A Half-Century of Excellence

Every scholarship has a story.

That story may be who inspired its creation, how it was funded, or the donor’s deep love for LSU. Whatever the story, the purpose is always to help a student receive a quality collegiate education. Fannie Guy’s story has been supporting students for more than 50 years.

In 1959, LSU alumnus Charles Guy made a pledge to create an endowed scholarship in memory of his mother, who played the organ for 40 years at First Baptist Church in Mansfield, LA. Guy fulfilled his pledge to the fledgling LSU Foundation by the end of 1961, marking the Fannie Guy Memorial Scholarship as one of the Foundation’s oldest awards.

The scholarship has grown from one $150 award each semester to supporting five students from DeSoto Parish this past spring. “I feel very honored to get a scholarship that was created so long ago,” shared biochemistry sophomore Jessica Wellborn. “It makes me feel that I met the expectations that others have met for the last 50 years, and that I can still keep the bar set high.”

As president of the parish’s LSU Alumni Association chapter, Dr. Gil Rew now serves as the scholarship’s steward, and so receives thank you letters, the list of recipients and the annual endowment report. “It is amazing to see how a gift of initially around $10,000 has been wisely invested to yield a scholarship total of over $55,000 today, while it has benefited the residential housing needs of DeSoto Parish female scholars,” Rew said of the gift’s impact.

He continued, “A gift today can yield blessings and benefits for generations, as has this one, in aiding students to receive the support they need to obtain a highly acclaimed LSU degree.”

Wellborn shared that the scholarship was a welcome reward for her hard work in high school. “I pushed myself my junior and senior year by taking all of the dual enrollment and AP classes that were offered to prepare for college,” she said. “Then, to get a little extra money for college expenses was such a relief.” Wellborn graduated from her high school as valedictorian and student of the year.

“LSU provides an excellent faculty, environment and facility for a world-class education,” Rew said. “Yet, philanthropic gifts provide that environment, and make provisions for the support system a student needs to do their best in availing themselves to the blessing of LSU.”

Published in Cornerstone Winter and Spring 2015.

Community Remembers Kean Miller Founder

People who knew Ben Miller may think of several words to describe the late lawyer: quiet, philanthropic, solid, steady. When he passed away in December, many of his colleagues, friends and family members honored those admirable qualities by giving to LSU, the school he loved and served throughout his life.

Miller led what most would consider a highly successful life. Throughout his legal career, he was a law professor, helped found one of the largest law firms in Louisiana, and earned the respect and trust of those he encountered. And he attributed it all to his education.

“Ben felt his success was a result of his time at LSU—all of his time at LSU—at the Laboratory School, LSU undergraduate and LSU Law,” shared Bettsie Miller, Ben’s wife. “He felt it was important to give back to the early roots of his success.”

Ben wanted to support future generations of lawyers by ensuring LSU maintains its reputation for outstanding faculty and teaching, the seeds of his success. He established the Ben R. Miller Jr. Professorship through his will.

“He believed in excellence and education,” Bettsie explained. “He had great reverence for many of the professors that he had worked under and from which he learned. He thought this was a way he could give back and help future lawyers with integrity, growth and learning, by having the best professors possible. These sorts of endowments help do that.”

The couple has been philanthropic throughout their lives. Even in Ben’s career at Kean Miller, Bettsie said, he helped clients guide their wills toward philanthropy. “Ben very much had a charitable spirit and lived it passionately through his life with his time, talent and treasure by being philanthropic and helping others be philanthropic, as well.”

Ben’s impact in the legal community and priorities in life were well known, evidenced by his clients’ and colleagues’ reactions to his passing. When Ben got sick, he and Bettsie agreed that instead of sending flowers in his memory, they would ask for donations to a number of causes. The relationships Ben had forged in his legal career led to a number of contributions in support of the LSU Law Center.

“There was such an outpouring of support that there was enough to set up a separate scholarship,” Bettsie said. With especially significant gifts from Kean Miller and Ben’s major clients, including Lamar Companies, the Ben R. Miller Jr. Endowed Scholarship was established, marking the second endowment in his name at the law center.

“That was amazing and touching and humbling,” Bettsie shared. “It spoke to the depth of Ben’s integrity and the constancy of his life, and his importance to the law profession.”

