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McNeese President Phillip Williams speaks during a program honoring past presidents of the university Monday at the SEED Center. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

McNeese President Phillip Williams speaks during a program honoring past presidents of the university Monday at the SEED Center. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

McNeese honors past presidents

Last Modified: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 11:25 AM

By Kara Carrier / American Press

McNeese State University, as part of its 75th anniversary celebration, honored former university presidents Monday at the SEED Center. A program and reception recognized the accomplishments of Lether E. Frazar, Wayne N. Cusic, Dr. Thomas S. Leary, Dr. Jack V. Doland and Dr. Robert D. Hebert.

Joyce Patterson, McNeese director of alumni affairs, said the event was to celebrate the past and look forward to the university’s future. “We wanted to recognize our presidential leadership McNeese has had since 1939,” Patterson said. “Our history is what has brought us here today, and it’s a very proud history that we have. One of overcoming adversity, of always looking to the future, but never letting go of our past and recognizing the importance it has.”

Many family members and friends of the past presidents attended, including Lily Frazar Clark, daughter of McNeese’s first president, Lether Frazar. Clark said through tears that she was honored to be present at the event. “My dad would have been extremely proud of how much McNeese has accomplished,” she said. “He enjoyed this place so much.”

According to current McNeese president, Dr. Phillip C. Williams, in 1944 Frazar began serving as dean, which at the time was the highest-ranking university official. “By 1949, Frazar fought for McNeese to become a four-year-college, and he became the first president in 1950,” Williams said. Frazar retired in 1955.

During the program, Williams announced that former presidents Cusic and Leary were being honored by having areas on campus named after them. Cusic, who served as McNeese’s second president from 1955-1970, had the drive in front of Kaufman Hall named Wanye N. Cusic Circle.

Leary, McNeese’s third president who served from 1970-80, had the drive in front of Chozen Hall named in his honor. “Dr. Thomas S. Leary Circle will serve as the gateway for all students as Chozen Hall becomes a comprehensive area encompassing all transactions for entering students,” Williams said.

Leary’s granddaughter, Karen Chamberlin, attended the program along with more than 20 other family members and friends. Chamberlin said the family was proud beyond words of her grandfather’s legacy and the drive being named after him. “We are very grateful that they are going to memorialize him with a street name,” she said. “He will live on forever here.”

Williams also honored Doland, the university’s fourth president, by stating during his tenure from 1980-87 enrollment increased more than 30 percent. Doland also established the masters of fine arts in creative writing degree, he said.

Hebert, McNeese’s fifth and longest serving president (1987-2010), is the only past university president still living. Hebert attended the program along with his wife and said he also was honored to be part of the university’s history.

Williams said that one of Hebert’s most notable contributions to the university occurred in 2005 after Hurricane Rita caused $30 million worth of damage to nearly every building at McNeese. According to Williams, Hebert led the entire McNeese community in working to bring the students back to their classes, hold graduation and complete the semester in its entirety.

“I am proud to serve this great university and continue the legacy of excellence created by those who served before me,” Williams said in closing. “McNeese has evolved into one of the best nationally recognized universities in the south.”

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