Football GoldAugust 2023
JUST IMAGINE SWLA: McNeese Area Resilience DistrictAugust 2023
by Taylor Trahan Henry
Lake Charles and the surrounding areas are fortunate to have McNeese State University at the heart of the community. Not only does the presence of a university present academic opportunity for local students, but it is also an economic driver, employer, and cultural epicenter. It’s beneficial for every citizen and worthy of support, no matter your connection. McNeese alumni, local businesses, and community residents alike benefit when McNeese succeeds. So, in steps the McNeese Foundation. Since it’s inception in 1965, the McNeese Foundation has been cultivating resources to support the successful education of both undergraduate and graduate students, and to provide operational assistance to serve faculty, staff, donors, employers, community members and other constituents. The goal is simple – advance McNeese State University and the community that supports it. Although this goal is simple, it is multifaceted and touches nearly every part of the university.
In recent years, restructuring has broadened the scope of the Foundation and allowed for increased opportunities to engage stakeholders throughout campus and Southwest Louisiana. The Offices of University Advancement now house the Foundation, the McNeese Athletic Foundation, the McNeese Alumni Association, and Banners at McNeese.
How It’s Structured
- Office of University Advancement
- McNeese Foundation
- McNeese Athletic Foundation
- McNeese Alumni Association
- Banners and McNeese
How does the McNeese Foundation support the university and the community?
So, how exactly is the McNeese Foundation accomplishing its mission to advance both the University and the surrounding community? “We’re fortunate to have a hand in many projects,” says Laura Bowers, director for university advancement operations and special events. “Scholarships are what we tend to be known for on the outward facing, but the McNeese Foundation is also heavily involved in capital improvements, real estate investments, and awarding professorships for faculty advancement.”
Annually, the Foundation awards over 500 scholarships to more than 800 students, totaling an impressive $1.9 million. Similarly, to improve educational opportunities and develop a world-class faculty, 112 professorships totaling approximately $650,000 were awarded to Cowboy faculty for research projects, classroom equipment, professional development, and student enhancement.
One of the most current and notable capital improvement projects includes the loaning of funds for a new student union. “This project will be reimbursed through student fees for a number of years,” says Bowers. “The students voted on and ultimately approved this fee. It’s going to be an incredible space for our students, staff, and community to collaborate, innovate, and celebrate!”
Perhaps the most important, and the most unseen, duty of the Foundation is investing in real estate around campus to expand the footprint of the University and improve facilities. This requires foresight for expansion. “Several years ago, the McNeese Foundation acquired nearly five acres of property adjacent to the campus that was formerly the site of the Charles Cinema,” says Dr. Wade Rousse, McNeese executive vice president and vice president for university advancement. “This property was purchased with the intention of expanding the McNeese campus and for economic development.” This fall, the ground on those five acres will be broken for the building of the McNeese LNG Center for Excellence; a state-of-the-art facility that will provide classroom instruction and continuing education to support Southwest Louisiana’s booming liquid natural gas industry. Another property on Common Street also awaits a new student housing development.
Past projects that have come to fruition include Fuller Farm and Dripps Farm, both fully functioning farms that play a pivotal role in the university’s agriculture curriculum. The Foundation also owns a meat processing facility, Center for Advancement of Meat Production and Processing (CAMPP). CAMPP also operates a retail store in Gayle Hall, allowing for the sale of meat from animals raised and processed entirely on university property.
In addition to providing scholarships to area students and assisting with our students on-campus needs, the Foundation recently opened an urgent care facility in partnership with Ochsner CHRISTUS Health. The Oschner CHRISTUS Health Urgent Care facility, located on Ryan Street, now houses McNeese Student Health Services, McNeese Counseling Services and Ochsner CHRISTUS Urgent Care. The urgent care not only serves as a needed point of access to healthcare for McNeese students, but also serves the public. “We utilized a land swap for this particular project,” says Bowers. “We received the former JD Bank building, which sustained damage in Hurricane Laura, and JD Bank got a portion of our land behind the bank building. This project also resulted in a lease agreement with Raising Cane’s. Raising Cane’s will lease part of our land for additional drive through lanes. This alleviates traffic on Ryan Street and maximizes their efficiency and service.”
