Like all Episcopal students, McCraney Brown ’13 and Nicklaus (Nick) Russell ’12 attended services in the Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd every week. Similar to their classmates, the two were also active members of the student body. McCraney was a part of the cheerleading squad and tennis team, and Nick was a member of the baseball and football teams. However, unlike most students the two developed a relationship that would one day see them return to the Chapel as bride and groom.
McCraney remembers Nick from Middle School. A year younger than him, she jokingly says she knew him, but he didn’t know her at the time. By McCraney’s ninth grade year that changed, and the two talked at a friend’s crawfish boil. McCraney’s junior year provided them the opportunity to become friends as they had several elective classes together. That friendship blossomed, and the two had a first date that McCraney remembers well. She says she had just finished participating in a '70’s theme dance recital before the big outing. She was dressed in a blue leotard and bright blue eyeshadow. With no time to change, she met Nick for their first date at a local sushi restaurant.
The young couple continued dating, and McCraney remembers spending time together in the Episcopal quad and the student center. The two were also frequent visitors to the coffee shop. Once Nick graduated and enrolled at Ole Miss, where he studied business administration and economics, there were frequent trips between Oxford and Baton Rouge. McCraney remembers Nick having lunch at Episcopal with her younger sister Joyner when he was home for a visit. “She felt so special,” she says. There were also occasions when Nick picked Joyner up from school. Nick had truly become a part of McCraney’s family. This became obvious when the two took a two week break from dating. McCraney’s younger brother Tad accused her of taking away his only brother. The break didn’t last, and the two quickly reunited. The first ring Nick presented to McCraney was her Episcopal class ring, as he was the one to ring her at the traditional Ring Day Ceremony. Eventually, McCraney graduated from Episcopal and joined Nick at Ole Miss as an exercise science major.
Through the excitement of college life with tailgating at the Grove and late night study sessions, McCraney and Nick remained together. They continued dating when they returned to Baton Rouge, and McCraney enrolled in nursing school. In April 2019, the two planned a trip to New Orleans to celebrate Nick’s 25th birthday - at least that’s what McCraney thought was happening. Nick surprised her with a proposal, and the two began planning a wedding.
McCraney had long envisioned getting married at First United Methodist Church, but church renovations made that impossible. Her mom suggested the Episcopal Chapel, and initially McCraney was unconvinced. None of her friends had gotten married at the Chapel, and she just wasn’t sure it was the right location. After a quick visit to the venue, she changed her mind. Once friends discovered the wedding location, everyone was excited to return to campus for the special day. On December 28, 2019, McCraney and Nick, surrounded by many of their Episcopal classmates, got married in the Chapel, the location of weekly services, college announcements, Lessons and Carols and the baccalaureate ceremony that marked the end of their high school days. For McCraney, marking the beginning of their marriage in the Chapel was perfect. “It was a place that meant something to both of us,” she says. As her grandfather would later say in a toast, the occasion occurred eight years and two months after the two first began dating on that same campus.
McCraney and Nick’s first year of marriage was unconventional. She finished nursing school in May, with a pandemic impacting the Baton Rouge area. After only a few months of marriage, the two were confined to their apartment. McCraney says they walked the LSU lakes, did puzzles and Nick tested out new recipes. “It was kind of nice to have just us time,” she says. “A lot of people don’t have that special time.” There were other unusual events during that first year of marriage. Nick had his appendix removed, providing McCraney the opportunity to test her nursing skills, and the couple had a bout with COVID-19.
Marrying your high school sweetheart is not a common love story, but it’s a story that fits McCraney and Nick. “I think it’s just fun,” says McCraney. “We were friends first.” She appreciates the fact that the two have shared so many life experiences and will continue going through the phases of life together.
The wedding felt like a class reunion with numerous Episcopal classmates on hand. The photo includes the following alumni: Denton Graham ’12, Julian Darden ’12, William Newton ’11, Kent Knaus ’12, Vincent Dellocono ’12, Gaines Hanks ’12, TR Clausen ’12, Taylor LeBlanc ’13, Amelia Rosso ’13, Jane Lloyd (Brown) Dossett ’09, Tad Brown ’16 and Joyner Brown ’20.
Episcopal will always be a part of their story. “That’s where we met,” says McCraney. “We formed friendships that lasted forever and hopefully our relationship will too.” When the two move into the parenting phase of life, McCraney hopes their children will also attend Episcopal because of the experience they had at the school. “Our friends were so close,” says McCraney. “The class sizes are big, but not too big.” McCraney says even now she still thinks about her second grade teacher, and she remains in contact with many of her former classmates.
From weekly quiet moments in the Episcopal Chapel to a wedding that seemed like a high school reunion in that same special place, McCraney and Nick have a true Episcopal Cupid Couple love story. Join us in wishing them well in the comment section below.