“When he retired … I presented him with a gold antique pocket watch and told him he was the best attorney I had ever had the pleasure of working alongside,” shared Keith Istre, CFO of Lamar, who first worked with Ben in 1978. “It wasn’t just something nice to say. It was the truth. Ben was my mentor, my friend and my trusted advisor.”

Though many benefitted from Ben’s kindness and integrity, Bettsie felt the impact of his gifts the most. “We shared a wonderful life together. He’s been a gift in my life.”

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2015.

Changing Hands, Sharing Visions

Since Cass Gaiennie took over as chair of the LSU Foundation Board of Directors in January, one word keeps ringing out to him like a mantra: transformation. It’s a word that also resonated with his predecessor, Gary Laborde, who helped lead the Board and the LSU Foundation in implementing a four-year strategic plan designed to double annual fundraising and grow the endowment.

“We have a critical role to play in establishing a stable, growing base of philanthropic support for LSU,” Gaiennie explained. “I’m looking forward to continuing Gary’s work to engage the Board more fully in those efforts.”

Over the past year, the Board has worked with a consultant from the Association of Governing Boards, the industry leader in board development for higher education. Subcommittees have explored how to integrate the recommendations of the consultant (a former foundation president and CEO); conducted extensive research on peer foundations; and developed a plan to measure their own success as a board.

“The Board of Directors has been, and continues to be, paramount to the LSU Foundation’s success in raising funds for LSU,” Gaiennie shared. “It’s growing in number, strength and diversity by recruiting passionate LSU alumni and friends with a wide range of knowledge and expertise. We’re also redefining the board’s role in achieving fundraising and heightening our engagement in that area.”

Gaiennie noted the important role Lee Griffin has played in his four years as president and CEO, and that he will continue to play as he returns to the Board of Directors. “Lee has truly transformed the LSU Foundation,” Gaiennie said. “It’s his leadership and vision that are to thank for our success doubling annual fundraising, growing our development team, bringing structure to our development efforts, making our Center for Philanthropy a reality, and achieving significant headway in benchmarking our efforts against those of our most successful peers.”

Griffin recently returned to the Board of Directors after welcoming Stephen Moret, former secretary of Louisiana Economic Development, as his successor.

Gaiennie said, “It will be a tremendous asset to us to continue to have Lee’s expertise, but now as a Board member. It’s a unique opportunity to have a president and CEO join the Board, and we’re grateful for it.”

The LSU Foundation’s fundraising efforts began in earnest 25 years ago, compared to many successful university-related foundations that have been engaged in major gift fundraising for several decades longer. “But that only makes us even more excited about what we can accomplish for LSU in the years ahead,” Gaiennie shared, adding that he’s confident in Moret’s ability to continue the transformation Griffin began.

“Stephen brings a unique blend of cross-sector experience, coupled with a strong passion for LSU that he has channeled into leadership roles since serving as Student Government president 20 years ago,” Gaiennie explained. “The Board is excited to work closely with him as we move toward a transformational level of philanthropic support for LSU.”

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2015.

Bleeding Purple and Gold

With a father from Homer and a mother from Marksville, Jake Miller has always had a deep connection to Louisiana, even though he is a native of Baltimore.

“All of our roots are in Louisiana,” he said. “I kiss the ground when I get off the plane.”

Miller’s parents, Fred and Charlene, met during their time at LSU, at a party Charlene’s father threw for Fred’s fellow teammates on the football team then-dubbed “The Chinese Bandits.” He fell in love at first sight with the southern belle.

Jake shared that his father, who went on to play for the Baltimore Colts, is a humble man of few words who taught him how to be a loving father and devoted husband. “I don’t know anyone with the character he has.”

The father of two “theatre nut” daughters, Jake created the Fred Miller Family Fund in the Department of Theatre. Having pledged to donate $1,000 annually over the next 10 years, Jake includes a giving link in his email signatures to encourage his family and friends to also give.

Established in 1928, LSU’s theatre department is one of few programs nationwide that is aligned with a professional theatre (i.e., Swine Palace), allowing its students to work alongside leading industry professionals. Jake, senior vice president of Entertainment Consulting International, said many people don’t know how robust or important the program is. “Without that type of art in our lives, it’s a pretty dull place,” he shared, adding that certain cultural elements are otherwise lost.

The Fred Miller Family Fund provides unrestricted support to the department to address the greatest needs at the time, which could include scholarships, equipment or a host of other opportunities.

