"His widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Singletary Richard, approached me about helping academically qualified students with tuition expenses to attend McNeese," said Richard H. Reid, McNeese vice president for university advancement and executive vice president for the McNeese Foundation.
"By many accounts, Mr. Richard was an extraordinary person and a very successful self-made man," Reid said.
"He was a very good businessman and very charitable," his longtime friend Jerry Jones said. Jones and Richard were partners in organizing Cameron State Bank. Richard served as its first president when it opened on Jan. 15, 1966, and later became chairman of the board, a position he held until his death in 1997.
"Leslie came back to Cameron Parish after serving in the Pacific in World War II," Jones said. Richard served for a time as deputy sheriff and for many years as chief tax assessor. He also became involved in several businesses including the insurance business, providing local services to residents of Cameron Parish.
"In the early '60s the parish was booming with offshore production businesses. Gov. John McKeithen felt that every parish in the state should have a home bank, and Leslie and I may have been a bit crazy, but we felt we could start a bank for Cameron Parish. We raised $300,000 to start Cameron State Bank," Jones said. At the time Cameron Parish was served by a branch of Calcasieu Marine Bank.
Soon there were Cameron State Bank branches throughout the parish and the bank began expanding into Calcasieu Parish.
Richard and Jones remained involved with the bank as it grew and they hired many McNeese graduates. "We liked working together, our families were very close and we enjoyed traveling together," Jones said. "I believe that Leslie would be honored to know that this endowment has been established and he would be pleased that it will help young people in this area get a college degree from McNeese and help them minimize their student loan debt."
The gift has also pushed the McNeese Foundation closer to its $75 million endowment goal for the university's 75th anniversary.
"One of the foundation board members, Joe Miller Sr., actually suggested that we set our capital campaign goal to increase the assets of the McNeese Foundation from about $54 million to $75 million to commemorate the anniversary," Reid said. McNeese will officially celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2014.
Each year the McNeese Foundation provides more than $900,000 in private donor scholarships for students. Other endowments are designated for faculty awards, to enhance applied research projects or to provide much needed resources for the university.
For more information on the McNeese State University 75th anniversary campaign or the McNeese Foundation, contact Reid at 337-475-5588.