The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), in partnership with La Fondation Louisiane, hosted a fundraiser today to launch a scholarship in honor of the late Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.
The fundraiser, Franco-Fête 2019, was held today at the City Club. The event honored the life and legacy of Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco by establishing a French education scholarship in her name.
"Through working closely with Governor Blanco as we rebuilt Plaquemines Parish to witnessing firsthand her love for Louisiana and its people, Louisiana is and will always be, a better place because of her leadership and determination. Now, through this scholarship in her honor, more Louisiana students will have the opportunity to study abroad and start a career in public service," said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser.
The newly-established scholarship, to be named the "Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and Coach Raymond Blanco Scholarship," will be sponsored by La Fondation Louisiane and administered by CODOFIL. Through an agreement with the University of Namur in Belgium, the Blanco scholarship will support study abroad for a Louisiana university student interested in pursuing a career in public service.
"Annually, La Fondation Louisiane hosts Franco-Fête to raise funds to support scholarships, awarded and administered by CODOFIL, to highly motivated Louisiana students and teachers to study the French language at home and abroad," explains William Arceneaux, President of La Fondation Louisiane. "At this year's event, we will honor the late Governor Kathleen Blanco and Coach Raymond Blanco for their many years of service to the state of Louisiana and for their support of the preservation and promotion of our state's French culture and heritage."
As a former teacher, Blanco's career started in education at Breaux Bridge High School. In January 2004, Blanco became Louisiana's first female governor taking the oath of office in both English and French. During her term as governor from 2004-2008, one of her priorities was investment in education from pre-kindergarten to the university level. Blanco became the first governor in nearly 50 years to fully fund Louisiana's colleges and universities. Additionally, she expanded the pre-kindergarten program to include underprivileged children, increased test scores, and started a program providing laptops to sixth grade classrooms. Governor Blanco was able to raise teacher salaries to the regional average, the last increase in teacher pay until this year.
Raymond S. Blanco, Sr., or "Coach" as he is affectionately known, served as an administrator for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 1982 until his retirement in 2009. Coach Blanco served as Vice President of Student Affairs, linking the student body to the university administration. Starting his career in education as a high school football coach, Blanco took the job as Assistant Football Coach at then University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1963 under Coach Russ Faulkinberry. In 1969, Coach Blanco moved from the gridiron into administration becoming the Dean of Men and eventually the Dean of Student Personnel, where he served until being promoted to Vice President for Student Affairs.
"It is an honor to be recognized for our life's work in education, and the preservation of our Louisiana culture. A scholarship that both provides opportunity to a student, and promotes our French language and culture aligns perfectly with our family's goals," said Raymond S. Blanco, Sr. "Throughout our careers we fought to bring affordable, quality accessible education for all people in Louisiana, as education is poverty's mortal enemy. Upon moving to New Iberia, Louisiana, from Alabama, I quickly learned to appreciate the Cajun/French culture. After marrying my Cajun bride, the late Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, we participated in and led many efforts to preserve the language and the culture of her French roots. We greatly appreciate the honor of being named and recognized by La Fondation Louisiane and CODOFIL."
"CODOFIL is delighted and honored to contribute to La Fondation Louisiane's effort to remember Governor Blanco by promoting education and Louisiana's French heritage," said Burnell Lemoine, CODOFIL Board President. "We look forward to administering this new scholarship to the benefit of Louisiana and its next generation of French speakers."