“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
“It was such a privilege to cheer for Episcopal athletics in high school, and I am thrilled to continue to be a cheerleader for the school by supporting the new Field House.” Carolyn Moore Wood ’82
Winning the game. Finishing the race. Giving it your all. Inspiring your peers. Setting new records. Breaking old ones. Learning that teamwork, health, wellness, and physical activity are essential parts of life. Athletic experiences open new paths to understanding in the classroom and new opportunities for college and beyond. The athletic and physical education programs at Episcopal are offered to all students and create lifelong memories.
The 1986 Episcopal Knights football team won Episcopal’s very first district championship. “Some of my best memories at Episcopal were on Friday nights or even during summer football workouts.” Paul Garrett ’89
Episcopal’s athletic program has grown over the years. What began as basic offerings of football, basketball, track, cheerleading, and volleyball has blossomed into 62 varsity and sub-varsity teams in Upper and Middle School. With 80% of the student body participating in athletics, it is only natural that our students have memories of both their athletic experiences and the camaraderie that follows. Generations of Knights have won state titles, beaten fierce rivals, and crafted their own Legacies through these programs.
Beginning in Pre-K 3, Episcopal students participate in Physical Education and Wellness Programs. Coach Heidi Hebert states, “With the advances in technology and the video game generation, daily physical education is more valuable than ever.”
As the school has grown, so has the Physical Education and Wellness Programs that begin with our youngest Knights. On any given day, Lower School students can be found learning how to exercise like an astronaut, train for a triathlon, compete in Nursery Rhyme Olympics, or practice Yoga with their classmates. Episcopal offers physical education classes five days a week for all three divisions through ninth grade. Students have the opportunity to be active every day and explore team sports in a non-competitive environment. This comprehensive, early focus on health, wellness, and athletics develops the whole child for years to come.
The 1980-1981 girls volleyball team was supposed to have a year of re-building. Instead, the team hosted the district tournament in Episcopal’s new Gym Annex and became district champions! They went on to win the State Title for the third time.
Very soon we will celebrate the opening of our new Field House. The Field House will mark the first major athletic facility constructed on Episcopal’s campus since the pool was installed in 1997 and the first athletic building since the 1982 addition of the Annslee Laura Phillips ’00 Memorial Gym. It was designed with ALL students and coaches in mind. While the inside of The Field House is certainly impressive - cardiovascular and strength training equipment, collaborative workspaces, flexible areas for wellness programs, updated locker rooms, and dedicated space for the coaches - the outside is just as special. The expansive terrace and new concession stand will quickly become THE gathering place for all Knights to celebrate as a community, remember the legacies of those who came before them, and celebrate future champions for years to come. This is truly a Field House for everyone.
Lower School Field Day is now a tradition. Coaches, teachers, and other faculty members come together for a full day of physical activity and creative games to celebrate the end of the school year.
We are pleased to announce that you have the opportunity to commemorate you or your child’s Episcopal memories by choosing a paver on The Terrace to tell their story. A commemorative paver is also a great way to honor a coach, memorialize a teammate, or remember a win. The possibilities are endless. Naming options on The Terrace are now available and start at $5,000. Write your story on one of the concrete or granite pavers that line the entryway and encircle The Terrace. Sponsor a locker, weight, or aerobic exercise station, starting at $1,000. Cement your legacy at Episcopal for years to come.
Richard Chauvin ’72 is inviting fellow classmates to join him in memorializing three former teammates. Chauvin ’72 states, "David Castillo, Richard Dardenne, and Larry Grantham were unselfish, hard-working, positive people whose qualities fostered strong bonds of trust and friendship that I learned are the immeasurable rewards of striving together toward a common goal. These men went on to greater success in sports and life, and I believe our experiences in Episcopal basketball played a part in who we became as adults."
Many Episcopal alumni are hard at work organizing team gifts to commemorate their Legacy and honor their past. “The Field House presents a perfect opportunity to pull my teammates and high school friends together to remember three men who personified the type of student-athlete that made my experience in high school sports so rewarding and memorable,” said Chauvin ’72. Carolyn Moore Wood ’82, Paul Garrett ’89, and Sean Reilly ’79 are also organizing team gifts to tell their story on The Terrace. “I want future students to create and enjoy those same memories in a first class facility,” adds Garrett ’89.
