McNeese vs. Nicholls football game on Saturday, Sept. 30. 

The three McNeese alumni who have been named recipients this year are: retired Col. Carlene A.S. Blanding, a combat veteran who served in the United States Army for 30 years; Dr. John Noble, an orthopaedic surgeon, real estate developer and entrepreneur in Lake Charles; and Donna Guzman Richard, volunteer and part of the family-owned company, Empire of the Seed, that rehabilitates and repurposes historic buildings in Lake Charles. 

Blanding began her Army career as a Second Lieutenant after graduating with a bachelor’s degree and as a Distinguished Military Graduate in 1992 from McNeese. She holds master’s degrees from Central Michigan State University, University of Georgia and the United States Army War College. 

During her career, Blanding received the Army Surgeon General “9A” Proficiency Designation for Professional Excellence and was recently recognized as a Trailblazer by the McNeese Black Alumni Chapter. She currently serves as the vice president of human resources for the integrated supply chain at Shaw Industries Group, Inc. a Fortune 500 flooring solutions company headquartered in Dalton, Georgia.  

Blanding commanded units at every level and completed her service as the Commanding Officer at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Fort Gordon, Georgia. While there she led a team of 2,700 people in three geographically dispersed environments and was responsible for the health and safety of over 68,000 persons during the worst medical crisis in our recent history—COVID 19. Blanding also served at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital and Human Resources for the Northern Regional Medical Command.  

Noble earned a bachelor’s degree at McNeese in 1986 and his medical degree from Louisiana State University Medical School in New Orleans. Noble completed an orthopaedic residency at LSU Medical Center, also in New Orleans, and a fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He is board certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.  

In private practice for 26 years, he joined the Center for Orthopaedics in 2000, where he focuses exclusively on sports medicine and joint replacement. Noble has served as the team physician for McNeese for 13 years.  

Noble is actively involved in orthopaedic research involving hip and knee replacement and in patient and physician advocacy. He serves on the board of the Louisiana State Medical Society as the Immediate Past President. 

One of Noble’s passions is real estate and business development. He is the founder, president and CEO of several businesses, including and the developer and co-owner of South Beach, the home venue for McNeese beach volleyball.  

Richard is a 1973 graduate in accounting and her first job was in Baton Rouge, working for the Louisiana Department of Hospitals as an accountant and then budget analyst. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Washington, D.C., with her husband, Oliver Richard III, for his position with U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston. While there, she worked with the U.S. Congressional Budget Office and as a controller for the District Management Corporation.  

Over the next 30 years, Richard’s family moved often, and she volunteered and worked in many places using her accounting skills. Along the way, she earned a master’s degree from Shenandoah University. The family returned to Lake Charles in 2005 with an appreciation for history and old buildings. The Richard’s bought and rehabilitated the historic Calcasieu Marine Bank, the Cash and Carry Grocery Sales building and the Noble building.  

Richard and her husband have established several McNeese scholarships and have hired graduates and interns for their business. 

Richard has served on several local boards including the Lake Charles Symphony, Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society, McNeese Foundation Board, Board of Hobo Hotel for Cats and Board of Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau and is a member of McNeese Alumni Association for many years. 

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