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 email@example.com.
"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!
In the quiet hours of an early morning, Episcopal graduate Flynn Foster ’85 can often be found sipping coffee and discussing life in the south Louisiana marsh. Foster has been an avid duck hunter since he first entered a blind at the age of five. “I like the fellowship of it,” he says of his passion. Foster learned how to duck hunt from his father. He also learned life lessons and the business principles and values that he still employs today as President of Guaranty Corporation.
Guaranty was founded in 1926 by Foster’s grandfather George Foster Sr. Later, George Foster Jr. took over the company and served as an example for his son on how to do business. “He was a steadfast, stoic businessman who never wavered from his principles and stuck to his values,” says Foster. Foster says his dad was larger than life and is still an inspiration for him as he leads the family business. Under Foster’s leadership, Guaranty continues to thrive. A recent article in the Baton Rouge Business Report highlights the ability of Foster and his team to adapt in an ever-evolving business climate. In addition to Guaranty’s four local radio stations (including the LSU flagship station Eagle 98.1), the company also includes a digital media company named Gatorworks, a senior living facility in Mandeville, a restaurant founded by Food Network Star, Jay Ducote, called Gov’t Taco and a real estate development in Lafayette named Cotè Gelee. The ability to modify the business model is critical for success. However, even in a modern, corporate environment, some traditions remain.
The Foster family has a longstanding tradition of attending Episcopal. Eight members of the family, including Foster’s sons Landon ’16 and Luke ’18 graduated from the school, which is a testament to their belief in the value of the Episcopal experience. Foster sums up why the school matters so much. “It starts with a great education and Christian values.” He says Episcopal teaches students “the ability to think.” Foster made the most of his Episcopal experience. He played basketball and was a four year member of the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. His favorite subject was American History and he is still a history buff today. As you might expect though, Foster says he didn’t realize the quality of an Episcopal education while he was on campus. When he looks back now, he recognizes the foundation that the school provided him. “Episcopal is planting a seed for the future,” he says. “The options are limitless after graduating from Episcopal.”
Foster credits God, his parents and his relationships with colleagues for his success. “I have a network of men who aren’t afraid to tell each other that we love each other,” he says. In a fast-paced world where people communicate in 280 characters or less, Foster still values relationships and connections. Even now his high school classmates are an integral part of his life. “It feeds the soul when we get together,” he says. Members of the Class of 1985 maintain an email distribution list which allows them to keep in touch and stay up to date on the latest class news. As Foster travels for business, he makes time to catch up with old friends and nurture those friendships.
“As a leader, you never have to choose between love and results – rather, strive for love-driven results.” “The Heart-Led Leader: How Living and Leading from the Heart Will Change Your Organization and Your Life” by Tommy Spaulding
Foster’s focus on relationships doesn’t only apply to his personal life. Inspired by Spaulding’s writings, Foster leads Guaranty in a way that shows an appreciation for and a connection to the company workforce. In a podcast on Talk 107.3FM, Foster spoke about his leadership style saying he wants his colleagues to know that he supports them and believes in them.
Under Foster’s leadership, Guaranty also has a positive relationship with the community. “I’m blessed beyond reason so I should give back,” says Foster, who says his mother modeled for him what it means to be involved in the community. “We have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” he says. Dreams Come True, the American Cancer Society, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area are just a few of the organizations that Guaranty supports. Personally, Foster has long been involved with the Louisiana/Mississippi ALS chapter. His sister, Felisha ’88, passed away as a result of ALS making this commitment his most meaningful. In 2017, Foster and his family commemorated his sister’s legacy in a special way by naming the Episcopal basketball court in her honor.
As Foster sits in that duck blind contemplating life, he has much for which to be thankful. He is carrying on the family legacy by ensuring that Guaranty is prepared for the future. He is serving others and maintaining relationships with people he has known for decades. He is building on the foundation laid out for him by his grandfather, his father and even his alma mater.
“We didn’t wake up one day and say let’s get in the dog treat business.” Veni Harlan ’77
Sometimes life takes you in unexpected places. For Veni Harlan and her family, this has certainly been the case. The Harlan siblings, including Veni, Hansel ’83 and Gretel ’89 have developed a one of a kind dog treat that also has the potential to save Louisiana’s wetlands.
Marsh Dog is an all-natural, eco-sustainable, Louisiana Certified dog treat made from wild nutria. Yes, the orange-toothed mammal you’ve likely seen gnawing on vegetation in the swamp. Who knew these native beasts would be a delicacy for dogs across the country?