Episcopal’s close knit community has helped establish numerous Cupid Couples. To read about one of our other featured Cupid Couples Mollie and John Hill, click here. You can also check out this Cupid Couple video to see what some of our other couples have been up to since their time at Episcopal. Happy Valentine’s Day to our Cupid Couples!
Imagine a quiet New Mexico landscape nestled near a national forest with views of deer, a creek and mountains. For companionship you have a cattle dog named Banjo, two cats and your loved ones. This is the quarantine setting that 2001 Episcopal graduate John Graham has enjoyed. It’s a world away from the Los Angeles apartment he once called home, but he’s found that it’s an ideal setting to spark his imagination.
John was born in New Mexico and lived in a small village until his family relocated to Alaska when he was nine years old. After three and a half years in the tundra, the family moved to Louisiana, where John began attending Episcopal in fifth grade. At the time, he was also introduced to shrimp etouffee and fell in love with gumbo. Louisiana was a change, but John says he was “young enough to roll with the punches.”
"I learned how to learn at Episcopal.”
“I was not an exemplary student at EHS,” says John. He emphasizes this point, saying he didn’t get algebra and some subjects at the time. However, as a college student at the Savannah College of Art and Design things changed. John says when he got to college, he “realized the value of Episcopal.” He saw classmates struggling while he excelled. “I learned how to learn at Episcopal,” he says. “I feel confident I can figure things out.” John also found that the algebra he initially didn’t get became important when it was used to solve problems he cared about. One day, as he calculated the ideal distance from a subject to the camera, it struck him. “My teachers were right. I did need it in real life!”
In John’s real life, he is a filmmaker with seven independent films to his credit. He is involved in all aspects of his projects from concept creation to editing and directing. Recently, he celebrated the release of his latest endeavor, a movie titled “Switched.” “Switched” tells the story of a mean-spirited bully who becomes switched with the classmate she torments. “The message is love your neighbor as yourself,” says Graham. He points out that to truly love your neighbor, you must love yourself, highlighting the importance of taking care of your body and your mental health.
John’s life has not always been an adventure. When he initially graduated from college, work was difficult to find. Determined, John took an office job in order to meet people in the film industry. That commitment to his dream paid off, and he met the right people. He landed his first job in the industry as a production assistant. From there John continued working toward his goal of filmmaking, directing his first movie titled “Home Sweet Home” on his parents’ property in New Mexico.
John has a gift for connecting with others whether at Episcopal or in Hollywood. As a Knight, he was a member of the Drama Club and the Thespians. He was voted the Homecoming King his senior year. Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair Paige Gagliano remembers John well. “John is a positive, industrious and creative young man,” she says. “A great person to be around.” Throughout his career, John has cultivated relationships with talented people and worked with them on multiple projects. He thinks he connects with people because he is kind and listens. He also says, “I am go with the flow.” That laid back attitude serves him well when challenges present themselves in settings like a rigid film schedule. “Creativity and not panicking become important,” says John. At the same time, John appreciates the good that comes from a challenge. “Constraint sometimes gives you a brilliant moment,” he says. “Adversity is a way to grow.”
“I always wanted to be a storyteller.”
John has established a successful career through hard work and determination. He offers the following advice to current students. “Try your hardest so you can get where you want to be. If you find something you love, find a way to make your career doing that.” He also reminds students to be kind. “Be cognizant of how you treat each other,” he says.
From the American west to Woodland Ridge Boulevard and back again, John has pursued his dreams while having adventures along the way. We can’t wait to see what this creative will do next.
You can check out John’s latest adventures on Instagram @johnkdgraham. His film, “Switched,” is available on DVD or VOD.
We love telling alumni stories! Send us a message at email@example.com if you have a story to share.
Wish John well in the comments section below.
Sports have been a part of Episcopal head girls basketball coach and 2009 graduate Taylor Mims Wharton’s life for as long as she can remember. Her first athletic outing was playing tee-ball at three years old and even now she still remembers the experience and her teammates. The following year, at the age of four, Taylor dribbled a basketball for the first time as part of an organized team and she hit the pitch as a soccer player. With a dad for a coach, competing just seemed natural for young Taylor. As an only child, she also appreciated the camaraderie that existed with her teammates as they carpooled to practices and games and swapped stories about life in the same way sisters might do. Sports was a family affair from the very beginning, and it remains so to this day.
