Billy Johns continues support of his alma mater, NSU

Billy John Burns


Billy John Burns continues to support his alma mater, Northwestern State University, most recently through a planned gift that will be added to the scholarship he created for graduates of Anacoco High School. His contribution continues to support two schools that he loves: Anacoco High School and Northwestern State.

“Mr. Burns donated an insurance policy that will be put into his scholarship at the time of his death,” said NSU Development Officer Jill Bankston, CFRE.

Burns established the Billy John and Judith Burns Scholarship in memory of his late wife in 2011 and has contributed to it over the years. It is annually awarded to an Anacoco High School graduate who plans to attend NSU. During the 2013 50-plus reunion, he said he owes a debt to both AHS and NSU that he cannot pay, that he loves both schools and wants to be a part of their success for years to come.

“The money I place in the scholarship is an investment in human beings and will return positive results forever,” he said. “I want to encourage each of my fellow NSU graduates to consider establishing a scholarship fund.”

“Mr. Burns continues to be a model of service and generosity to NSU and to students from Vernon Parish,” Bankston said.

Burns, who lives in Bossier City, earned a B.A. in education at NSU in 1954, M.A. in 1958 and plus 30 in 1966. Born and reared in Anacoco, he taught at Anacoco High School for 31 years working at various times as a social studies teacher, librarian, assistant principal, principal, girls basketball coach and co-sponsor of the yearbook. He retired for one year and moved to Shreveport, where he taught for 14 years at Calvary Baptist Academy and served as principal from 1990-2000. Events from his life and career are detailed in an autobiography, “One Last Stroll Down Memory Lane,” completed in 2007.

Burns overcame tremendous physical challenges as a child and attended Northwestern on a rehabilitation scholarship.

Until recent years, Burns often visited NSU and enjoyed strolling around campus snapping pictures. The last time he was able to visit Natchitoches was last year when he celebrated his 86th birthday by contributing $5,000 to his scholarship. His daughter and son-in-law, Donna and Tommy Robinson, joined him for the presentation.

Burns said the ideal candidate for the NSU scholarship would be someone with a financial need and a strong interest in attending Northwestern and a person with demonstrated academic achievement, involvement in extracurricular activities and good character.

“Ninety-five percent of my life is behind me and in my last few years I am interested in helping others because when I was at Northwestern so many people helped me,” Burns said.

AOII Sorority does its part to Keep Natchitoches Beautiful


The ladies of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority volunteered with Keep Natchitoches Beautiful for a cleanup at City Park March 17. Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority incorporated the cleanup into their annual Sisterhood Retreat. Sorority members enjoyed bonding as well as making a difference in the Natchitoches community.

For more information on how your organization can help make a difference by participating in a community cleanup please contact Keep Natchitoches Beautiful at 318-352-2746.

NCHS band participates in LMEA events

LMEA District 2 Logo
The Natchitoches Central High School Band has been busy with events for the Louisiana Music Educators Association (LMEA). LMEA is the governing body of statewide music events and teachers in public schools, which includes the All-State process, marching assessments, honor ensembles, solo and ensemble contests, and ensemble assessments. LMEA is divided into nine districts. Natchitoches is located within LMEA District II, which includes Avoyelles, Grant, Natchitoches, Rapides, Red River, Sabine, and Winn Parishes.

The NCHS band participated in the LMEA District II Solo and Ensemble Festival on Saturday, March 3rd at Alexandria Senior High School. Two soloists and four ensembles competed in this festival. Two of the ensembles received Superior ratings while the other two ensembles and soloists received Excellent ratings. “These students went above and beyond to work on these solos and small ensembles on their own time,” says Aleisa Hudlow, NCHS Band Director. “I did not require them to participate in this event this year, but they chose to go above and beyond to prepare and perform for this contest, which has benefited our band program as a whole with their elevated level of musicianship.”

On Tuesday, March 13, the NCHS Concert Band participated in the LMEA District II Large Ensemble Assessment. Large Ensemble Assessment is to music what testing is for academics: it uses other music educators to assess the achievement level of a music program in both prepared concert literature and sight reading skills. This was the first time in over a decade that the NCHS Concert Band has attended Large Ensemble Assessment, and the band earned Excellent ratings from all judges in both the concert and sight reading portions of the assessment. “I am so proud of all of the hard work that these students have put forth to achieve this level of performance,” says Hudlow. “It’s one thing to prepare for a concert, but it takes an additional level of focus, dedication, and musicality to be successful at Assessment. These students have earned this honor, and I am proud to serve as their director. I am also blessed with amazing support from my fellow NCHS faculty members, administration, and district.”

The NCHS Band Director is Aleisa Hudlow, and this is her first year at NCHS. She is in her eleventh year of teaching and has taught in Texas, at Northshore High School in Slidell, Pineville High School, and began the band program at Marthaville Junior High School last year. Mrs. Hudlow is also grateful for the support and additional instruction she has received from NCHS staff and NSU music student volunteers: Kesley Wright, Talent Instructor for Natchitoches Parish Schools; Andrew Benjamin, teacher at NCHS; and Lane Clevenger, Jake English, Blayne Fugere, Cameron Mayfield, and Addison Pellegrino, NSU music student volunteers.