Though he grew up in Maryland, LSU was as much a part of Jake’s childhood as of any bayou baby. “LSU is in my blood,” he said, adding that Fred would drive Jake and his three brothers hours into the mountains to pick up the AM radio signal for games. “It’s always been bigger than just a sport, bigger than just a football team,” he explained. “It’s been part of my family.”

“It’s not a lot,” he shared of his gift, “but it’s a way for me to say ‘thank you’ to the LSU community for what an incredible part of my life it’s been.”

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2015.

Coming Home

Transitioning to college life is rarely easy, and certain things inevitably make it more difficult. Navigating admission and course policies. Finding a community. Re-learning how to be a civilian.

Enter the LSU Veteran & Military Student Services Center.

“The first two years [at LSU], because the center didn’t exist, each semester I contemplated going to another school,” shared Adam Herpin. “Since the center opened, I’ve had a place to go, and the support system has made it much easier for me to be a student.”

Herpin, who served in the Coast Guard for four years, said that, upon enrollment at LSU, “the LSU system didn’t seem able to accommodate veterans that well. The infrastructure wasn’t built that way. I had to find loopholes.”

Once the center opened, issues that typically took Herpin weeks to resolve were rectified within a day by the center’s coordinator.

LSU service men and women present the colors while the national anthem is played at LSU Salutes. Photo by Eddy Perez
LSU service men and women present the colors while the national anthem is played at LSU Salutes. Photo by Eddy Perez

The center also provides computers and career-building tools, essential resources to students like Lorena Zepeda, a business management senior who has served since 2004. “Most of us have families already,” she said. “We’re not straight out of high school. It’s tough going back to school when you also have financial responsibilities at home.”

Herpin said one of the most valuable resources is the sense of community the center provides. “A lot of veterans have a hard time connecting with the other students when they come in. This is the biggest reason I came.”

The benefits stemming from the Veteran & Military Student Services Center reach beyond LSU’s military population, though. Darrell Ray, assistant vice chancellor for student life, and Adam Jennings, coordinator of Veteran & Military Student Services, explain that the center provides an opportunity to connect the campus to its military foundation and educate the rest of LSU on the university’s role in shaping U.S. military history.

It is also an attractive benefit to prospective students. “Every university has veterans enrolled,” Ray said. “It becomes more important for the institution to support the students, because they have different experiences and may have different adjustment issues.”

Jennings, who spent four years in the Army, shared that an increased veteran and military student population also increases campus diversity. “Because of the experiences veterans have had, they can bring a global perspective to the classroom.”

The center supports 20-40 students each day through admissions assistance, outreach and support services that Jennings and five work-study participants provide. Jennings and Ray aim to build an endowment that will support an enhanced infrastructure and provide financial assistance to the veterans.

Jennings shared that financial assistance for the students is also needed because the GI Bill benefits are often not enough. “Most of them are transfer students and nontraditional students. Many students exhaust GI Bill benefits before they get here.”

A service that began two years ago has now become a second home to LSU’s warriors, and will only increase its benefits, Ray shared. “We’re now in a position to grow what we do.”

Published in Cornerstone Winter and Spring 2015.

Giving Life

“Is the red dot gone?” 7-year-old Bella Bowman asked her parents when she woke.
Bella had just undergone brain surgery to remove the “red dot” tumor that had burdened the child for months. Her parents, Trey and Kim, used a red dot to illustrate for Bella what was making her sick, and that the doctors needed to remove it while she slept.

Bella quickly recovered from surgery and moved to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, then to the University of Florida (Jacksonville), where she endured 33 radiation treatments, a number considered normal for her situation. Eight months later, she was sick again.

She’d developed radiation tissue necrosis inside of her brain stem from the treatments. Radiation tissue necrosis can sometimes be solved through hyperbaric oxygen treatments, surgery or chemo therapy.

Bella’s case, however, was rare. Her necrosis was inoperable, and 60 hyperbaric oxygen treatment sessions and chemo therapy determined it was both irreversible and fatal. “Our daughter was cancer free when she passed away,” Kim shared. “It was the radiation damage that took her life.”

Trey and Kim created the Bella Bowman Foundation, a dream that had steadily been evolving during Bella’s treatments. With its three pillars of research, education and comfort care, the foundation was formed to help families of children with cancer.

“When someone tells you your child has cancer, your life goes in a different direction,” Trey said.