The 1979 Episcopal boys cross country team won the school’s first State Championship Title, setting the pace for our 2019 Knights to be in the running for Episcopal’s 36th State Championship Title. Coach Claney Duplechin has been a coach at Episcopal for over 40 years and has been a part of its athletic legacy. “The Field House will provide an invaluable training space for our athletes and students. The growth of Episcopal’s athletic programs are tremendous and this new facility will be an unbelievable asset to our program, campus, and student body,” says Coach Duplechin.
What will you remember? An individual accomplishment. Your family’s Legacy. The team’s big win. We are ready to help you finalize your gift. Please contact Lindsay Lamont Turner ’97 in Episcopal’s Development Office to learn more about team gifts. Additionally, if you would like to reserve a space for an individual achievement or family gift you can CLICK HERE to see the many opportunities available.
Or visit the Spirit · Mind · Body website to learn about the naming opportunities still available at The Field House.
Let’s line The Terrace with memories of your Legacy at Episcopal.
In four short years, Hollywood wowed moviegoers with some of the most memorable films ever created. In March 1999, “The Matrix” introduced groundbreaking special effects and a story that made us all ponder the reality of our world. On December 19, 2001, the first movie in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy made hobbits, wizards, trolls and elves the topic of many household discussions. Then in May of 2002, the anticipation grew as George Lucas continued telling us the backstory of Star Wars with the release of “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.” To say it was a good time to be a fan of movies is surely an understatement. These films and the groundbreaking concepts that set them apart forever changed the world of cinema. For young movie fans, these blockbusters had a tremendous impact on how they saw the world. For avid cinema fan Cooper McMains ’02, these films fueled his innate passion for storytelling.
Nearly two decades later, Cooper has turned that passion into a successful career as a Hollywood screenwriter. He earned writing credits on the popular ABC crime drama “Castle” which was created by Andrew Marlowe and starred Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle and Stana Katic as Katherine “Kate” Beckett. After a successful stint writing for “Castle” Cooper then had the opportunity to write for another ABC series, “Take Two” starring Rachel Bilson as Sam Swift and Eddie Cibrian as Eddie Valetik.
More recently, it was announced that Sony TriStar has expressed interest in one of Cooper’s spec scripts. A spec script is a full-length screenplay written by the writer in hopes of attracting a production company to bring the story to life. Essentially, a writer spends a significant amount of time generating a story with no guarantee that a company will accept it. Writers may invest years of blood, sweat and tears into the idea only to have it go unnoticed. Cooper worked on his own spec script for several years while also juggling other job assignments. For a writer facing intimidating odds, it is truly amazing to receive news that a script has been accepted. Cooper says it was fun to write the story, which is a thriller in the vein of the classic “Fatal Attraction.” Now that the script has been picked up, he is eager to begin the next phase of rewrites and collaborations. The process can be lengthy, but for someone with a passion for storytelling, it’s certainly worth it.
Cooper has always been a writer. In second grade, he carried a business card that read - Cooper McMains: Writer/Basketball Player. As his basketball ambitions prove, Cooper also has diverse interests. In addition, he has an active imagination, which is certainly a requirement for telling a good story. But there’s something else. “Completely unfounded confidence that I can make it in this industry,” says Cooper regarding his tenacity and dedication to his career choice. “You couldn’t do it if you didn’t love it. I’m very fortunate.” Cooper says unlike some who experience the Sunday “scaries” when the weekend winds down, he is excited to get back in front of the keyboard and write again each Monday. In fact, it’s actually hard for Cooper to imagine a career that doesn’t involve writing. If he weren’t creating suspenseful plots or tweaking copy, he would be teaching others how to write, reading scripts or finding talent.
Passion, perseverance and persistence are prerequisites for being a screenwriter. Cooper first began working in the entertainment industry after graduating from USC 14 years ago. However, his initial jobs did not involve writing, but instead were production assistant and showrunner assistant assignments. He made copies and answered phones. Even in these roles, he was learning and preparing for the writing ahead of him. As a showrunner assistant, he had the opportunity to read the scripts of other writers. He learned about the talent selection process. He learned how the industry works, and he learned that his true passion was storytelling.