In seventh grade, Taylor earned a spot on the Episcopal varsity girls basketball team. In a basketball-themed scrapbook created by her proud mom, Kim, there are photos of Taylor in her varsity Episcopal uniform making her first appearance as an athlete on the LSU PMAC court. She was only 12 years old. In 2004 as a Middle School student, Taylor had already lettered in basketball, earning an Athletic Award signed by then head basketball coach Travis Bourgeois. Taylor’s success on the court continued with newspaper write-ups touting her performances. Then, on December 1st of her eighth grade year something quite unexpected occurred. During drills, Taylor pivoted in practice and heard a strange sound in her knee. After limping to the sideline and realizing that her knee didn’t feel right, Taylor made a visit to the team trainer. That sound turned out to be a torn ACL and meniscus. The injury required surgery and took Taylor out of the game she loved for eight long months. However, it gave her something even more meaningful and important than basketball.
“Basketball seemed to be everything but when it was taken away, I found my identity.”
As Taylor underwent surgery to repair her knee, her teammates and coaches rallied around her. Her parents, who have always been her number one fans, were by her side the entire way as she worked to strengthen her leg and get back to the game. As she spent time in bed resting her knee, Taylor devoted time to reading the Bible. She and her parents were faithful churchgoers, but during this downtime Taylor said she really “got it.” “I found my identity in Christ,” she says. “Basketball is something I love but it’s not who I am. I’m a Christian, that’s who I am.” For Taylor, an injury that hurt and took her out of the game actually brought her tremendous joy - the joy of discovering what she is made of and who she truly is. It is that joy and sense of tremendous faith that leads her in all of life’s adventures.
Those adventures included successfully competing in volleyball and softball in addition to her time on the basketball court. After graduating from Episcopal, Taylor played basketball for College of Charleston and Southeastern Louisiana University. In 2014, she returned to her high school alma mater to lead the Knights basketball program, and she has loved every minute of it.
“Eventually the basketball stops bouncing. Being a good person will last your entire life.”
As the girls basketball coach, Taylor shares life lessons with her athletes. She reminds them that there will be challenges in life, but they can and will overcome adversity. She says basketball teaches competitors to work hard, to bounce back and how to fail. She also stresses the importance of respecting your opponents, the officials and the opposing coaches. “Do your best,” she says. “Do it the right way.”
Part of doing things the right way means staying humble and caring for others in meaningful ways. Each year, Taylor and her team of Knights participate in community service efforts together. The team has assisted with food drives and helped with Christmas toy drives. Last school year, they even made it a point to cheer on the Lower School girls basketball team. In addition, the Knights host weekly Bible study sessions with the seniors choosing the topics and leading the discussion.
Taylor is assisted in her coaching efforts by her dad Raymond, who taught her a lot of what she puts into practice. Raymond is a former college athlete and has coached for more than 30 years. Taylor says it’s important to have a great assistant that you can trust and rely on to tell you the truth. Not surprisingly, Taylor says the two have the same basketball mindset with a passion for the defensive aspects of the game. During the season, the two spend six of seven days of the week together, and Taylor wouldn’t want it any other way. “It’s fun working with my dad,” she says.
When they aren’t coaching the Knights, Taylor and her family can often be found watching sports together. As you might imagine, the occasion is lively with so many athletic-minded fans in the same room. “We’re always talking to the TV,” says Taylor. “It’s hard to watch without dissecting each play.” This year, there’s an additional voice in the room as Taylor’s husband, Alex, has joined in on the action. Taylor and Alex were married earlier this year. The original spring wedding ceremony included a guest list of 300. In the midst of the pandemic, that list quickly had to be trimmed to 12. However, looking back Taylor says the experience was great. “We made the best out of it,” she says with a smile. In true 2020 style, the Episcopal coaches and players organized a car parade in Taylor and Alex’s cul-de-sac which is certainly something that won’t soon be forgotten.
Taylor is still learning and growing. This summer, she began working toward a doctorate in leadership studies with a concentration in athletic administration. Taylor gives her mom a lot of credit for her academic success, saying mom kept her focused on her studies even when Taylor was only thinking about the hardwood. She also credits Episcopal with her academic success saying college was a breeze after her experience as a Knight. She says as an adult she now appreciates that her parents enrolled her in Episcopal as a kindergartener. “They sacrificed a lot for me to be here with their time and finances,” she says. That commitment paid off. “The whole experience here shaped me,” says Taylor. “I would not trade a moment of it.”
The Episcopal community has long been a fan of Taylor. As a student, she was a recipient of the Webster Cup and Annslee Laura Phillips Female Athlete of the Year Award. As a coach and teacher, she continues to make tremendous contributions to the school’s athletics program and the students she mentors. Join us in thanking her for the difference she makes.
Food, family and storytelling are the same whether those gathered share a bloodline or a lifelong bond created through a shared love of a school. When family and friends gather, there is traditionally a sense of gratitude as everyone relives the moments that connect them. That was certainly the case when Episcopal families from the west side of the Mississippi River hosted a small luncheon to welcome new Head of School Dr. Carrie Steakley. Dr. Steakley was enveloped in the enthusiasm and passion attendees had for the school she now leads. Once the introductions were made, the story sharing quickly began.
