Geology on Ice

Peter Doran, PhD, believes there is life on other planets.

Quick to explain that he doesn’t mean little green men, the hydrogeologist theorizes that microorganisms likely exist every place there’s water, including the ice-covered lakes of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

“Everywhere there’s water on Earth, there’s life,” Doran said. “It seems reasonable that, if we look to a moon of Jupiter, and there’s water there, there could very well be life. It happened here.”

Doran is the first person to hold the John Franks Endowed Chair in the Department of Geology & Geophysics, a title he doesn’t hold lightly. The Franks chair honors the legacy of John Franks, a 1949 geology graduate and founder of Franks Petroleum Inc. A valued supporter of LSU and the geology program, Franks was a founding member of the LSU Geology Endowment, and a member of the LSU Foundation Board of Directors, LSU Board of Supervisors and Tiger Athletic Foundation Stadium Club.

“I see my job as being a science ambassador for the university,” Doran shared, adding that he views the position as an opportunity to raise the profile of LSU and help build the “already really good” geology department.

In October, Doran will be an ambassador on the Ross Ice Shelf, a previously unresearched layer of ice over the Ross Sea in Antarctica. This three-month-long research trip will be the first time he’s worn purple and gold on the continent, but it will mark his 16th visit since he began researching the area 20 years ago. The professor specializes in studying lakes, particularly studying life in the ice-covered waters of polar regions like Antarctica.

“There are lakes on this planet that are in the coldest and driest environment you can find. Yet, there’s lakes and there’s life living in those lakes, and doing quite well actually,” Doran eagerly explained, adding, “There’s so much more to discover and learn. That’s what keeps me excited. It’s a hard continent to research because it’s so vast, and it’s hard to get to, and there’s extreme weather. There’s going to be a lot of work to be done for a long time.”

The research he and his colleagues will perform, like most of Doran’s research, gives the world a better understanding of what’s happened in the past, what happens now, and what will likely happen in the future. Doran operates 15 climate stations in Antarctica that show climate change in the area.

“This work on the ice shelf, I see that as really important,” he said. “It’s defining a whole new ecosystem that’s completely unexplored and trying to figure out ‘What are the limits of life?’ and ‘What is possible in our universe?’ I find that a fascinating question.”

Though spending three months near the South Pole doesn’t sound glamorous, Doran says he didn’t choose this life—“It chose me. I’ve always loved the outdoors, so it was natural for me to get involved in studying the natural environment. I just kept wanting to get more and more remote and more and more extreme. I just do what I find to be interesting. That’s why I love my job.”

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2015.

Board Member’s Legacy Honored

The late Henry Goodrich’s attendance at LSU was almost an assumption. His father and great-great-grandfather were both alumni, just as two of his three children eventually became.

His passion for the university, however, was his own.

Henry graduated in 1951 with his bachelor’s in geology, a degree program he chose after hearing the reputation of a particularly difficult biology professor. “That began a love of geology and, later, oil and gas and the oil and gas exploration business,” Henry’s son Gil said.

Henry built his career in oil and gas, eventually forming Goodrich Oil Company, and later serving as chairman emeritus of NYSE-listed Goodrich Petroleum Corporation, of which Gil now serves as vice chairman and CEO. Gil shared that his father believed in hard work and success, but, more importantly, honor and integrity, “which, I think, marked him as a leader in the oil and gas industry.”

Throughout his career, Gil said, “he always stayed close to LSU, the College of Science and Geology. He was very passionate about higher education in Louisiana and strengthening the LSU flagship in Baton Rouge. He believed very strongly that improvement of the university would come through dedicated endowments and improving the quality of the university in higher education.”

Henry’s lifelong commitment to LSU included serving on the LSU Foundation’s Board of Directors for 25 years, with a term as chairman from 1987-88. The College of Science recently showed its appreciation of his service and stellar career by inducting him into their Hall of Distinction.

Knowing the importance of philanthropy at LSU to his father, Gil and his family are naming the north entrance of the LSU Foundation Center for Philanthropy in Henry’s memory. “It was something he cared greatly about,” Gil said. “He loved people, and he loved life. He was very generous of both his time and his money. He had great compassion for other people.”

“I and my family, given his love of the university and passion about the LSU Foundation, thought this was a very appropriate way to honor him and the things that were important to him.”

Published in Cornerstone Winter and Spring 2015.

An Investment in Louisiana

After his first eye exam at 15, Dr. Frank Sanchez knew he wanted to be an optometrist. That determination took him first to LSU-Alexandria, where he met his wife, Janet, on day one. The couple then transferred to LSU in Baton Rouge before moving to Texas when Frank was accepted into the University of Houston College of Optometry.

Now living in Marksville, LA, the two are still inseparable, even in business. Janet has worked as business manager and bookkeeper for Frank’s optometry practice for the past 32 years.

The couple passed their dedication to education on to their children, Jessica and Jonathon, by teaching them a college degree would lead to success. “I’ve always been a big believer in academics,” Frank shared. “In today’s world, you have a chance of being more successful with a college education.”

Though neither graduated from LSU, Frank and Janet became members of the LSU Foundation seven years ago to support the state’s flagship university. “I thought the work the Foundation was trying to accomplish was worthy of contributing to,” Frank said. “It was something I needed to do and wanted to do.”

The Sanchezes believe support for the university is necessary to maintain a strong flagship. “Support for higher education in this state is important if we’re going to grow as a state economically,” Frank explained. “We can do more as a state if we have a strong flagship university.”

Published in Cornerstone Winter and Spring 2015.

All in the Family

Throughout his career as a lawyer, Huntington Odom had many successes. He was a partner at a Baton Rouge law firm, served as treasurer for the Louisiana State Law Institute, and was formative in shaping the state’s last constitutional revisions to benefit LSU.

With every success, he reflected on the importance of his LSU education. “He felt a deep obligation to the university and the law school,” Pat Odom said of her late husband. “If he said once, he said a million times, ‘All the success I’ve had, I owe to the university, the education I got there, and to the law school.’”

Huntington showed his lifelong appreciation for the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center by creating the James Huntington Odom and Patricia Kleinpeter Odom Professorship through a bequest in his will.

“They thought so much of the professors, at that time, and had such a regard for them,” Pat shared. “He valued the very good teachers that he had, and he wanted to make sure the law school had the money to hire the best in the country.”

Pat explained that there is a great need for philanthropy at LSU because donors provide funds the state cannot. “We need to support the university,” she said. “They need the money.”

Just as the endowed professorship will carry Huntington’s name for generations, generations of his family carry on his name—and legacy. James Huntington “Hunter” Odom III is currently in his first year at the law center.

Huntington’s grandson first pursued his medical degree, but after completing the master’s program at Mississippi College, returned to Baton Rouge to continue the family’s legal heritage. “I’ve always hoped to go to law school at some point or another,” Hunter said. “This is what my great-grandfather did. This is what my grandfather did.”

Hunter’s great-grandfather, John Fred Odom, was a local lawyer, a judge and the district attorney in the inquisition of Gov. Huey P. Long’s assassination. The lineage goes further still with his great-great-grandfather, Rep. James Manley Odom, who served in the state legislature. Hunter shared that he feels a sense of responsibility with his family history. “One of the things I’m most proud of is my name,” he said, adding, “Being here at LSU Law School is an honor and a dream come true. This is where I’m supposed to be.”

Published in Cornerstone Winter and Spring 2015.

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.