Cooper’s Episcopal story began in the third grade. “I have very fond memories of Episcopal,” he says. “It provided broad opportunities to explore different things I was interested in.” Those interests included cross country, theater and learning Japanese. When he and friend Miguel Jiron ’02 expressed an interest in creating an Episcopal Film Club, Cooper says the idea was nurtured and encouraged by the Episcopal faculty. The two established the group and members met periodically to discuss ideas and simply share the joy of a good movie or a great story. Like Cooper, Miguel also pursued his Hollywood dream and recently worked as a storyboard artist on the Oscar-winning film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Cooper remembers that it was actually Miguel who joined him to watch “The Matrix” all those years ago during a trip to Destin, Florida. Afterward, he says the two talked of nothing else. Everything from the premise of the film to the unique camera shots and slow motion action scenes provided ‘90s movie fans plenty to dissect. For two high school creatives, it only fueled their passion for movies all the more.
Cooper’s dream is now unfolding. He is sharing the experience with his wife, Sarah, who is not in the entertainment industry and works instead as a business consultant. Cooper and Sarah return to Louisiana at least twice a year for the holidays or a summer break. Cooper always looks forward to spending time with family and enjoying Louisiana food. While California may seem a world away, Cooper says his mom always says you simply have to turn left on I-10 to get there.
What movie does someone like Cooper list as his favorite? He says he likes everything from romantic comedies to sci-fi and even old Japanese films. As they would say on the show “Friends,” Cooper’s favorite movie is “China Town,” but his real favorite movie is “Galaxy Quest.” He says both films have inspired his own writing style, which his agent categorizes as suspense, thriller and mystery.
Cooper McMains has grown from a young man wowed by a computer-generated Gollum or a fleet of Star Destroyers, to a talented screenwriter who is now telling stories to inspire and excite the next generation. He realized his passion early, followed his creative dream and has found a way to make a living doing what he loves. It will certainly be exciting to see where the story takes him. Congratulations on your success, Cooper!
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small people who find it easier to live in a world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.” Muhammad Ali
Episcopal graduate Jamiee Williams has big goals. Like the senior quote she chose above, they are big, but not impossible. Jamiee graduated from Episcopal as a member of the Class of 2017. She is now in her third year at Duke University, where she is studying civil engineering. Her big goals are unfolding and proving to be anything but impossible.
In June, Jamiee was one of two students selected as a Duke WIN Scholar. WIN Scholars are female students with proven leadership skills. Scholars are selected by the Duke Women’s Impact Network, an organization made up of women leaders who want to encourage the next generation to continue making a difference in the world. Already, Jamiee has held numerous leadership positions while at Duke. She currently serves as the Program’s Chair for the Duke chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. She was previously a member of the Bass Connections research team that studied hazards and natural disaster mitigation. Jamiee is also a member of Duke LIFE, an organization that provides resources, mentorship and advocates for the needs of first-generation, low-income students. She is also a member of the Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID) travel team. Jamiee even spent her summer getting to apply some of her technical and leadership skills with her internship at Skanska USA, a leading construction management firm.
Jamiee has also been selected as a Pratt Grand Challenge Scholar. According to the Duke Pratt School of Engineering website, the program “seeks leaders with the drive to take on some of the biggest challenges facing humanity.” The program offers hands-on research experience and includes a global and service-learning focus. The National Academy of Engineering considers 14 challenges to improving life on earth. The challenges range from making solar energy economical to providing access to clean water. As students research and work on their projects, they begin the work to truly make an impact on the world. As a member of DEID, Jamiee also has an opportunity to make a change. She is currently on a research team that is exploring ways to assist a community in Indonesia. The team is researching the project now and will travel to Indonesia in the future to implement it. Making such a difference before even graduating from college is big, but not impossible.
When considering universities, Jamiee knew she wanted to attend a school that would provide opportunities for travel. She has certainly found that at Duke. Jamiee is currently more than 8,000 miles away from her hometown of Baton Rouge, studying abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She has fully embraced the Australian culture and is enjoying local festivals and sightseeing. However, what she enjoys most are the people. “People talk to me all the time,” she says. “Australians have a way of making everyone feel welcome while also allowing everyone to be themselves.”
