Southeastern recognizes distinguished alumni, others at awards banquet

Wednesday, October 11, 2017
by: Rene Abadie

Alumni of the YearSOUTHEASTERN HONORS ALUMNI OF THE YEAR – The Southeastern Louisiana University Alumni Association recognized physician and scientist William T. Cefalu as its Alumnus of the Year and attorney Charles “Chuck” Toney of the Young Alumnus of the Year. Pictured are, from left, Alumni Association President Brad Stevens, Toney; Cefalu, Alumni Association Executive Director Michelle Biggs, and Southeastern President John L. Crain.

College Alumni of the YearCOLLEGE ALUMNI HONORED – Southeastern graduates were honored with Alumni of the Year recognition by their respective colleges at Homecoming’s Alumni Awards event. Pictured, from left, are Alumni Association President Brad Stevents; honorees Robert Yarborough, College of Business; Monica Nijoka, College of Nursing and Health Sciences; Eugene R. London Jr., College of Science and Technology; Barbara Forrest, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; A.J. Bodker, College of Education; Alumni Association Executive Director Michelle Biggs; and Southeastern President John L. Crain.

     HAMMOND – Saying that “This university set the stage for me in life,” William T. Cefalu, a renowned physician and scientist in the field of diabetes, accepted the Southeastern Louisiana University Alumni Association’s Alumnus of the Year Award on Friday night (Oct. 6).
     Cefalu, currently the chief scientific, medical and mission officer for the American Diabetes Association and a 1975 zoology graduate of Southeastern, was recognized along with New Orleans attorney Chuck Toney of New Orleans, who was honored as the Young Alumnus of the Year. Several other alumni and volunteers were honored at the annual event.    
     “Every step in my career started at Southeastern,” said Cefalu, a native of Amite. “It was through SLU that I was able to get into medical school. My heart remains in Louisiana and at Southeastern, where it all started.”
     Cefalu, who previously served as executive director of LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, noted that his family of eight siblings all attended and graduated from Southeastern. In addition, his mother – after raising nine children – enrolled at Southeastern while in her mid-50s and received her degree with a 4.0 grade point average.
     Toney graduated from Southeastern in 2006 with a degree in political science before receiving his juris doctorate from Southern University Law Center. At Southeastern, he served as a member of the Student Government Association, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and served on the Judicial Board. As an alumnus, he served on the Alumni Association Board and is now a member of the Southeastern Foundation Board.
     Alumni Association President Brad Stevens called Toney “a Lion for life,” and said he never misses an opportunity to give back to the university as a donor, volunteer and board member.
     The event included recognition of distinguished alumni from the university’s five academic colleges.
     Recognized were Barbara Forrest by the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, a 1974 graduate and current professor of philosophy at Southeastern and the co-author of the acclaimed work “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.”
     Robert Yarborough of Baton Rouge, a 1974 graduate in marketing, was honored by the College of Business. He is the chief executive officer and co-owner of Manda Fine Meats and has been active with several professional and non-profit organizations throughout the area.
     The College of Education honored A.J. Bodker, longtime principal of Ponchatoula High School and a Southeastern supervisor of student teachers. He has served on the North Oaks Health Systems Board of Commissions and now serves on the North Oaks Foundation Board.
     Monica Nijoka, a 1977 graduate of Southeastern with a degree in nursing, was recognized by the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. She is the current chief nursing officer for Baton Rouge General Hospital and has been honored by the Louisiana State Nursing Association as Nurse Administrator of the Year.
     The College of Science and Technology honored 1984 computer science graduate Eugene R. London Jr. of Tallahoma, Tenn. He is the president of Systems Integration/Modeling & Simulation, Inc., has been recognized as the Tullahoma Citizen of the Year, and is an avid supporter of youth advancing in education through mentoring and intern opportunities.
     Other special awards were presented at the event, including the Loyal Lion Award presented by Southeastern President John L. Crain to Joseph Luquet, a member of the Southeastern Foundation Board; the Kathy L. Pittman Distinguished Service Award to the Wong family of Hammond, owners and operators of Trey Yuen and other area restaurants;  and the L.E. Chandler Award for student assistance to Larry Hymel, former Sports Information Director and Alumni Association Athletic coordinator.
     The Association’s Friendship Oak Award was presented to Ralph Shaw, professor emeritus of chemistry; former music educator Janet Moran and a volunteer for the Alumni Association; and Alpha Kappa Sorority on the occasion of its 40th anniversary at Southeastern.

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