Names in the News: People shaping the future of Lake Area business

Published 4:43 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Lofton named award recipient

AUBURN, Ala. — The late Dr. Robert Lofton was among three outstanding alumni of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to be honored as the 2022 winners of the Wilford S. Bailey Distinguished Alumni Awards.

The award is the highest honor given to Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine alumni to recognize their professional accomplishments in veterinary medicine, outstanding contributions to their communities and the overall advancement of animal and human health.

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Awardees are recognized in three areas of eligibility: public policy and research, academia and private practice.

Lofton was named recipient of the 2022 Bailey Award in private practice. Lofton earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Louisiana State University before completing a doctor of veterinary medicine from Auburn in 1972. Following graduation, he founded University Animal Clinic in Lake Charles, where he practiced for the next 36 years. He joined the Auburn faculty in 2013 as an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences. During his five-year tenure at Auburn, he was a principal developer of the Auburn University Veterinary Clinic, the Auburn Veterinary Academy and the Hoerlein Hall Spay-Neuter Program.

Lofton, Louisiana Veterinarian of the Year in 1999 and a former chair of the Veterinary Advisory Council at Auburn, served on the board of directors of the American Animal Hospital Association from 2003-08. He was also a Diamond Level Member of the Auburn Vet Med Centennial Club.

He and his wife, Lela, established the Robert M. and Lela Lofton Endowed Scholarship fund in 2017. He was also elected to the Opelika, Alab., City Council in 2020. Lofton fought valiantly against a rapidly progressing disease in 2021 and passed away in January 2022.

“Dr. Lofton was a truly inspiring graduate of our college,” said Calvin Johnson, Auburn veterinary dean. “He derived great joy from teaching and his contributions to Auburn will last for many years through his students’ success. Although his life was shortened by a tragic disease, Dr. Lofton left a permanent mark on countless people who had the good fortune of learning from and working alongside him.”

Erickson to lead NWS office

Roger Erickson has been named the new Meteorologist in Charge for the National Weather Service in Lake Charles. He replaces Andy Patrick, who retired.

Roger has worked in the NWS Lake Charles office for 27 years as the warning coordination meteorologist, where he led the education and outreach program. He has worked numerous high-impact weather events, including major Hurricanes Rita (2005) and Laura (2020).

Center welcomes board members

The Southwest Louisiana Law Center is proud to welcome Shonda Manuel, Duane Piranio, and Brandon Lestage as its newest board members.

A lifelong resident of Lake Charles and graduate of McNeese State University in visual arts, Manuel is a partner at Healthy Image Marketing and serves as its associate creative director. Her career has spanned over 20 years, and she has received numerous advertising awards for graphic design and photography.

 Passionate about the city that has raised her, Manuel serves on several boards such as the Lake Charles/SWLA Convention & Visitors Board of Directors, Christus LiveWell Advisory Council, Sowela Digital Arts & Communication Advisory Board and the SWLA Youth Foundation. She is a graduate of the Chamber Leadership program and has also been recognized as a “Thriving 30-Something” for Thrive magazine.

When not working or volunteering, she is a Les Mills-certified Body Pump and Body Combat instructor and teaches group fitness classes at Club4Fit. She has been married to Chris Manuel for 20 years and they have two teenage children, Aiden and Reese.

Piranio is a licensed geologist working as an environmental consultant in Lake Charles. Born and raised in central Louisiana, his profession led to years of residence in the Sultanate of Oman and multiple eastern American states before returning to Louisiana in 2003. In addition to board service with The SWLA Law Center, he serves on the SWLA Economic Development Alliance Environmental Affairs Committee and is president-elect of the Lake Charles Happy Hour Rotary Club. He is also a 2010 graduate of the SWLA Economic Development Alliance Leadership Class.

Piranio enjoys traveling, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with his wife, Amanda White, and doppelganger son, Henry.

Lestage was born in DeRidder, and is a resident of Lake Charles. He attended McNeese State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in business management. Upon graduation, he started his banking career as a commercial lender with First National Bank of DeRidder.

He and his wife, Caryn, got married in 2018 and welcomed their son Henry to the world in August 2021.

Along with the SWLA Law Center, Lestage is also an active member of Fusion Five, SWLA Youth Foundation, and Louisiana High School Sports Officials Association.

White named VP of business affairs

Mona White has been named vice president for business affairs at McNeese State University.

White has served as the university’s chief financial officer since 2001 and was responsible for managing and supervising all of the university’s accounting functions including accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll and cash management, preparing annual fiscal reports and working with the Legislative Auditor’s Office to ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements.

As vice president for business affairs, White will be responsible for all administrative accounting and budget functions, the Office of Human Resources and Student Employment, Office of Purchasing and Property Control and the University Bookstore.

White has more than 30 years of financial and accounting experience and worked in the health care industry before joining McNeese. She earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from McNeese.

Hunter named Housing Hero

Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Housing Corporation recently honored Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter with the V. Jean Butler Housing Hero Award.

The 2022 Housing Heroes Initiative launched in response to natural disasters and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A new tradition was also established this year as part of the initiative — the naming of the inaugural V. Jean Butler Housing Heroes.

Butler, the former president and vice president of the original housing and finance agency that birthed LHC, was on hand for the ceremony.

The Office of the Governor, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the Louisiana Housing Corporation established the Housing Heroes Initiative. It represents a collaborative approach that works to identify move-in ready apartment and rental housing opportunities across the state and promotes an inclusive strategy to identify and assess readiness critical to the state’s ongoing recovery efforts.