“Episcopal has been a part of my life since I was nine years old,” says graduate/former employee and hostess Renee Price ’76. Just as families set the scene for a Thanksgiving feast, Price inspired a trip down memory lane by displaying yearbooks, Knights, teachers’ notes, class rings and more throughout her home in Port Allen. Glancing at the mementos took the attendees back to a time when their children crossed the river twice daily in order to access the rigorous education their families desired.
The first group of west side families became Knights as soon as the school opened in downtown Baton Rouge many years ago. At that time, there was no bridge and students had to travel across the river on the ferry. Price’s mom, Mrs. Gayle Schwing, spent countless hours chaperoning the bus that transported that first generation of students. Now, the ladies all laugh as they recall those days. The trip required students to exit the bus to ride the ferry across. There are tales of shoes dropped in the water and all the excitement you would expect from young people on a boat together. Eventually, the bridge was built, and students began making the trip the entire way on the bus. While the thought of this daily commute may seem intimidating with today’s traffic, the families say the situation wasn’t nearly as difficult then and really only took about 25 minutes. Looking back now, they are grateful to have had access to an Episcopal education. “It was absolutely worth it,” says Mrs. Schwing.
That sense of gratitude continues as a new generation of Episcopal west side graduates takes on the world. Price proudly tells the stories of her daughters’ success in the heavy equipment and oil and gas industries while standing under a photo of the two graduates at a beach. Micheal Nicolosi, whose daughter Allison recently graduated from Episcopal in 2016, is equally grateful for the education she received. He says the experience was a boost for Allison because she learned how to study, and as a college student Allison found herself well prepared for her coursework. “Episcopal was a God’s send for us,” says Micheal. “We were fortunate to be able to send her there.”
The west side families were originally connected through carpool, athletic practices and educational experiences. Now, they vacation together, share meals, share heartaches and celebrate triumphs. They tell stories of the career success of their children and the first steps of their grandchildren, and everyone present is supportive. The families are grateful for this bond that connects them after all this time, and they are excited about the future of Episcopal. No doubt, years from now current Episcopal students and families will gather with the same grateful hearts as they share memories of their own Episcopal experiences.
What are you grateful for when it comes to an Episcopal education? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Sometimes if what you’re looking for doesn’t exist, you simply create it yourself. That’s exactly what 2018 graduate Caroline Crawford did after discovering that LSU did not have a student organization dedicated to women in business.
This spring, Caroline was fortunate to have a job at a small investment firm where she had the opportunity to be mentored by the firm’s owner. While her college professors were teaching her the principles of business, the mentorship of a female business owner taught her something you can’t learn from a book. Caroline says she learned what it is like to be a woman in the workplace and some of the challenges that women often face. She appreciates that her mentor was open and honest about what to expect and some of the situations that Caroline may encounter. “It was impactful for me,” she says. In her own life, Caroline had not experienced what her mentor described until she worked in a Congressional office answering phones. She recalls that after giving a male caller the answer to his question, he inquired as to whether there was a man he could speak to. “In that moment it was real for me,” says Caroline.
Empowered with the guidance of her mentor, Caroline was eager to learn more. She began to look for a student organization that would provide that opportunity and was surprised to find that nothing existed. “I was honestly shocked,” she says. She remembers thinking, “there’s no way that’s right.” Caroline began speaking with her classmates about her experiences and found that others were interested in the same mentorship opportunities. There was clearly a need, but Caroline never imagined that she would be the one to provide it. However, once the LSU campus closed for the spring semester, Caroline found herself in need of a project, and so she set to work.
Caroline began researching women in business organizations at other universities and made connections at Boston College, the University of Pennsylvania and Ole Miss. What she discovered was a network of female students like herself who were all too willing to share ideas and give advice on establishing a Women in Business chapter at LSU. Caroline found that her LSU advisor was also extremely supportive of the effort. While he was willing to help her get the group off the ground, he also understood the importance of female leadership and recommended Caroline seek guidance from the Director of Diversity and Inclusion.
Establishing a campus-wide organization during a pandemic was not difficult for Caroline. With her passion for the group’s purpose, she was quickly able to make her dream a reality. “It’s important for women to see other women succeed,” she says. “It helps to have an influence in your life you can relate to.” Caroline’s classmates agreed, and the first meeting of the Women in Business at LSU organization was conducted virtually with 26 students in attendance. Caroline celebrates the fact that a wide range of students expressed interest or participated and that even several freshmen shared their experiences from the very beginning. Going forward, Women in Business at LSU has much to celebrate as more female business professionals are scheduled to share their experiences and the group prepares for a joint event with the school’s College of Business.
