Livingston Literacy and Technology Center officially dedicated
Contact: Rene Abadie
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(1) HONORARY LION – At the dedication of the Livingston Literacy and Technology Center Sept. 6, Southeastern Louisiana University President Randy Moffett presents a special plaque to Judge Richard T. Haik Sr., chief justice of the U.S. District Court, Western District of Louisiana, who presided over the “Combustion, Inc.” class action suit that ultimately provided $4.5 million to establish the center, which is jointly operated by Southeastern and the Livingston Parish School System.
(2) HONORING THE CLAUSEN FAMILY – At the Sept. 6 dedication of the Livingston Literacy and Technology Center, Sally Clausen, president of the University of Louisiana System, right, and Gale Clausen Anderson, widow of the late former Superintendent of Education Thomas G. Clausen, left, react to the surprise announcement that the building has been named in honor of the Clausen family
WALKER – Unveiling replicas of plaques, officials with Southeastern Louisiana University and the Livingston Parish Public School System officially dedicated the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center Thursday (Sept. 6).
The 39,000 square foot facility is a partnership between the two institutions built with the residual funds from an environmental class action suit known commonly as “Combustion, Inc.” The suit affected thousands of parish residents and culminated in 1999 with a $130 million settlement. Approximately $4.5 million of the residual funds were allocated to the project proposed to the federal courts by Southeastern and the Livingston school system.
Southeastern Louisiana University President Randy Moffett recognized several individuals who played integral roles in the project, including Judge Richard T. Haik Sr., chief justice of the U.S. District Court, Western District of Louisiana, who presided over the case; Sally Clausen, former president of Southeastern and current head of the University of Louisiana System; Rogers Pope, former superintendent of Livingston Parish Public Schools; and the chief plaintiffs’ attorney in the case, Calvin Fayard of Denham Springs.
People entering the building located on Hwy. 190 were greeted with an 84-foot-long “Wall of Memory,” a timeline that tells the story in text and pictures of Combustion, Inc. from its origins as an oil recycling plant and toxic waste dump to the class action suit that forced its cleanup as an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.
“As part of his judgment, Judge Haik asked that a memorial be established that tells this story,” Moffett said. “It was his contention that people need to be reminded of the fragility of our environment and how the careless actions of men can affect so many people adversely. We believe this wall of memory will serve as that reminder for generations to come.
“Judge Haik had the intimate understanding of this landmark case and the compassion to recognize that many more people were harmed than just the plaintiffs,” Moffett added. “He knew that the entire parish of Livingston suffered from the environmental harm inflicted upon it by the toxic waste and oil recycling plant that operated near here.”
After the facility was dedicated to the people of Livingston Parish, Moffett surprised many in the auditorium by unveiling a second plaque naming the building itself in honor of the Clausen family of Louisiana.
Moffett said that without the foresight and vision of Sally Clausen, former president of Southeastern and current head of the University of Louisiana System, “we would not be enjoying this facility and thousands of Livingston Parish children and adults would not have the opportunities this center affords them and will offer them for years to come.”
Noting her lifelong effort to further education in Louisiana, he cited Clausen’s mother, Nell Wilkes Clausen of St. Mary Parish, and her brother the late Thomas G. Clausen, Louisiana’s last elected superintendent of education, for instilling in her “a dedication to education that few can rival.”
The center, which has been in operation for two years, features separate wings for Southeastern and Livingston Parish schools joined by a shared auditorium. Southeastern uses its wing for traditional university courses, laboratory courses, continuing education programs, academic youth camps, Community Music School instruction, and other programs. Livingston’s side includes classrooms for allied health programs including basic nursing, pharmacy technology, and basic EMT training; an automotive technology training facility; and computer maintenance training labs.
The center also serves as a community meeting facility, hosting programs such as regional job fairs and economic development conferences.