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Alumni awarded during Alumni Awards Evening

By Prakriti Adhikari
On October 9, 2017

Several alumni were honored for their outstanding achievement at the Alumni Awards Evening. The event was held in the Student Union Ballroom and was attended by current President John L. Crain, former university presidents, mayor of Hammond Pete Panepinto, board of directors and members of the Alumni Association, recipients of the award, their families, SGA President Seth Leto and staff representing various departments of the university.

“In the year 1927, the Alumni Association was founded to preserve and strengthen the bonds of friendship existing among former students and in order to promote the growth of the university,” said Executive Director of Alumni Relations Michelle Biggs.

The program began with Miss Southeastern Kristyn Gary singing the alma mater and went on with recognizing the honorees. Crain expressed how he thinks the alumni have responsibility for the growth of the university.

“This is always a really special evening to me,” said Crain. “I do wanna share with you that I genuinely believe that all of us who are Southeastern graduates have a lifelong obligation to help ensure that our university and our alumni continues to be a strong institution.”

The alumnus of the year was Dr. William T. Cefalu, chief scientific, medical and mission officer at American Diabetes Association. Crain toasted the first recipient of the night.

“To those who’ve come before us, to those who are yet to join us, to Dr. William T. Cefalu, the distinguished alumnus of the year, and to the Southeastern alumni everywhere, Lion pride forever,” said Crain.

The Loyal Lion Award was also presented to Southeastern Foundation Board member Joseph Laquet for demonstrating lifelong support to the university. Crain spoke about Laquet’s achievement.

“Always focused on how he can help support the university, you are truly a loyal lion,” said Crain.

The Friendship Oak Awards was presented to Ralph Shaw, a 1961 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, who sponsors the Ralph and Nancy Shaw Endowed Scholarship, helping non-traditional students with educational achievement. The other recipient was Janet Moran, a 1986 bachelor’s graduate, 1989 master’s graduate and previous member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. The honors were presented by President-Elect of Alumni Association Beth Ebberman.

The recipient of the L.E. Chandler Award was Larry Hymel and was presented by Past President of Alumni Relations and former mayor Mayson Foster. Hymel is currently the alumni athletic coordinator at the university and was also recently awarded with Lion for Life award by the Athletic Association.

The Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences went to Professor of philosophy Barbara Forrest. The College of Business award went to Robert “Bobby” Yarborough, CEO and co-owner of Manda Fine Meats. The College of Education award recipient was Albert J. Bodker, retired principal at Ponchatoula High School. Monica Nijoka, Chief Nursing Officer at Baton Rouge General Medical Center, received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.  The award for the College of Science and Technology went to President at Systems Integration/Modeling and Simulation, Inc.

 Eugene R. London, Jr.

The Wong family received Kathy L. Pittman Distinguished Service Award, named after former alumni director. The family of entrepreneurs was awarded for charity work and voluntarily supporting the university and the community as a whole. Three out of five brothers, John, James and Frank Wong received the award on the behalf of the family.

Towards the end of the program, Alumni Association President Brad Stevens handed the Young Alumnus of the Year Award to Attorney at Law at The Toney Law Office, LLC Charles “Chuck” Toney, Jr. The program also recognized six Southeastern Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship recipients, service recognition scholarship recipient and the Southeastern Room scholarship recipient.

“It feels really honoring,” said Cameryn Faulkner, recipient of the Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship. “All the hard work I have put in during the past couple of years is getting recognized. It’s good to see the alumni come up and support their students.”

Hymel, who is retiring this December from the position of the Athletic Coordinator, shared his thoughts on the award.

“I have been associated with the university for fifty one years,” said Hymel. “It’s been a tremendous honor. I don’t know what else to say. It’s just been wonderful.”

Cefalu shared his thoughts on being the alumnus of the year.

“Despite what I do on a daily basis, I’ve never forgotten the fact that every step of my career started here at Southeastern, and that is something I will always be grateful for,” said Cefalu. “With all the awards I’ve received in honor, I must be honest with you, this one is the most special. I cannot thank you enough.”

Biggs concluded the program by sharing her thoughts on the contribution of the alumni.
“One final congratulations to all of our award winners,” said Biggs. “It’s graduates like you that we rely on to uphold the traditions and commitment of this great university.” 

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