Jamiee is proving that it’s not impossible to remain true to yourself, even while adjusting to new cultures and chasing your dreams. In fact, this is something she has always done. In 2013, a young Jamiee enrolled in Episcopal’s Middle School for the very first time. As you can imagine, making the transition to a new school in the eighth grade can be challenging – but it’s not impossible. Prior to attending Episcopal, an introverted Jamiee was enrolled in a diverse public magnet school. Once she arrived on Woodland Ridge, she found that most students had existing relationships dating back to childhood. Many of the Episcopal students had grown up together in similar households with similar socioeconomic backgrounds. As a transfer student, Jamiee says it was interesting to navigate this new social structure and find her place in a community where she felt different and came from a different background. However, Jamiee embraced the opportunity before her, accomplishing much during her time as a Knight.
Jamiee was an active and engaged student throughout her Episcopal career. Although she entered a community where many students already had existing relationships, she found her cohort. By her senior year, Jamiee was active in Club UKnighted and a member of the National Honor Society. She was also a member of the Knights softball team and a state champion in the 4 X 200 meter relay and the 4 X 400 meter relay. Looking back on her Episcopal experience, she says she pushed herself beyond her comfort zone and it paid off. Jamiee now has the following advice for students who may be making a similar transition. “Embrace the moment while staying true to yourself,” she says. “Make the most of any and all opportunities and allow yourself to explore your true passions without fear of judgement or intimidation of others.”
Jamiee has also embraced her interest in engineering. She says she was always what she calls “pretty good” in the field. While some may think of engineering as a male dominated industry, this doesn’t bother Jamiee. “I’m going to do whatever interests me most,” she says. She hopes others will do the same. “Do what you love the most,” she says. “Let your passions drive your career. Don’t be misguided by the doubts of others or turned off by a challenge.”
Tenacity. Passion. Ambition. Jamiee Williams is approaching life with all of this and more. She is chasing her dreams. She is making the impossible, possible.
It was a fun-filled week on Episcopal’s campus as students celebrated Homecoming. All three divisions displayed school spirit with theme dress days, pep rallies and campus decorating. Everything culminated with the Knights' Homecoming victory over Catholic Pointe Coupee. Congratulations to the 2019 Episcopal Homecoming King and Queen - Griff Strain and Sarah Collier!
Alumni also got in on the celebration with a Cochon De Lait in the alumni tent. We hope the classes of 1979 and 1989 enjoyed their time back on campus.
determination among those with the dream and they would not be deterred. The group hired A. Hays Town to design the master plan for the campus and groundbreaking ceremonies were held. Once the process was underway, progress moved quickly with the building of Perkins Hall, a cafeteria-auditorium and plans for a Chapel.
September 22, 1968
More than 260 students attended fifth through eleventh grades at the new Episcopal campus.
The first Episcopal graduating class completed their term. Mary Jeanne Higgs was the first valedictorian and Mary Kay Guidry was the salutatorian. Marlene Chaudoir was the first to receive an Episcopal High School diploma.
With the first graduating class moving on, school organizers were focused on growing the school. According to Brown’s account, by the fall of 1970 “a boys’ gymnasium and a middle school building were completed” and the Chapel was under construction. In the early ‘70’s, Aldrich Library was dedicated and the original Middle School building was designated as Penniman Hall. Expansion and growth continued and in the fall of 1985, Foster Hall was complete, adding space for science learning.
Expansion on Episcopal’s campus continued with the Lower School building in the late 80’s, Frazer Hall in 1995 and the current Middle School building in 1998. The 2000’s began with the opening of the Visual and Performing Arts Center. However, the school’s growth was not without obstacles. Throughout its history, the school community has united in moments of hardship. School leaders have remained true to the original vision, providing the needed leadership to overcome challenges.
Who could forget, more recently, in August 2016 Episcopal faced the flood that impacted so many in the area. The main gym, Phillips gym, Lower School, Penniman Hall, courts and fields were damaged. Countless families, faculty and staff were personally impacted. However, winds, fire and flood could not dampen the spirit of the Episcopal community. After each obstacle faced, the community rebuilt, repaired and recovered.
According to Carroll Brown’s account of the school, “Episcopal High School very early gained a reputation for academic endeavor that continues to the present.” In April of 1972, the Episcopal chapter of the National Honor Society was established. In 1977, Bruce Ray and Mark Townsend earned National Merit finalist status. By 1984, Episcopal students were reported to have applied to 58 different colleges. More recently, the community celebrated eleven National Merit Semifinalists and three Commended Scholars among the Class of 2020. In addition, members of the Class of 2019 are now studying at a range of universities, including highly selective schools and schools with a Louisiana legacy.