The Harlan family loves animals. As in, fostered-more-than-100-birds-after-Hurricane-Katrina, loves animals. Veni remembers cages and cages of everything from parrots to parakeets being delivered to her mom’s home after the storm. In fact, Veni still has one of the birds even now. Veni also has five dogs who are like members of the family. She and her siblings have long made their own dog food, so it wasn’t really a stretch for them to create dog treats, even if the main ingredient was a little unusual. Veni says inspiration came from Hansel who was familiar with nutria having studied in South America. When a state-organized, multi-million dollar campaign to promote wild nutria for the human market failed, Hansel mused that use of wild nutria would be the ultimate eco-sustainable protein source for dogs.
With their imaginations sparked, Veni and Hansel got to work. They submitted a business plan and grant application to the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and were awarded a small mini-grant. “Our goal was to go out of business!” Veni remembers saying.
The Harlans started with a biscuit concept in Hansel’s kitchen. Veni says all of the ingredients were sourced from Louisiana. They did everything by hand, grinding the sweet potatoes, cooking the rice, and hand-cutting biscuits. The Harlan family had plenty of canine taste testers to approve their creation. They weren’t at all certain their concept would be embraced by dog owners but to their delight, people embraced the idea. More importantly, dogs loved the treats.
Demand was such that they soon realized they needed to scale production. Hansel and Veni invited their sister Gretel Harlan Kelly to join the team and along with husband Bob, the two brought an essential financial perspective. Once a major manufacturer was selected, new recipes had to be developed. The Harlans conducted extensive research calling on state and federal agencies as well as AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control) for guidance. Every ingredient was carefully chosen for quality, sustainability and environmental impact. It was also important to the Harlans that all ingredient sourcing, manufacturing and packaging was exclusively USA. The second generation of Marsh Dog treats were accepted into the Louisiana Certified product program and available nationwide in July of 2019.
Local and national media picked up the unique entrepreneurial story helping the Harlans spread the word nationwide. Within a few months, dog owners and retailers across the country were placing orders for Marsh Dog. “We like to think our products are part of an awareness campaign that tastes good and does good,” says Veni.
The products and mission of Marsh Dog have been heralded by conservationists across the country. Recognition from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary are helpful in reaching the product’s audience. “We probably have the most unique partners in the pet food industry,” Veni says. We table with multiple environmental groups like the Tulane Environmental Law Summit, the LSU School of Veterinary Science, as well as support organizations that train dogs to sniff out invasive species, area welfare groups, law and service entities like Louisiana Search and Rescue and Louisiana Warriors Unleashed which employ dogs to help veterans.
A big part of Marsh Dog’s mission is education about nutria, wetlands and environmental stewardship. “Louisiana wetlands are an invaluable asset to the entire country,” says Veni, who points out the role of wetlands in carbon sequestering, a $3.5 billion seafood industry, habitat for endangered and migratory fauna, flood aid, storm surge, recreation and strategic energy and port services. “80% of US coastal land loss occurs in Louisiana. Nutria are just one of the challenges,” she says. Scientists estimate current coastal loss at the rate of one football field every hour. “If we were losing the Smoky Mountains at the same rate there would be a worldwide uproar,” says Veni.
The Harlans are hopeful and proud of the work being done to save the wetlands and the part that Marsh Dog is playing. “We can’t control hurricanes and oil spills but we can each do something,” says Veni. “We believe employing man’s best friend is fun and easy. A dog goes from being an ordinary pet to a Canine Conservationist!”
The Marsh Dog experience has been quite educational for the Harlans. “The joy of Marsh Dog is that we’re always learning something and meeting amazing people working for the environment,” says Veni. Veni also enjoyed learning during her time at Episcopal. She joined her siblings on Woodland Ridge for her senior year of school. This adventurer says she was scared, but curious about transferring to a new school. In the end, she says Episcopal “enriched her life in a really fabulous way.” She made lifelong friends with many people like Betsy Harper, Jeanie Frey, Susan Phillips and others who literally took her under their wings. “Episcopal did change my life because of the people I met,” Veni says. “I gained a greater appreciation for academics.” Veni went on to LSU and has enjoyed a successful career in graphic design, fine arts and teaching. Hansel earned a law degree at LSU and operates his own practice in Baton Rouge. Gretel is also an LSU graduate and resides in Dallas with her family.
Everyone in the extended Harlan family was recruited at some point by Marsh Dog and deserves proper credit for their contributions, including mom, Suzanne Danna Harlan, Gretel’s husband Bob, sibling Jeff ’87 and his children Chuck ’14, Isabella ’16 and Alexander, a current Episcopal senior.