That Caroline is already blazing trails is no surprise to those who knew her at Episcopal. “Caroline was a great student in the classroom,” says economics teacher Vincent Hoang. “I love the organization she started at LSU and I feel it is long overdue.” It was in Hoang’s class that Caroline discovered her passion. Always interested in math, she initially planned to pursue an engineering degree until she enrolled in economics. “It’s like I knew after our first class,” she says. “Economics describes a lot of how the world works.”
At Episcopal, Caroline says she gained the most preparation for college success through the Honors Thesis program, during which she prepared a 30-page paper and presented her ideas to an audience of her peers. “I loved Honors Thesis,” says Caroline. “I learned how to research and how to communicate it to others.” Caroline’s thesis participation made a lasting impression on co-directors Scott Engholm and Katie Sutcliffe. “I remember her enthusiasm and generosity most in Thesis,” says Engholm. “And it all came from her genuine ambition and excitement for seeing ambition in others. She encouraged the best in her Thesis class, gifting original art that still hangs on my walls and coming early to support her peers for LAUNCH when she didn’t have to.” Sutcliffe is proud of what Caroline has already accomplished in such a short time. “The best way I can characterize Caroline as a student and leader is as a total boss,” she says. “I’m not surprised at all that she is starting an organization. Even as a student she owned her own path and her ideas and gave her peers permission to be unapologetically themselves.”
To learn more about Women in Business at LSU, visit their Instagram page - @womeninbusinesslsu.
What happens when former physical education teachers get together for a luncheon? Laughter, tears and the reliving of good times.
When former athletic director Myra Mansur and retired PE teachers Chinkie Cointment and Renee Price ’76 share the same table, it is a memorable occasion. Years ago, the three shared a tiny office at Episcopal where the beginnings of girls’ sports took shape. The three are pioneers in women’s athletics and girl power is strong with them.
This trio has coached and taught everything from archery and fencing to softball and volleyball. There is great pride in the storytelling as they recall the days when the school’s concrete tennis courts were where the quad is now. They laugh and groan as they remember the “onesie” PE uniforms students had to wear. There is appreciation in their voices still today as they remember the day the switch was flipped for the first time on the new Phillips gymnasium air conditioning unit thanks to the support of LaRon Phillips.
These veterans were on the court and the field at a time when girls sports were thought of a little differently than they are now. That never stopped them. At the time, Mansur was the only female athletic administrator over a football program in the state. Cointment was a passionate advocate for physical education and worked hard to make sure that others understood the difference between PE and athletics. When she first joined Episcopal, she had not taught before, but she says Father Hancock must have had faith in her abilities because she was assigned to teach eighth grade religion. She later went on to teach drama, study skills and history before finding her home in the PE department. Price was actually a student of Mansur and Cointment and a star volleyball player for the Knights. When the school needed help with the volleyball team, Price was there. When they needed a substitute, she was the one whose phone rang. Eventually, she signed on full time and worked 30 years before retiring in 2017.
Before the days of electronic planners and email reminders, these women were expert multi-taskers. “Coaching and raising kids,” is how Price describes her days at Episcopal. While coaching, Mansur raised three children and earned a master’s degree. The three were determined to achieve their goals and resolved to make sure the women who followed them had even greater opportunities than they did.
As the ladies shared stories of their days at Episcopal, there were moments of sincere emotion as they realized the significance the school and its students have had on them. They remembered days when a faculty member passed away and students gathered to sign a banner in their honor. They remembered Father Hancock’s amenability to physical education and how they said he let them coach and teach, supporting them along the way. They remember the emotions they felt when they walked away from the school they loved for the last time as a coach.
Of course, there are also the moments that can only be remembered and retold with laughter and raised voices. (As longtime PE teachers, they say their voices are raised because of years of teaching large numbers of children in an incredibly loud gym.) There were adventures in bus driving as they transported students to games and tournaments. Cointment, who is petite, couldn’t quite reach the bus pedals and often had to use a block to stretch. There was the time that Mansur and Price had parked the bus and were walking toward the gym only to look back and discover that the bus was rolling away! With quick reaction, Mansur chased the bus down and jumped on board just in time to hit the brake before a collision with a tree. There were memories of a champagne cork flying through the air at the 1988 graduation and an effort by the graduates to start the wave in the audience. “Oh, what a class!” they all say.
The legacy of Mansur, Cointment and Price lives on today as a young girl makes her first serve on the volleyball court or a senior softball player realizes her dream of playing in college. Their influence is felt by the coaching staff who are following in their footsteps. “They gave me my career,” says softball coach and PE teacher Heidi Hebert. “Their leadership and guidance was just tremendous. It was like having three extra moms. I could have never dreamed that working with them would have changed my life so much.”