Early on, the recognition also came in from external sources. Episcopal was named an Exemplary School by the U.S. Department of Education in 1987. Fr. Hancock joined officials from 271 other exemplary schools in a ceremony at the White House in October of that year. Episcopal would again earn the designation of Exemplary School in 1991. In addition, Episcopal was named an Honor School by the Chief of Naval Education and Training in 1990 and 1994.
The commitment to academic rigor continues to be a hallmark of the Episcopal experience today. During Head of School Hugh M. McIntosh’s tenure, Episcopal students have consistently raised the academic bar. Students are returning to campus post-graduation to report that the school prepared them exceptionally well for their college studies. They feel equipped and inspired to take on the role of leader and make a difference in the world.
Growth for the Next Generation
Carroll Brown’s historic account of Episcopal’s story begins with the school’s groundbreaking on a rural tract of land and follows the process of creating a new school, maintaining that new school and adjusting to progress and advancement. Brown ends his account with an epilogue entitled “Count Your Blessings.” In it, he highlights the computer problem that was predicted when the year moved from 1999 to 2000. “However, at Episcopal there was no real concern,” Brown writes. “Confidence in God-given human intelligence was high. It was just another technological challenge to be met.” Brown attributed that confidence to Episcopal’s assets, which at the time included “beautiful facilities, able students, an excellent faculty, forward looking administrators, dedicated parents, generous benefactors, and a solid reputation.” Now, in 2019 those assets remain as the school expands to meet the needs of the next generation of leaders.
The Episcopal community celebrated the groundbreaking of the first new academic building on campus in over a decade. The Academic Commons houses 17 classrooms, lab and project space, an engineering and robotics suite and an entrepreneurial studies center. In addition, the entrance of the facility showcases a courtyard-size periodic table. “This building is part of the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge dream,” said Head of School Hugh McIntosh during the ribbon cutting ceremony in August 2018. He added that the dream is to provide students with a nationally competitive education led by great teachers in modern facilities, preparing them to be productive, adult citizens of Baton Rouge.
With shovels in hand, Episcopal leaders and athletic team members broke ground on the new Episcopal athletic field house. The facility is the first new athletic building on campus since the 1980’s. The multi-use facility will be used by all students in all divisions for physical education classes, strength training and interscholastic sports. Episcopal has had a tremendous athletic program since the day when Adrian Wilcombe scored the first Knights touchdown in school history in a win over River Oaks Academy. The field house will be a reminder of the championships and success stories since those early days.
Episcopal leaders announced the intention to create the Episcopal Quest Center within a renovated Foster Hall. The center will once again bring the building to life with the joy and enthusiasm of students learning. Fundraising and planning efforts are underway now to make this dream a reality.
A new Episcopal Head of School will be announced after a nationwide search. The new head will join the list of previous school leaders which include Rev. Ralph Webster, Rev. Paul Hancock, Kay Betts and Hugh M. McIntosh. Under McIntosh’s leadership, Episcopal students have excelled. Students conduct university-level research in the ESTAAR program, they travel to countries across the globe for cultural exchanges and they are recognized locally and nationally for academic excellence. Students are exploring their interests and participating in athletics with the opportunity to play and achieve, thanks to the school’s carefully planned enrollment. They are developing empathy and learning to express themselves creatively through a range of artistic opportunities provided by a robust arts department. The campus is a place for all faiths and all backgrounds. The faculty is experienced, qualified and ready for the next 50 years.
Episcopal’s story is still being written. What began as the dream of a determined group has flourished under the steadfast guidance of the current Head of School. Now you can help us write this next chapter by telling others about the Episcopal experience or even by reserving a naming opportunity. Now is the time to be a part of the Episcopal story as we look toward the next 50 years of preparing the next generation of leaders for lives of purpose and meaning. We hope you will join us.
What's in a Name?
Aldrich Library – named for Ella Lanier Aldrich, the mother of Ella V. Schwing who donated the funds for the library.
Foster Hall – named for Willie Palfrey Foster, grandmother to the Bailey family who contributed funds to support construction of the Upper School science building.
Frazer Hall – named for Thomas and Lynnette Frazer, longtime Episcopal supporters.
