THIBODAUX — During its first spring faculty meeting, Nicholls State University awarded four retirees with emeritus titles, honoring their exceptional dedication, outstanding accomplishments, professional contributions and extensive service to the university. Dr. O. Cleveland Hill, Dr. Marilyn Kilgen and Dr. Betty Kleen were named professor emeritus, and Deborah “Raz” Raziano was named director emeritus of alumni affairs.
As the university’s first black student athlete, Dr. O. Cleveland Hill has been helping advance Nicholls since 1968, when he arrived as a freshman from Moss Point, Miss. After a record-breaking collegiate basketball career, Hill enlisted in the U.S. Army but soon returned to his alma mater to help coach the basketball team and obtain a master’s degree in education. He remained at Nicholls as an assistant professor of physical education and later director of student teaching. From 1999 until his retirement in 2006, he served as dean of the College of Education, working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily on new initiatives, grants and accreditation efforts. Even through retirement, Hill has continued to work stints as the interim dean of student life at Nicholls, the principal at the MAX Charter School and, currently, an associate professor of education at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans.
Last month, Dr. Marilyn Kilgen retired after dedicating more than four decades to Nicholls. The Colonel graduate briefly lived in Alabama while earning her doctorate at Auburn University, but she quickly trekked back to her alma mater, where she has taught biology for the past 41 years. A nationally renown microbiologist and seafood safety scientist, Kilgen has received more than $7.5 million in research funding and is perhaps best known for her oyster research in collaboration with Motivatit Seafoods in Houma. While serving as head of the Nicholls Department of Biological Sciences for 12 years, she mentored 16 new faculty and guided the careers of countless alumni who are now physicians and other health care professionals. Kilgen played an integral role in helping the department add a master’s degree program, and though retired, she will continue to work on her grant-funded research initiatives.
For 33 years, Dr. Betty Kleen has helped Nicholls students become more competent business writers and more confident technology users. Her extensive expertise in information systems, business communication and teaching methods is reflected in the more than 175 journal articles that she’s published throughout her career. Kleen arrived at Nicholls in 1979 after earning two business degrees from Western Illinois University and a doctorate from the University of Kentucky. She rose her way up at Nicholls to become a distinguished service professor of information systems and director of Graduate Studies. A co-recipient of the first campuswide teaching excellence award at Nicholls, Kleen was also named the 2006 Computer Educator of the Year by the International Association of Computer Information Systems. Kleen retired on Jan. 1 but will still teach a Nicholls Online course and volunteer with local service organizations.
The quintessential Colonel spirit leader, Deborah “Raz” Raziano has championed Nicholls for 32 years in her role as director of alumni affairs. She first arrived on campus as a freshman in 1969 and later served as senior class president and the 1973 Miss Nicholls. Upon graduation, she worked as a consultant for her sorority, Delta Zeta, for six years, before returning to Nicholls as its fifth alumni director. During her tenure, she led the Nicholls Alumni Federation through numerous changes including the creation of a structured membership program, the re-introduction of the Nicholls class ring, the redesign of The Colonel alumni magazine and the development of the alumni website. She created several alumni traditions, including the annual alumni crawfish boil and the Awards for Excellence ceremony. Leaving behind an impressive campus legacy, Raziano retired on Jan. 11 and plans to volunteer, travel and continue cheering on the Colonels.