Congratulations, Harlans! Your story is proof that everyone can have an impact.
Episcopal prepared me. As a member of the Episcopal community, you’ve likely heard that slogan. You may even ask yourself, prepared for what? Episcopal alumni are artists, researchers, CEOs, teachers, coaches and everything in between. They are prepared for these roles and for lives of meaning and purpose. Recent grads are also attending a range of universities, including highly selective institutions. Class of 2019 graduate Douglas Robins is in his first semester at Princeton and already he can appreciate the preparation he received in high school.
“If I have to think about how Episcopal Prepared Me, the first thing that I can really say has prepared me is the quality of the teachers that I had,” says Robins. “Because the teachers that taught me are not only great teachers but experts in their field, I was prepared to be able to come to college and have these deep profound discussions that exist beyond the readings and beyond the textbook. These are conversations that can only be had with people who have an intimate understanding of the material as experts, and the teachers at Episcopal have pushed me to be able to interact with experts, students, and material in that way.”
In speaking with Episcopal alumni, they all share the same sentiment of preparation. As a storyboard artist, Miguel Jiron ’02 credits Episcopal with helping him develop critical thinking skills. He remembers discussing a range of topics with his classmates and teachers and how those discussions helped him think for himself and find his own voice. Megan Escott ’14 says the emphasis on critical thinking taught her to synthesize her thoughts. The focus on independence also gave her the skills necessary to be responsible for her own lab and her own experiments while at Tulane University.
From his room in Princeton, New Jersey, Robins realized the significance of the Episcopal Honors Seminar. This semester he is enrolled in two seminar courses. “I am taking a seminar this semester about poverty with a world-renowned professor who won the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Genius Grant,” he says. “He is kind of something of a celebrity and it makes people intimidated to speak up during our seminar discussions. Because of the practice that I have had in sharing the way that I see the world and having these conversations across both years of Seminar and Thesis, I am not afraid of contributing. Learning how to be in a seminar is hard (especially if your first time is with someone this decorated) and because of the education that I received at Episcopal, there was no learning curve.”
Episcopal faculty and staff encourage students to explore their passions throughout their time as a student. The ability to work around multiple commitments helps students learn to prioritize and manage their time. Robins says juggling a range of interests throughout high school helped him know immediately how to structure his time once he moved on to university. Class of 1988 graduate, Chris King’s Episcopal experience also required him to learn to manage his time wisely. King worked long hours while attending Episcopal which made high school personally challenging. He says such an experience helped him understand what it means to have high standards. Years later he sees a common thread between his family, the Cajun Army with which he volunteers and the Episcopal Honor Code.
Not all lessons learned at Episcopal take place in the classroom. An education such as the one received at Episcopal, pushes students outside of their comfort zone. For graduate Kris Jackson ’17, the experience altered the trajectory of his life. Kris was not originally a runner, yet he graduated as a state champion cross country athlete. He found family among his teammates and among those involved in efforts such as U-Knighted Club. Mike Diodene ’99 remembers the lessons learned as a member of the Knights football and track and field teams – work harder, study longer and bring value to your team. By drawing on these lessons, he earned a spot on the LSU football team and went on to a successful military career.
As graduates such as Jimmy Williams ’97, Clare Crespo ’86 and Ashley Fabre ’02 reflect on the preparation they received at Episcopal, it is comforting to see that that level of preparation remains the same with recent graduates like Robins benefiting from a similar experience. “I could go on and on about my time at Episcopal but there is no better way to sum it up than by saying that Episcopal prepared me,” says Robins. “My transition to college has been exponentially easier than I anticipated because I have been getting ready for college and life for the 4 years in upper school. I truly received the best possible education that I could have asked for and I can say hands down that the best decision my parents ever made for me was sending me to Episcopal.”
As Robins forges ahead at Princeton, it will be exciting to see what’s in store for him. No doubt he will be one of the many successful Episcopal alumni who return to campus to share the story of how the school prepared them to be the next generation of leaders. Preparation is a key component of the Episcopal mission and ministry. It is central to the Episcopal experience.
Whether an Episcopal graduate attended the school beginning in PreK-3, Middle or Upper School, the education garnered certainly changed their life. You can learn more about the Episcopal experience at an upcoming Lower School Mini Open House or by scheduling a campus tour. To learn more click here.
Upcoming Lower School Mini Open House dates:
November 5th or 10th