Nicholls scholarship fund to honor biology graduate

THIBODAUX — Nicholls State University’s Department of Biological Sciences has established a scholarship fund in memory of alumna Rachel Ianni, who tragically passed away Jan. 1 at age 26 while hiking near Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains.

            Nicholls faculty describe Ianni — a May 2011 graduate of the marine and environmental biology master’s program — as a genuine, inspiring and hard-working woman who didn’t shy away from physically demanding research assignments and approached volunteer work with unmatched gusto. While at Nicholls, Ianni worked on a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries project to remove invasive tilapias from a Port Sulphur canal system, and she served as a teaching assistant for a University Honors course in Costa Rica. Her Nicholls degree led her to jobs with the Indiana Dunes National Forest, Chicago Public Schools and The Field Museum of Chicago.

            To honor Ianni’s love of travel, zest for life and passion for scientific research, the memorial funds will go toward travel scholarships for marine and environmental biology students.

            “Rachel represents what is good in the world and has inspired me to live my life with the same outlook she had,” said Dr. Quenton Fontenot, interim head of the biology department. “She was as dependable as they come. The restoration work we did was dirty, and Rachel would always seem to get the muddiest. We always joked that Rachel could get muddy in a bottle of bleach. But as hard as she worked, she also took the necessary time to enjoy the present. As important as it is to work hard, it is equally important to enjoy life, and Rachel got it right.”

            To donate to the Rachel Ianni Memorial Fund, write a check payable to NSU Credit Union (with “Rachel Ianni” written in the memo line) and mail it to NSU Foundation, P.O. Box 2074, Thibodaux, LA 70310. For more information, email or

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