We thank Myra, Chinkie and Renee for making a difference at Episcopal and paving the way for the next generation. We invite you to share a message of thanks or a great memory with them in the comments section below.
There is no doubt that motherhood is extremely challenging and exceptionally rewarding. As a mom, you want the best for your children, and you’ll go to tremendous lengths to make that happen. An example of that is Episcopal graduate Sharrolyn Jackson Miles ’95. Until very recently, she worked full time as an attorney and advocated for others, while homeschooling her five children.
The 2020 pandemic has forced many parents into video conferences with toddlers in tow or business meetings during naptime. Even the most skilled multi-taskers have found the arrangements challenging. For Sharrolyn, this balance is a way of life. As an Episcopal graduate, she expects a lot from a school. “Y’all gave me high standards,” she says of her own Episcopal experience. “I love Episcopal.” After many heartfelt prayers and an examination of her family’s needs, the decision to homeschool was easy. Sharrolyn lives in La Place and for many years drove her five children into New Orleans daily for school at five different locations. Given the commute time and her desire for an inspiring education, educating her children herself just made sense.
In addition to her passion for motherhood, Sharrolyn is a successful, well-respected attorney and advocate. After Episcopal, she graduated from Tulane University with a degree in architecture. However, Sharrolyn always had an interest in criminal justice, and she was quite familiar with life as a lawyer, growing up with a father in the field. She enrolled in law school at Southern University, where she not only excelled academically but also served as the Executive Editor of the Law Review. For many, this would be a lot to juggle, but during law school, Sharrolyn also married and had two children. Even with the tremendous demands, she graduated near the top of her class. With a degree in hand, Sharrolyn went straight to work as an attorney, and as word spread of her work ethic and compassion for others, she was never at a loss for new opportunities.
Sharrolyn’s resume includes stints as a juvenile prosecutor, corporate defense attorney, code enforcement hearing officer and private practice lawyer. She sees these roles as opportunities to serve others, and it is her combination of unique experiences that allows her to do so in a meaningful way. “I choose to approach people with human dignity and respect,” says Sharrolyn. “I carry that mindset of peace wherever I go.”
In sixth grade, Sharrolyn transferred to Episcopal after being bullied at her previous school because of her passion for books and learning. Once at Episcopal, she experienced a transition to being a minority student among classmates she did not know. However, Sharrolyn excelled, developing confidence along the way. She points to the writing skills she developed, the basketball rebounding abilities she didn’t know she had and the opportunity to interact with people of a variety of backgrounds.
Sharrolyn proudly relates the story of earning the highest mark in Mr. Vance’s eighth grade English class, even after he assured students that the heavens would have to open for it to occur. Her submission on the death penalty changed his mind, and Sharrolyn walked away with the top score. With a chuckle, she remembers being one of the most unathletic students on campus and failing at every attempt to get the basketball in the hoop in PE. With a little help from a school staff member, Sharrolyn learned to shoot and made a “granny” shot right in the basket. That shot was the spark that eventually inspired Sharrolyn to join the team. “I thought I was so good at basketball,” she laughs. She remembers being mentored and the feeling that coaches and faculty supported her. By her senior year, this previously unathletic student earned the Best Defensive Player and Best Rebounder awards, proving that hard work, enthusiasm and a belief in yourself go a long way.
There was another life-changing Episcopal experience for Sharrolyn. She was among a delegation of high school students chosen to travel to Japan. She says the experience introduced her to a different culture in which violence and race were not as prominent as what she knew in America. Ultimately, the combination of her experiences taught Sharrolyn to respect and value diversity and the unique perspectives others can offer. It is something that informs her still today as people who are not even her clients tell her, “you’ll get help” or “you’re going to listen.”
Sharrolyn is now ready for what lies ahead as she launches a bid to be a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. She is passionate about mother’s rights, women’s rights and the inclusion of diverse people and viewpoints. She hopes to use the lessons she has learned to help others lead better lives with greater opportunities, and she is committed to doing all she can to make that happen.
At Episcopal, teachers strive to prepare students for lives of meaning and purpose, with rigorous academic experiences and the opportunity to explore the world. The hope is to spark a passion for improving the world for the next generation. As a mother, educator, attorney and advocate, Sharrolyn is finding a way to do that and more.
With winds in excess of 150 mph, Hurricane Laura left behind a path of tremendous destruction in the state of Louisiana. Recovery may take years for some locations, and many are still displaced. In the immediate aftermath, with residents still reeling, a surge of assistance began flooding into the region. Among those arriving to help was United States Army Colonel Zach Miller. This is a homecoming of sorts for Col. Miller, who grew up in Baton Rouge and graduated from Episcopal in 1993.
