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UL remembers Governor Blanco

Blanco and Savoie
Posted at 7:01 PM, Aug 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-21 20:01:20-04

LAFAYETTE — Governor Kathleen Babineax Blanco graduated from the then-University of University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1964.

She married her husband, Raymond "Coach" Blanco, that same year, who later became the university's dean of students.

UL President Dr. Joseph Savoie was studying at the university during that time.

"When I was a student here, I was somewhat rambunctious, and our fraternity had some issues, and I was president of the fraternity. One evening, we got kicked off campus," explained Dr. Savoie. "So, I asked what I could do about that."

Savoie was told he needed to speak with the dean. That's when he first meet Governor Blanco.

"[I] drove to his house at two o'clock in the morning, knocked on the door, and a lady opened the door. She's holding a little baby; I think it was Ben at the time. [She] invited me in, got me something to drink, went and woke her husband up," said Savoie.

A few years later, Savoie started working at the university in student affairs, developing a professional but friendly relationship with the Blanco family. He worked on her first campaign when she ran for a seat in the House of Representatives.

Blanco and Savoie
Governor Kathleen Blanco holds hands with UL President Dr. Joseph Savoie. (Courtesy of UL)

"Kathleen was sincere. She was authentic. People knew that she was going to make decisions based on what she thought was the right thing to do and not political considerations," said Savoie. "They trusted her. They may have not agreed with everything that she did, but they knew she was doing it for the right reasons."

Savoie then served as the commissioner of higher education under Governor Blanco during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"She gave us a lot of leeway. She trusted you. She expected you to do the right thing for the right reasons, and we tried to do that. I observe her working tirelessly to try to get us out of the difficulties that we were in after those storms," said Savoie.

Soon, the public will get a better idea of how Blanco dealt with those devastating hurricanes. The university's Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center will house archives from her tenure.

"That seed that sort of started the idea for the center is about 99 boxes worth of material from Governor Blanco's time in office. Those materials cover important background information from many of her priority areas as governor, as well as a wealth of information about hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the state's response and that longer term recovery after the storms," said Stephen Barnes, director of the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center.

The public policy center will be located in the university's library. There's no set date when the policy center will be open to the public. The staff is hoping it's some time in the near future.