Lewis Family Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd - named for A.C. Lewis, Jr.
Penniman Hall (originally the Middle School building) – named for Mary Virginia Crain Penniman, the former wife of 1969 -1975 board president G. Allen Penniman, Jr.
Perkins Hall – named for Paul Perkins who donated property to the school which allowed the retirement of debt on the main building.
Phillips Gym - named in memory of Annslee Laura Phillips.
Webster Refectory – named for the school’s first Head of School, Fr. Webster. At the same time that the building was named in his honor, Fr. Webster was also named Headmaster Emeritus.
Imagine that it’s your job to make imaginary worlds come alive. It is your pencil and your hand that illustrates a character or a scene. Such an assignment requires a tremendous amount of creativity and perseverance. Such an assignment is perfect for Episcopal graduate Miguel Jiron ’02.
Jiron is a storyboard artist in Los Angeles, California. He says a storyboard artist’s job is to “visually interpret a movie scene, sometimes before a script is even finalized.” Jiron draws out any given scene through hundreds of drawings, figuring out staging, camera, acting, sometimes even the writing, which then gets cut to music and dialogue to get a rough idea of how the scene will play out in the movie. An entire team of artists spends countless hours working together frame by frame to get every detail just right. There are constant edits and revisions along the way. Jiron says the process generally takes three to four years before the final product is ready for theaters. While the process is long and intense, he says “it’s incredibly satisfying.”
Recently, Jiron had the satisfaction of being a part of the team that put together the Oscar-winning film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Jiron says the team never expected the film to win such acclaim. “We were trying just to finish the film and make it as good as we could,” he says. Jiron says the team was working right up to the last minute. Ultimately, that work paid off. “It’s incredible to be a part of this so early in my career,” says Jiron. “I learned so much.”
Spending so much time working on the project truly became a family affair for Jiron. His wife, Katie Baron, worked on the project as a junior executive and his now one and a half year old daughter, Lucia Jiron, was born during production. All three have credits in the film. The movie premiere was also a family affair for Jiron as he invited his mom to celebrate with him. The experience is something he won’t soon forget. “She could see so much of me in the movie,” he says.
Jiron has been creating art for as long as he can remember. “I’ve been drawing since I was two,” he says. He began attending Episcopal in the fourth grade and cultivated his artistic talents throughout his time on campus as a member of the film club, the art club and the thespians. Jiron also remembers designing numerous Episcopal t-shirts as a student. In fact, if you’re a graduate with a Valentine or Sadie Hawkins shirt from the late 90’s or early 2000’s, he was likely the designer.
Jiron knew early on what type of career he wanted to pursue. “At Episcopal I was very clear in saying I wanted to be an animator,” he says. In fact, the 2002 yearbook includes a somewhat foreshadowing quote. “My favorite part about film club was getting together and coming up with story ideas and working scripts.”
Jiron says Episcopal played a large role in making him the man he is today. He credits the school with helping him develop critical thinking skills and with encouraging him to think independently. As a member of the Honors program, 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. He says the future-oriented, ambitious Episcopal experience also gave him the confidence he needed to eventually be successful in a career such as animation.
Episcopal Arts Department Chair Paige Gagliano is not at all surprised with Jiron’s success. She remembers working with Jiron and his classmates on the production of Peter Pan, which was one of the first large performances in the VPAC. “Miguel was a fearless actor,” she says. “If you’re a fearless actor then you’re a fearless human being.” Gagliano says whether it was working with other students, participating in a theater retreat at the Solomon Center or running lines for a play, Jiron always had a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. She says he was also always willing to take risks. “Miguel always wanted to stay true to the authenticity of what he was doing,” says Gagliano. “He was a great storyteller.”
All of these traits have served Jiron well throughout his career, which included a stint in New York working with contemporary artist Takashi Murakami. After realizing that his own paintings and art were moving toward motion, Jiron returned to animation. Now, when he thinks about current Episcopal students, he encourages them to pursue their dreams, even while they are still in school. “Just do it,” he says. “Don’t wait for someone to hand it to you or give you the perfect job.” Jiron says that is especially true for students who are interested in a career similar to his own. He says the tools to create are readily available for young artists. “Start making stuff,” he says. “The more you make, the faster you’ll grow.”