Col. Miller is not from a military family, and he was not one of those kids who always knew what he wanted to be when he grew up either. At Episcopal, he excelled academically, and he was a key member of the Knights cross country and track teams. He also enjoyed playing trumpet in the school’s band. It wasn’t until his junior year, when he started exploring college options, that he considered the military. He was presented an offer to continue running at West Point, and after a campus visit and an honest discussion with Coach Dupe about what the opportunity could mean for his life, he accepted. After two decades of service, he can’t imagine a more fitting career.
Col. Miller’s career trajectory is remarkable. He deployed five times to Iraq or Afghanistan, served as an officer at the Pentagon and has earned numerous honors including the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. Currently, he is the Commander of the Memphis District of the Army Corps of Engineers. In this role, he is the lead military officer tasked with the management of the Mississippi River between Illinois and Vicksburg. From his office in Memphis, Col. Miller looks out over the river that for him represents the U.S. economy. He points to the enormity of the amount of commerce that travels this artery on a daily basis. “It’s a heavy responsibility to ensure reliable navigation on the Nation’s waterways while protecting the population from flooding,” he says. “It’s an incredible job to be selected for.” Col. Miller says he was ready for the responsibility because of the military’s phenomenal ability to prepare people. He also credits his early days at Episcopal with preparing him for a life of service.
“I couldn’t have been more prepared for West Point,” says Col. Miller. “The faculty treated students as individuals.” When he thinks back on his Episcopal experience, he remembers the energy of former Band Director Paul Taranto. While Col. Miller didn’t play an instrument, that didn’t stop him from learning. Inspired by Taranto, Col. Miller took trumpet lessons and joined the school band. Ultimately, the experience taught him that when it comes to performing, you can’t hide. “You have to struggle until you find a stride,” he says. Col. Miller also found his stride as a member of the cross country and track teams. “It’s not like other sports,” he says. “You’re exposed.” That sense of exposure requires cross country athletes to be physically and mentally prepared, and Col. Miller felt that Coach Dupe prepared his athletes for the challenge. In addition, Col. Miller remembers former Upper School Division Head Anne Kornegay. “She helped me be a better person,” he says. As is often the case, Col. Miller says some of what he gained from his time at Episcopal wasn’t realized until later in life as he reflected back on his time at the school.
After serving his country for so long, Col. Miller is now pleased to be in a position to offer the same mentorship and guidance to others. He says he’s at a point in his career, where he is looking for ways to give back and help others be “better than I am.” His current role with the Army Corps is allowing him to do that right here in his home state. “It’s incredible to be in Louisiana doing this,” he says. “I wish it wasn’t under these circumstances though.”
Col. Miller is part of a cavalry of volunteers in Louisiana working hard to make storm-impacted regions habitable once again. He oversees efforts to establish temporary power in areas that could be without reliable utilities for months. He is assisting with the Blue Roof Project that will install 10,000 temporary roofs to homes that sustained roof damage but are otherwise ok. On any given day, Col. Miller works with city and parish leaders to identify what help is needed. As a Louisiana native, the experience is unique for Col. Miller, allowing him to relate to residents and find common ground as he meets with everyone from homeowners to Governor John Bel Edwards. Col. Miller is in awe of the volunteers who have shown up to be a part of the efforts, and he points out that most of them, like him, have a day job.
After unexpectedly finding a rewarding career in a place he never thought to look, Col. Miller has this advice for today’s students, “Don’t presuppose that you know where your life is going from here.” He says many of the people who are most fulfilled in their life got there because a door opened, and they walked through it. As for his own opportunities, Col. Miller has spent every day since graduation serving in the U.S. military, and even though he could retire he loves the “fulfilling and challenging” work he has found. “It defines who I am, but the rooting was the education before then,” he says with appreciation for the teachers, coaches, classmates and academics that inspired and challenged him to succeed.
Col. Miller is a Knight on a mission to serve his country and his fellow citizens. We thank him for that commitment and congratulate him on his success.
The Episcopal Community Provides Hurricane Laura Assistance
Members of the Episcopal community are doing their part to help our neighbors impacted by Hurricane Laura. A special thank you to National Guardsman Jehu Poitier, who is the father of Lower School students Emily and Laila. Poitier is currently deployed to the impacted region. Thank you also to everyone who supported Episcopal’s Hurricane Laura Relief Drive. The school partnered with St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church and Day School to help residents in Lake Charles.
Episcopal prepared me.
What does that really mean? One 2017 Episcopal graduate recently reached out to help define that motto for others.
In 2017, Sarah Xing was a graduating Knight. Having relocated to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina, Sarah attended Episcopal beginning in the fourth grade. Early on, she found members of the Episcopal community to be quite welcoming and she quickly found her place among friends. Over the course of her educational journey, Sarah was a member of the Robotics Club and the Astronomy Club, and she took numerous AP and Honors courses. She quickly acclimated to the Episcopal teaching style, the challenging content and the pace of the lessons; so much so that her eventual transition to Tulane University was seamless.
