THIBODAUX – The Nicholls State University Alumni Federation honored those who have contributed the most to the university and the federation at its annual Awards for Excellence reception, held Sunday, March 18.
The James Lynn Powell Award, the highest honor awarded to alumni, was presented to Kerry St. Pé, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP). A 1973 graduate of Nicholls and champion for coastal restoration, St. Pé received an honorary doctorate from the university in 2008, recognizing his career accomplishments.
The Marie Fletcher Distinguished Service Award, the only Alumni Federation honor that carries with it a cash stipend, was presented to Dr. Ramaraj Boopathy, distinguished service professor of biological sciences and Jerry Ledet Endowed Professor of Environmental Sciences. Boopathy’s research focuses on biotechnology, ecotoxicology and, most recently, the bioremediation of the BP oil spill.
The Harvey Peltier Award, the highest award presented to a non-graduate of Nicholls, was awarded to James E. and Dr. Grace M. Gueydan, who have devoted much of their retired lives to enhancing the university via generous gifts to the Nicholls Foundation, athletics programs, endowed professorships and scholarship funds. Grace is a former Nicholls faculty member and administrator.
The Ramon J. Labat Award – presented to former or current civil service Nicholls employees who have shown exceptional professionalism – was presented to Elaine Benoit, a 20-year Nicholls veteran who currently serves University College as an administrative assistant 3. In addition to Benoit’s dedication to her job duties, she is a photographer who routinely donates her prints as prizes for various campus functions.
The honorary alumnus this year is Dr. Gary LaFleur, associate professor of biological sciences. LaFleur’s expertise and interests range from physiology, molecular biology and human anatomy to coastal landscape photography, Cajun culture and folk art. His professional reputation as a researcher, educator, community activist and youth mentor is enhanced via his routine appearances on area news programs.
A final alumni award, the Corporate Mark of Honor, was presented to Coastal Commerce Bank, which not only employs several Nicholls graduates but also facilitates the bond between Nicholls and Fletcher Technical Community College. In addition, the bank donates generously to a wide variety of Nicholls events and fundraisers, including the John Folse Culinary Institute’s “Bite of the Arts” and the Nicholls Foundation’s “Sponsor A+ Scholar Wine and Food Extravaganza.”
The Alumni Federation also recognized current students who were named to the 2012 Nicholls State University Hall of Fame, which honors both scholastic and service-oriented excellence. Awardees, listed with hometowns, include Binita Adhikari of Kathmandu, Nepal; Neal Bollinger of Houma; Brandi Boudreaux of Thibodaux; Kate Hotard of Mathews; Katie Hymel of Vacherie; Elisa Istre of Lockport; Jared Lajaunie of Houma; John Lombardo of Thibodaux; Jonathan Lynch of Ruston; Mariam Matteuzzi of Thibodaux; Aubrey Orgeron of Larose; Kacey Rodrigue of Thibodaux; Sarah Sullivan of Lafayette; and Macey Zeringue of Thibodaux.