No doubt, with Jiron’s early success, his career will continue to grow. Already, he has credits as a director, editor and producer in addition to his work as a storyboard artist. He is also taking on leadership roles in the art department, serving as the Head of Story. Recently, he directed and wrote an animated short entitled “Spider-Ham: Into the Spider-Verse.” Spider-Ham demands “full screen treatment” in the film, which is something that Jiron certainly deserves for his talents.
Congratulations on your success, Miguel. We can’t wait to see what you create next!
Guy's Mom's Pie for the Win!
Can a chocolate pie lead to a winning football season?
According to a longstanding Episcopal tradition, it just may. Since the early 2000’s, members of the Knights football team have enjoyed a Thursday night meal together. The meeting initially started as a gathering of the defense where the players and coaches would review tape and prepare for the next day’s action. After word spread of the “spread” that was being provided by team parents, the rest of the team quickly joined in. The evenings were hosted at a senior parents’ home and the players’ families all chipped in to feed the hungry group. This tradition lives on today with members of the team still enjoying a meal together every Thursday during the season.
The Origins of a Sweet Tradition
In 2002, Guy Watkins was a freshman new to the team. His mom Sharon Easterly Watkins ’76 remembers what it was like to be a freshman parent as she tried to learn the ropes of being a player’s mom. When Sharon heard about the team meals, she immediately volunteered to provide dessert. That dessert, a chocolate chess pie, would become a campus tradition that continues today - Guy’s Mom’s Pie. The popularity of the pie eventually reached beyond the gridiron. “I wish I had counted the number of pies I baked throughout his high school career,” says Sharon. “Everyone wanted that pie. I baked it for YEARS not only for the football team, but the soccer and baseball teams as well.” Sharon made the pie for Homecoming dinners, birthdays for students she didn’t know, Senior Ring Day gifts, teachers, friends and classmates. There was even a pie bake off between Sharon and chemistry teacher, Bruce Bowman. Of course, Guy’s Mom’s Pie was victorious!
However, for Sharon the pie was much more than a good luck charm. She simply wanted to be involved in her son’s life. She says when Guy got to Upper School there was naturally less parental involvement. The football dinners, and eventually Guy’s Mom’s Pie, provided her the opportunity to stay in touch with her teen. Sharon and a few of the team moms even read a book for moms of football players so that they could relate to what was happening on the field and have a conversation with their children about the game. After all these years what seemed like such an easy task, cooking a pie for a football team, has proven to be important for her family. She says now that Guy and his sister Erin ’03 are both adults they appreciate and recognize that their parents were always there and always involved. Maybe food really is the way to someone’s heart?
Once upon a time the Episcopal student section was full of creatures – Bleacher Creatures that is. Episcopal Development Operations Assistant and graduate, Kate McDuff ’08 says the Bleacher Creature tradition is one of her all-time favorites. “It was a right of passage,” says McDuff. “In our mind it was joining in on a tradition that had been going on forever. We felt like we were a part of something”
Episcopal Bleacher Creatures were members of the senior class. Each year the students ordered personalized t-shirts designating them as the Upper School leaders. The navy blue shirts featured the Bleacher Creature tagline on the front and a personalized number and name on the back. The shirts were worn to home football games and were easily identifiable among the crowd.
The Bleacher Creature shirts were a tradition that was owned by the students. McDuff says each year students self-organized and were responsible for making their selection and ensuring that everything was in order and on time. For McDuff, having that sense of ownership only made the tradition more memorable. Not to be outdone, the teaching team joined in on the tradition. Yellow Teacher Creature shirts began appearing with blue writing designating the adult members of the Episcopal community.
“Episcopal is what you make it,” says McDuff. “We had the opportunity to explore our interests and participate in as many or as few activities as we wished.” Such a culture inspires a strong sense of school spirit and community among students. McDuff remembers a full student section at all home football games and many of the basketball games and soccer matches. “We were passionate about Episcopal and traditions such as Bleacher Creatures provided us one more opportunity to express that,” she says. “We were all in and proud to be Knights.” That sense of school pride remains with McDuff as a member of the faculty and staff at her alma mater. During any given week, you may find her at a Middle School athletic event or an Upper School play. While the Bleacher Creature shirt is gone, the school pride certainly lives on.
UKnighted through Tradition
Traditions like Guy’s Mom’s Pie and Bleacher Creatures keep the Episcopal community UKnighted. We asked Episcopal alumni and parents to share their favorite traditions and here are just a few.