Incredibly, after only three years, Sarah graduated from Tulane in May with two degrees. During this short time, she also made time to study abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. She says friends are shocked when she tells them about her accomplishments, and her family is quite proud. With one degree in economics and another in computer science, Sarah is now the youngest student currently pursuing a master’s degree in business analytics. She will complete that master’s in May, thus earning three degrees in only four years, as she works toward her dream of becoming an analyst at a tech firm.
Episcopal College Counselor Shandi Fazely remains in touch with Sarah and says it is not often that a college student completes their studies so quickly. In fact, Tulane reported an undergraduate six-year graduation rate of 86% in 2019. The site reports “the graduation rate is calculated as the percentage of first-year, full-time students who enrolled in the institution in a Fall term and then graduated from the institution within six years.” Fazely, who once described Sarah as “an eternal optimist with an indefatigable work ethic” and as someone who “knows how to succeed and has prepared herself well for the college environment,” congratulates Sarah on her recent achievements.
As Sarah looks back on her time at Episcopal, she appreciates the challenging academics that prepared her and the community/family feeling. She particularly enjoyed the school’s Homecoming activities, the community building events and LAUNCH Day. Now, as her brother Robert prepares to graduate from Episcopal this year, Sarah offers this advice to the Class of 2021. “It may not be the most normal senior year but make the most out of it because you only get senior year once,” she says. It is great to see that in only three years’ time, Sarah has made the most of her Episcopal preparation. It will be exciting to see how far she goes.
Are you an Episcopal graduate? Share how Episcopal prepared you in the comments section below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
“I always wanted to serve in the military.”
Service seems to be a calling for 2LT Rieger who says it is more than a job. He views it as a “profession you live 24/7” and he feels the extra responsibility that comes with being in a leadership role. With early aspirations of being a military officer, 2LT Rieger took advantage of his time at Episcopal to prepare himself for the journey ahead. “Episcopal set me up well,” he says. During his senior year, 2LT Rieger served as the school’s Student Body President and the captain of the football team. In order to be ready for the physical demands of West Point, the former lineman lost 50 pounds and maintained a high level of physical fitness. He remained determined even when he was not initially accepted into the academy because of previous injuries he experienced as an athlete. Undeterred, he enrolled at LSU and spent a year healing. The next year, his dream became a reality and he enrolled at West Point.
Upon arrival at the academy, 2LT Rieger found himself well equipped for the challenging academics. He had no problem with courses such as chemistry, calculus, physics and coding because of his Episcopal experience. He says his skills in the French language especially set him apart from the other cadets. 2LT Rieger credits the Episcopal French exchange with boosting his aptitude and sparking his interest in the language. He continues to benefit from that early exposure even now. In 2018 while studying in Paris, 2LT Rieger participated in the WWI Armistice Centennial ceremony. In addition, he had the opportunity to serve as a French translator in Gabon, Africa in support of a counter-poaching training mission, an experience that is now a favorite from his time at West Point. For three weeks, 2LT Rieger and his team lived primitively among an army team in what he describes as “the middle of nowhere. It gave me a new appreciation for working with limited resources,” he says. He also says the experience was truly inspiring as he saw the commitment residents had to their country and making a difference. It is a commitment that he shares as he looks toward a life of service.
“They instilled a level of grit in me.”
2LT Rieger’s first experience as an Episcopal athlete was as the ball boy in third and fourth grade. His father and sister are both Episcopal graduates, and 2LT Rieger says early on he also fell in love with the school and the aura and mentality he discovered there. After his initial experience with Episcopal athletics, 2LT Rieger became a key member of the Knights football, baseball and soccer teams. He says there were countless lessons he learned from coaches Travis Bourgeois, Randy Richard and Wally Stevens. One lesson instilled by Bourgeois particularly stands out for 2LT Rieger. “Overcoming adversity was the biggest thing I learned from him.” 2LT Rieger has already used this lesson to overcome tragedies and hardships as he pursues his dreams. No doubt, the lesson will also serve him well in future endeavors.
2LT Rieger has worked hard in and out of the classroom to position himself well for the future. He earned a spot in the Army’s aviation unit and begins training to be a helicopter pilot this summer. Eventually, he hopes to fly an attack helicopter to transport Special Forces units. “I want to do what I can for my soldiers,” he says.
2LT Rieger is appreciative of the teachers and coaches at Episcopal who helped him accomplish so much in five short years. “My success is a tribute to their hard work,” he says. We thank 2LT Rieger for his willingness to serve and we applaud him for the preparation, determination and grit he exhibited to make that dream a reality. Congratulations!