How can you support the efforts of the McNeese Foundation?
“There are so many ways to support the Foundation,” says Bowers. “There are both financial and non-financial ways to show your blue and gold pride. One of the most unique things about giving is that, if you choose, you can direct your support to a particular area of campus. Nearly every campus entity has an account within the Foundation.” For example, if you have fond memories of being in the band, you can donate to the Pride of McNeese Marching Band.
When it comes to scholarships, there are several ways to establish. Endowed scholarships start with a $15,000 investment that can be paid over five years. Money is invested and the interest earned after one year is what is expended as the scholarship award. In/Out scholarships are not subject to the one-year interest earning period – they operate like a checking account. Contributions are given, an award is made, and the scholarship balance is reduced by the award amount. Awards can be made immediately instead of waiting one year like an endowment. Additional contributions to either type of scholarship can be made at any time.
Designated endowments are another way to support a cause directly. “Donors can establish an endowment for a specific area or sport,” says Bowers. “That department or sport would then use the interest earned for their immediate needs. For example, an endowment for the Burton College of Education can be used for classroom equipment.”
Joining the McNeese Athletic Foundation allows you to support the Cowboys and Cowgirls as they compete in a myriad of sports. Become a MAF member for $150 and receive special access to MAF tents at Friday night block parties and home games as well as special seating in the south end zone at Cowboy Stadium.
Memorial and tribute gifts allow you to donate in memory of a loved one in lieu of flowers. The donation can be directed to an area of choice or to a certain scholarship specified by the family. Donations can also be made in celebration of those still living. Popular occasions include weddings, anniversaries, graduations, baptisms, and holidays. For both “in memory of” and “in honor of” an individual, a special card is sent to the honoree or their family.
Planned giving is a gift made after a donor’s lifetime as part of their estate plan. By choosing to include the McNeese Foundation in your will, you become a member of the 1939 Living Oak Society. Planned gifts can be made through a will, living trust, life insurance policy, retirement plans, IRAs, donor advised funds, or charitable gift annuities. Those wishing to include a planned gift to the McNeese Foundation should call the Foundation office at 337-475-5588. Like all gifts to the Foundation, you donors can designate an area for their donation to be directed.
“One of the biggest things we emphasize is that you don’t need ‘big money’ to be a ‘big supporter,’” says Bowers. “There are so many inexpensive or free ways to show your support and advance our mission.” Non-financial ways to support both the Foundation and the University include Geaux Blue Fridays, where local businesses, schools, or organizations can dress in blue and tag the university’s social media accounts. McNeese flags and memorabilia are also a great way to show your Poke Pride. Area businesses can join the upcoming campaign to “Roll Out the Blue Carpet” by painting windows or decorating store fronts in blue and gold. “Lastly, your attendance at university events means the world to us,” says Bowers. “Having the community come out and support our students, faculty, and staff is the single best indicator of community buy in. We are so fortunate to be in this community.”
The Foundation relies on a dedicated staff, with over 40 years of combined experience, to carry out its many initiatives. Jennifer Leger, Gift Planning and Donor Research Specialist celebrated 16 years with the Foundation this year. Jessica Pousson, Administrative Assistant, will hit the seven-year mark. Shelley Shaw and Cheryl Smith, who handle accounts payable and receivable will celebrate 11 and nine years, respectively. Bowers is the most recent addition to the staff, joining the team in November of 2022. “This staff is incredible, loyal, and dedicated to the mission of the Foundation,” says Bowers. “Prior to my role here, I spent a lot of time working independently. I prayed for a team to grow with and learn from – I hit the jackpot!” The Offices of University Advancement are under the direction of Dr. Wade Rousse, PhD, Executive Vice President.
Ways to Support the McNeese Foundation & McNeese State University
- Monthly donations as little as $10
- Endowed scholarships
- In/Out scholarships
- Joining the McNeese Athletic Foundation
- Designated endowments
- Memorial or tribute gifts
- Kroger Community Rewards – Code: MR226
- Planned giving
- Geaux Blue Fridays
- Decorating your windows or storefront
- Showing up and supporting university events