After the diagnosis, the family realized how little research explored tissue necrosis, particularly in pediatrics. “It’s an overlooked topic, and one that doesn’t have a lot of publicity around it,” Trey explained.

The couple found Dr. Wayne Newhauser, Dr. Charles M. Smith Chair of Medical Physics, who has researched radiation effects for the past 25 years.

The foundation recently announced a $75,000 grant to the LSU Medical Physics program—of which Newhauser is director—in partnership with the Mary Bird Perkins Center, where Newhauser serves as chief of physics. The grant establishes the Bella Bowman Foundation Radiation Necrosis Research Fund to aid Newhauser in his research. Kim hopes the research will determine what causes necrosis and how to stop it, as well as develop safer treatment plans.

“When we met Dr. Newhauser, what we wanted was, not to find a cure,” Kim said. “It was more for how to help these children live through their treatments.”

Published in Cornerstone Winter and Spring 2015.

Education for Generations

The Laborde family’s passion for LSU began nearly a century ago. Though it was the height of The Great Depression, Lucien’s parents encouraged higher education, and taught their sons and daughter the French concept “noblesse oblige,” that service to God and country is a noble obligation. Lucien and wife Peggy in turn, instilled this love of education and commitment to service in their children, adding LSU to their list of obligations.

“I always had a love of learning, and that carried on throughout my career,” Lucien’s son Luke said. Luke, who was top of his class throughout school, recently earned his third degree from LSU, a doctorate of renewable natural resources.

Two years ago, he discovered that he also loves teaching. When his department found itself short-staffed, he voluntarily put his doctorate work on hold to take over a few classes. “[It’s] one of the best decisions I think I’ve made,” he shared. “I enjoy interacting with the students. They make you so optimistic about our future.”

Luke and his wife, Sonja, decided to find additional ways to help students, and offered to help fundraise for the College of Agriculture’s goal of 100 new freshman scholarships. “The truth is that alumni want to help,” Sonja said, explaining that a tangible project like scholarships inspires them. “LSU alumni are wonderful.”

Luke Laborde with Indie Barbier

The college is halfway to its goal, and Luke is confident that all 100 scholarships will be funded by next fiscal year. “We’re not going to be able to raise 100 endowed scholarships right away, but we can raise $100,000 every year,” he said. “We need to make believers of our College of Agriculture alumni association members in terms of what we can do.”

The couple has included a bequest to the college’s scholarship program in their will, but they also give annually because they believe the need is immediate. “Our hope is to start the gift before we die,” Luke said. “This is what we can do right now.”

“LSU gave us such opportunities,” Sonja added. “We’re both very humbled by that and grateful that we had such opportunities, and would like to see other young people have the same opportunities.”

Luke shared that “Leaving a Legacy,” doesn’t quite express their goal. “What we want to leave is an opportunity.”

 

Published in Cornerstone Winter and Spring 2015.

Earning Their STRIPES

Before LSU students step foot in a classroom, they are encouraged to show their stripes.

STRIPES is a four-day program that prepares incoming students for the transition to LSU by teaching them what it means to be a Tiger. These new Tigers earn their stripes by learning LSU history and traditions, meeting other first-year students, identifying opportunities to get involved, finding out about academic resources/support, and exploring the campus.

The incoming students play games and activities that test their LSU knowledge, hone their Cajun dancing skills, engage in a mock lecture with a faculty member, participate in bonding activities, and learn the alma mater. The program launched in 2000 with only 65 students. In 2005, alumnus Charles Barney made a game-changing gift of $1.1 million to expand the program, more than doubling its size. STRIPES now reaches 900 first-year students each summer. Students who participate in STRIPES have higher retention and graduation rates than their peers who choose not to participate.

Beverly Suffern, a 2011 chemical engineering alumna, shared, “I had family friends who went to STRIPES before I went to LSU who said how much fun it was and recommended that I attend. When I decided that I was going to go to LSU, it was the first thing that I signed up for. I couldn’t wait to learn all the traditions and the football cheers in Tiger Stadium.”

Suffern chairs the program’s alumni council, which works to develop a strong alumni base that supports bringing STRIPES and its traditions to incoming students. Several council members have invested in the program by funding students’ registration fees. Suffern explained, “The donation is our way of showing our commitment to the STRIPES program. It will cover the registration of a student with financial needs. It is a small way to make sure that someone has the experience at STRIPES that means so much to all of the council members.”

