Nicholls Provides A Supreme Education

Story by Jacob Batte

In the days leading up to being sworn in as the 26th Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, John Weimer (BS ‘76) was thinking about his alma mater.

It was at Nicholls State University where he made friends who gave him the confidence and support to pursue public service. It was the teachers who inspired him to become a lifelong learner. It was where he met his wife, Penny.

“Nicholls provided all I needed to succeed in life and in my career, and wonderful life-long accomplished friends – including teachers, classmates and former students – who taught me much, both inside and outside the classroom,” Weimer says. “Any success I have had can be traced back to Nicholls.”

His affection for Nicholls is such that he originally hoped to hold his investiture on campus as a “celebration of Nicholls.” But, because of COVID-19, he held it in the Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero Courthouse in New Orleans before a limited crowd.

Nevertheless, the event still had a distinct Nicholls’ flavor. Dan Borne´ (BA ‘68) served as the master of ceremonies. Chef Randy Cheramie (BA ‘76) sang the national anthem. Sheriff Greg Champagne (BA ‘79) and Chris Riviere (BS ‘78) lead the pledge of allegiance. Danny Cavell (BA ‘77) administered the oath of office. And Reverend Dr. Charles Oatis (AS ‘90) delivered the closing benediction.

“John Weimer has really gained the respect of people in the Bayou Region through his association with Nicholls,” Cavell says. “Nicholls is his home, it’s the basis of everything he has accomplished. He believes his time as a student and as a teacher has helped to propel him and put him in this position.”

Weimer’s blue-collar father raised him and his five siblings after their mother passed away when he was nine years old. He enrolled at Nicholls because he could get there on a borrowed bicycle and pay off tuition with four days of work offshore. It was also the only school he could get into after struggling in high school. But once on campus, he committed to getting involved.

“Nicholls provided all I needed to succeed in life and in my career, and wonderful life-long accomplished friends – including teachers, classmates and former students – who taught me much, both inside and outside the classroom,” Weimer says. “Any success I have had can be traced back to Nicholls.”

“As opposed to high school where I did very little, I did everything at Nicholls,” he says. “I figured since I was paying to go, I would take advantage of every educational, social and learning opportunity.”

A business major, he took extra classes every semester, usually in English or history. He successfully ran for freshman class president, sophomore class president, and student body president–twice. He wrote for The Nicholls Worth. He worked for KNSU Radio and the TV station.

“I met this amazing cast of people who became my teachers, colleagues, and friends,” he says. “I have a knack for getting to know people well and surrounding myself with the best and brightest to compensate for my inadequacies.”

Among his influences on campus were professors Leslie Marcello, Dr. Al Delahey, Dr. Ridley Gros, and Dr. Jimmy Ponder. It was because of them, he says, that he matured so much as a student and a person.

“My professors created such a rich learning environment that was perfect for someone like me, who came from a working class background,” he says. “A lot of what got me in trouble in high school was acceptable in college. Teachers at Nicholls encouraged my creativity and appreciated questions and debate. Their patience with me and their willingness to work with me made me an eager student.”

He would return to his alma mater as a professor of business law and ethics for 16 years. During that time he received the university’s Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence. In 1993, he was appointed to the 17th Judicial District Court by the Louisiana Supreme Court, in large part, because he was a law teacher at Nicholls.

“I still feel, in some ways, that I’m on a sabbatical from teaching,” he says. “I have taken a unique path to the bench, and it’s all because of Nicholls.”

 “Nicholls is an institution of learning that impacted my life in every way imaginable...”

Weimer has represented District 6 on the Louisiana Supreme Court since 2001. When he first ran two decades ago, he had to borrow Cavell’s vehicle to register at the last minute in Baton Rouge, and then was out-spent 3-to-1, but still won. His district includes Assumption, Iberia Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne, and a portion of the west bank of Jefferson, which includes Grand Isle.

His friends say they aren’t surprised at the success that he has had in his career. While they didn’t know what he would eventually become, they saw him as a visionary dedicated to public service.

“John Weimer was focused on what he wanted and where he wanted to be in his life,” says Cheramie, a friend and former classmate. “He was the guy that was going to succeed no matter what, and he had such a way about him. One of his great gifts is that he has a unique way of really being involved or interested in what is going on. When he looks at you, he looks at you in the eyes.”

Adds another friend, John Perry (BS ‘76), “When we were at Nicholls, John Weimer was the true leader of the class. He had a great relationship with everyone. He was the go-to person. If you had to pick someone who had to rise to that level, he would have been the first person we thought of.”

Weimer, though, says he would not have made it this far without friends who “pushed, pulled, and tugged me into directions I wasn’t confident of going.” That group includes, among many others, Cheramie, Perry, Cavell, Marty Chabert, Brian Chaisson, Jimmy Dagate, Billy Stark, Dr. John Heaton, Tommy Lyons, Jerry Herman, Roy Willis, and Paul Aucoin. The list also includes former congressman Billly Tauzin (BA ‘64) and former speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives Hunt Downer (BA ‘68.

“When you have quality people like that as dear friends, it just means so much. They gave me the confidence that I often didn’t have in myself,” he says.

But they turn the credit back to him every time. 

“Louisiana is lucky that we have him,” Perry says.

To this day, Weimer says he “can’t go anywhere without seeing a former teacher, classmate, or student met at Nicholls. It all comes back to Nicholls.”

Given his genuine affection for his alma mater, it’s only fitting that he ascend to a position once held by the university’s namesake, Francis Tillou Nicholls.

 “Nicholls is an institution of learning that impacted my life in every way imaginable,” he says. “It provided me an opportunity to learn. It’s where I met my wife. It’s where teachers cared about me as a person. And it’s where I met so many people who have remained so important to me throughout my life. Nicholls provides a truly magnificent educational opportunity for everyone.”

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