Amiee Broussard ’85
Graduation- “From the long white dresses and formal black tie to the bouquets and boutonnières, Episcopal’s graduation in the chapel was the same for me in 1985 as it was for my children in 2019.”
Brittany Relle -parent
“Picking a favorite EHS tradition is a hard one! If I had to choose, I would say Pinwheels for Peace. I LOVE everything it stands for and seeing pictures of the kids’ sweet faces as they participate. The Blessing of the Pets is pretty sweet too!”
Mollie Hill ’84
-White long dresses and tuxedos at graduation
-Long dresses for the Homecoming court on game night
-The special graduation ring designed for EHS
Do you have a favorite Episcopal tradition? We’d love to hear about it! Share the details in the comments section below.
Between chemistry classes, a campus job, football and four hours of research a week, Episcopal graduate Scott Wicker, Jr. ’18 has a full schedule. Wicker is in his sophomore year at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN where he is majoring in chemistry with a minor in math. He plans to pursue advanced degrees on his path to becoming a chemical engineer.
At Episcopal, Wicker was known for his ESTAAR research entitled Non-Traditional Heating Methods for Petrochemical Manufacturing. However, Episcopal Dean of Academics Dr. Sara Fenske says Wicker’s interest in research began well in advance of his ESTAAR journey. “Before ever taking any of my classes, Scott would drop by my classroom to ask questions,” says Dr. Fenske. “I soon learned that these ‘out of the blue’ questions came from his deep curiosity about the world around him. This curiosity led Scott to pursue ambitious research projects both in my class, where he studied the effects of antioxidants on quantum dots, to his ESTAAR project focused on the synthesis of iron oxide nanoparticles.” Dr. Fenske says that Wicker was never afraid to push himself to do more. “Fortunately, he also has the talent and creativity to succeed in these ambitions,” she says. After spending countless hours in the lab, Wicker was one of only 230 high school students to qualify to present at the 56th National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.
Admission into the ACCESS program is based on a student’s essay, an online application and letters of recommendation from professors regarding their work. As a result of his ESTAAR experience, Wicker had an opportunity to work closely with Dr. Fenske and LSU’s Dr. James Dorman. Both were able to write letters supporting his research and application. “When Scott told me that he was applying to the MIT ACCESS Program and asked if I would write a letter of recommendation for him, I was thrilled to do so,” says Dr. Fenske. “This program targets talented young researchers and helps to prepare them for graduate programs in chemistry, chemical engineering, and material science. Like attending the National Junior Science and Humanities program, I knew that this opportunity would open doors for him and help him see the different paths available to him. Programs like these are meant for rising stars like Scott, and I am sure that his future in research will be bright.”
At Rhodes, Wicker continues his commitment to research. Over the summer, when he wasn’t working on his ACCESS program application, he was in the lab. In fact, he spent eight hours a day assisting inorganic chemistry professor Dr. William Eckenhoff. According to the research group’s website, Dr. Eckenhoff’s lab currently has three research projects underway including Proton Reduction Catalysts for Artificial Photosynthesis, Solvatochromic Molybdenum Complexes and Zinc Complexes to Mimic the Enzyme in Binding Anti-Microbial Compounds. You can read more about the projects here. As part of the research team, Wicker runs experiments and gathers data. He also works closely with Dr. Eckenhoff to analyze the information and the results. Wicker hopes to publish an article from his summer research by the end of this year.
Even with everything else on his schedule, Wicker finds time for football. He spends 20 hours a week practicing and working out with the Linx as a defensive lineman. He says playing for a Division III team means that football is not his entire life, which is something for which he is grateful. As a result, he is able to manage college life, athletics and academics successfully.
Wicker is no stranger to juggling multiple interests. While at Episcopal, he was involved in athletics, research and numerous academic endeavors. One hallmark of an Episcopal education is the opportunity students are provided to explore their own interests and learn at their own pace. Whether students are passionate about research and the arts or athletics and spirituality, there are a range of experiences from which students can choose. While Wicker says it’s not always easy juggling a packed schedule, it is certainly worth it. Like he did during his time at Episcopal, he is making the most of his college experience and enjoying it along the way.
Good luck in your journey, Scott! Episcopal is cheering you on in the classroom, the lab and on the field.