Benny Cenac, Houma businessman and his dedication to his alma mater
Nicholls State University holds a special place in the hearts of all who have attended the public college in Thibodaux, Louisiana. For Houma native and fourth-generation Louisianan, Arlen Benny Cenac, Jr., the university remains a focus in his professional network and philanthropic efforts.
Ever since Benny Cenac’s days walking the halls and campus of Nicholls, he has made it a priority to stay involved with the university. Whether that be by sitting on the Nicholls State University College of Business Advisory Board, or by making generous donations to an array of causes, including the Nicholls State University Foundation, the Bridge to Independence Program, and the Nicholls State University Culinary School, Benny continues to find ways to give back to his alma mater.
Benny Cenac’s Business Career
As a born and bred Louisianan, Benny Cenac has always had a passion for his hometown and the businesses and culture that are a part of it. Benny grew up watching his grandfather run the Cenac family business, founded in 1927 as Cenac Towing Company. He gained his knowledge of the maritime industry watching and learning from their experiences. After earning a business degree at Nicholls, Benny Cenac returned home to take over the family business, becoming the third-generation owner of what is now Cenac Marine Services.
Benny’s passion for business didn’t stop with the family company. He engineered his entrepreneurial spirit and put his degree to use establishing himself as the owner of several other local businesses – Main Iron Works, Houma Machine and Propeller, and Golden Ranch Farms. The entities in the retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and agriculture industries help cultivate a strong local economy for Houma and for Terrebonne Parish.
Benny Cenac credits his professional growth and development to his time at Nicholls.
“My time at Nicholls gave me a foundation of skills that enhanced my entrepreneurial mindset and prepared me to take over and expand my family businesses,” Benny said. “The relationships I developed with professors, fellow students, and the Nicholls family have benefited me for my entire professional career.”
Benny Cenac’s Efforts to Give Back to Nicholls
Now a successful businessman, Benny Cenac is committed to improving his community through charitable giving. Benny’s charitable donations span a wide range of causes, but one of his favorite causes to give back to is Nicholls.
Benny Cenac has made numerous donations to Nicholls. Most recently he donated to the Nicholls Campus Emergency Fund. This fund was established by the Nicholls State University Foundation, a board which Benny is a member of, to assist students, faculty, and staff in times of unique needs, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 forced the school to transition all programs to an online format, causing unforeseen expenses for some students. The funds are being allocated to counteract the financial burden of moving online, as well as to support the Nicholls food pantry, Mom’s Pantry. Mom’s pantry was opened on campus in 2019 to help students facing food insecurity, and has remained open throughout the pandemic to support students who have no other place to live but campus, and who no longer have jobs on campus due to the pandemic.
Benny Cenac’s donation to the Campus Emergency Fund is one of many he has made to the university. Prior to this donation, he recently supported the university’s art program with a donation to the second annual popular Oh Là Là theater series. The donation was put towards several funds and projects necessary to make the show a reality, including renovations on the Mary and Al Danos Theater totaling upwards of $9.6 Million. Benny has also donated golf carts to the university’s Alumni Federation and Bridge to Independence Program, a program offering students with intellectual disabilities or Autism Spectrum Disorder the opportunity to enjoy the full college experience while gaining social and leadership skills that are critical for future employment and independent living. The golf carts are now used to help transport students around campus and help the Alumni office transport supplies across campus.
Benny Cenac’s most notable donation to the school thus far was to the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute. In 2015, Benny learned that the school was in need of more funding for a new culinary building. As a Louisianan Benny’s appreciation for Cajun culture, specifically Cajun food, runs deep. He made a generous donation in honor of his long-time employee and friend, Lanny D. Ledet, that led to the creation of a 33,000 square foot state-of-the art culinary facility, complete with six kitchens, lecture rooms, and a student study lounge. The Lanny D. Ledet Culinary Arts Building supports the continuing education of Nicholls students and future chefs.
To this day, Benny Cenac remains grateful for his time at Nicholls and continues to seek ways to stay involved with the university and the relationships he created during his time there.
“These lifelong bonds forged in Thibodaux have been a great part of my professional and personal growth and success.”
To view more about the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, watch our 4 episode series of Cooking with Benny at the links below.