As part of our 75th Anniversary Year, we recently took a few moments to celebrate the leadership that carried McNeese through the decades to bring us to where we are today. On February 17 - President's Day, we held a program and reception at our new SEED center recognizing the five presidents that preceded me. Each man brought unique leadership qualities and lasting contributions to our university. Allow me to share with you a few highlights about each of them:
President Frazar - In 1949, Lether Edward Frazar presided over the transition of McNeese from a junior college to a four-year institution and was named its first President on August 15, 1950. He retired from McNeese in 1955 in order to run successfully as Lieutenant Governor on the Earl Long ticket. On November 11,1961, McNeese dedicated Frazar Memorial Library in his honor.
President Cusic - Dr. Wayne Cusic was a basketball coach and the second president of McNeese from 1955 to 1969. He came to McNeese in 1940 as an instructor in Health and Physical Education and an athletic coach. He later served as counselor to men, Director of the Department of Education, Director of Athletics, and Dean of Men. He was also the first president to occupy the President's Home in 1965.
President Leary - Dr. Thomas Samuel Leary started his career at McNeese in 1961 as a professor of engineering. Leary became the Head of Department of Engineering in the 1965-66 academic year. He was president of McNeese from 1969 until 1980. Under his presidency, McNeese State College was renamed to McNeese State University, and the colors of McNeese changed from purple and gold to blue and gold.
President Doland - Dr. Jack Doland was the only president who was ever first a student at McNeese State University. Before he became McNeese's fourth president, he served as the McNeese football coach from 1970 to 1978. On July 1, 1980, the Lake Arthur native officially became President and served until 1987 when he retired to successfully run for the Louisiana State Senate. McNeese named its Athletic Complex in his honor.
President Hebert - In 1969, Dr. Robert Hebert joined the McNeese faculty as an Associate Professor of History. He established the Division of Basic Studies near the end of the '78-'79 academic year. He became Vice President for Academic Affairs in 1980, and in 1987, Dr. Hebert was elected as McNeese's fifth president until his retirement on June 30, 2010. Under his direction in 1991, McNeese adopted the slogan "Excellence with a personal touch."
What a legacy these men have left us! As I look back on the work of these past leaders, I'm inspired to continue the tradition of excellence for which McNeese is known. By utilizing innovative teaching and learning, regional partnerships, service-learning opportunities, applied research and cultural engagement, we can maximize the impact we can make in our region for years to come. I believe we have much more to accomplish in Southwest Louisiana, and I look forward to working with each of you to pioneer this generation of McNeese into a very bright future.