Though the idea of alumni giving began with the council, all STRIPES alumni are encouraged to contribute however much they are able to the program’s scholarships and activities.

“STRIPES is the first impression of the university for incoming students,” Suffern shared, adding, “It is what gets incoming freshmen excited and ready to start their college journey. It lays the foundation for getting involved, understanding how the different aspects of the university work, and generating overall love for our great university.”

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2014.

Des Racines Profondes

Lillie Petit Gallagher’s heritage is deeply rooted in the French culture of South Louisiana. Her father’s family owned the only general store in the predominantly French-speaking community of Cutoff. Her mother’s family owned a restaurant in the same town.

Lillie and her husband, George, celebrated her rich cultural background through a gift to her alma mater that honors her parents. George was an ExxonMobil engineer, so the couple was able to leverage the company’s 3:1 educational matching gift program to establish the Lillian Defelice and Sampson J. Petit Professorship in French for Business.

Lillie shared, “My whole family had been in business, so I wanted to establish an opportunity for French and business to be explored and used in whatever way it could help LSU’s French department,” she shared.

The matching gift program has allowed her and George to maximize their donations, Lillie said, explaining, “It’s fantastic. It gives Exxon employees the opportunity to make a difference. Your small donation can be leveraged. It allows the employees to have a stake in college programs that are near and dear to their heart, and make a difference in people’s lives.”

The matching program is available to both current and retired employees and their annuitants, which recently enabled the couple to celebrate Lillie’s roots even more deeply.

Lillie said they decided to create a scholarship partly because George attended college on a scholarship. “Had he not had the opportunity to go to school on scholarship, he probably would not have had the opportunity to go to school and have an engineering degree, which then went on to a 50-year association with Exxon,” she said.

She added that George’s career provided travel opportunities that allowed them to see much of the world. She and George are grateful for these opportunities, and are passing them on to students.

Lillie explained, “We feel it’s important for students to be exposed through travel. So, hopefully, some of this scholarship program will enable students to travel to different parts of the French-speaking world.”
The Lillie Petit and George Clark Gallagher Scholarship in French Studies will provide students with funds to supplement tuition or travel.

“I am very close to my French roots, and I was motivated to continue that connection with the French in Louisiana,” Lillie said, adding that it can be difficult for people to feel a connection to their heritage. “I was hoping that through this scholarship and professorship, it would provide that opportunity for young students.”

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2014.

Dedication to Education

Thomas Wallace Neff was born in a small South Louisiana town in 1890, but his father ensured he didn’t stay there long.

“My great-grandfather was basically a farmer, and at an early age, much to my great-grandfather’s credit, decided that his son needed to have an education of higher learning,” said Charles Neff, Thomas’ grandson.

When Thomas was 15 or 16, he traveled to Baton Rouge, found a room to rent, and finished his high school career there with the understanding that he was going to college. Charles said that Thomas’ father didn’t have much money, so he made sure his son understood, “You’re going to have to work to put yourself through school, but you must get a degree at LSU.”

Thomas did work throughout his time at LSU. He earned his degree in mechanical engineering in 1916, served in World War I, then came back to work at LSU, where he taught physics and mechanical engineering for 43 years before retiring in 1960.

“He liked being a teacher and being with students,” Charles said. He added that when Thomas became eligible for retirement, he requested to remain at the university for five more years. Even when those five years came to a close, it was difficult for Thomas to say goodbye to the university where he had spent his career.

“He was passionate about the school and the football team, as well as education,” Charles shared. “When I was small, that’s all I ever heard, was constantly ‘Young man, get your education. Get your education. Get your education.’” Charles said that because of this mantra, when his grandfather passed away, the one personal effect he wanted was Thomas’ diploma.

Though Charles is not an LSU alumnus, he was inspired to honor his grandfather’s dedication to education and the university through a donation to the College of Engineering’s renovation and expansion of Patrick F. Taylor Hall. “Education was everything to him,” Charles shared. “I felt it would be a tribute to make some contribution toward that engineering school, where he basically spent his whole life.”

Charles’ gift is part of the College of Engineering’s successful $100 million Breaking New Ground campaign. He hopes this donation will help the college be a premier school, and to provide excellent facilities to continue the legacy of good education for engineering students in Louisiana. “And, in a small way, if my grandfather’s name is somewhere on the building, that would just be wonderful.”

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2014.