Band Director: Aleisa Hudlow
Talented Music Instructor: Kelsey Wright
Additional Instructors: Andrew Benjamin (NCHS Teacher); Lane Clevenger, Jake English, Blayne, Fugier, Cameron Mayfield, Addison Pellegrino (NSU music students)

Pub Crawlers party on Front Street and the Riverbank

Pub Crawl 1


Pub Crawlers took over Front Street and the Downtown Riverbank March 17 as the Natchitoches Young Professionals (NYP) hosted its St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl. This year saw a rise in participants as 400 people walked the length of Front Street, stopping at a series of businesses to draw a card for the event’s poker run.

Flow Tribe brought the party to the newly renovated riverbank for an energetic concert that that got everyone moving their feet.

Nine college rowing teams using Cane River this month

UT rowing

College rowing teams are flocking back to Cane River Lake this spring to practice in pristine conditions with championship season just around the corner.

Teams from nine different schools, including household athletics names like LSU, Alabama, Texas and Georgia put their paddles in the water in March.

Northwestern State rowing coach Jason Stelly said steady water levels are bringing teams back to Natchitoches, a nod to the days when scores of rowing teams would dot the 35-mile oxbow lake that used to be a stretch of the Red River.

“We have been very lucky to have great water conditions for rowing,” Stelly said. “The river is beginning to get a reputation again.

“Inconsistent water levels caused teams to hesitate in the past, but now the water levels are more stable and the riverbank construction project is complete.”

A water pump project that directs water from Hampton Lake into Bayou Possiant, which flows into Cane River Lake, is complete. The project has helped to stabilize water levels.

Pair that with calm water in an affordable location, and Cane River Lake is a destination for rowing teams to perfect their craft.

“Cane River Lake is a natural haven for rowing teams, especially for spring break,” Stelly said. “Teams can build up their speed and focus on rowing technique in the calm water.

“It’s a great setup because the city is willing to work with these teams. They don’t charge fees for using the river, and they can get deals on food and hotels, so it’s affordable.”

Texas coach Peter Rosberg called Cane River Lake a “hidden gem of a training center.”

“I love it because you can go so long in one direction,” Rosberg said. “There’s so many miles, and you’re protected from the wind.

“I also love the setting with houses on the bank. Everybody is really friendly on the river and will wave at you. It’s really special. For the money we spend, it’s best deal I’ve encountered.”

Northwestern State isn’t an unknown on the national rowing stage.

The NSU women won the program’s first conference championship two years ago and first medal in the American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championship Regatta by placing second.

Stelly is always looking for new rowers, even with little knowledge of the sport.

“The NSU rowing teams are doing great,” Stelly said. “We have a small, close-knit team that works hard and represents the school proudly.”

Students interested in joining can contact Stelly via email

NSU Wellness Center dedicated in honor of Dr. Randall J. Webb

Webb WRAC portrait


NSU- Northwestern State University dedicated its Wellness, Recreation and Activity Center in honor of the late Dr. Randall J. Webb in a ceremony held Tuesday before a large crowd on what would have been Webb’s 75th birthday.

Webb was the longest-serving president in the history of Northwestern State, holding the position from July 1, 1996 to Dec. 31, 2014.

“For 25 years, Dr. Webb stepped up to a microphone and said ‘This is a red letter day for Northwestern State University.’ And this day truly is,” said Northwestern State President Dr. Chris Maggio. “I am so proud to see so many people here to honor a man who was so special to so many of us.”

Northwestern State students approved a referendum in 1998 to fund construction of the Wellness, Recreation and Activity Center. The $6.9 million project converted the former Intramural Building into a 81,000 square foot facility which was completed in 2004.

“We are honoring a man who did as much for this university as any single individual,” said University of Louisiana System President and CEO Dr. Jim Henderson, who succeeded Webb as NSU’s president. “There are two things about Randy Webb that stick out: his loyalty to the university and his love for students. It defines who Randy Webb was and is that we are naming a building in his honor that was built by students.”

SGA President Tre Nelson experienced an example of Webb’s feeling towards students the first time the two met at a party a few months before Nelson enrolled at NSU.

“He could have spent all his time talking to all the important people at the party, but he took time to get to know an incoming freshman at Northwestern,” said Nelson. “After talking for a few minutes, I found his words so genuine that all my fears about attending the university went away.”

Webb encouraged his friend Lola Dunahoe to serve on the NSU Foundation Board of Directors several years ago. Dunahoe became president of the Foundation board and was later appointed to the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System. Dunahoe called Webb “a scholar, a great leader, an encourager and a Christian gentleman.”

“Everyone at Northwestern had an opportunity to be encouraged by Randy,” said Dunahoe. “He gave his best and expected it out of others. My life was enriched because I was able to call Randy Webb my friend.”

Athletic Director Greg Burke said Webb was a “boss, mentor, advocate, supporter, fan and friend.”

He said Webb never waivered in his support for the athletic program, and had strong views about what the program should be.

“When I interviewed for the position of athletic director, he told me that “we are going to win, our student athletes are going to graduate and we will carry ourselves in the right way,” said Burke. “I learned so much from him.”

Under Webb’s leadership, Northwestern State received unprecedented national and international attention for its academic programs and student accomplishments. University facilities in addition to the WRAC were renovated to better serve students and two record-setting capital campaigns took place.

Enrollment reached record levels during Webb’s tenure as president and exceeded 10,500 for the first time in school history in the fall of 2004. Webb led NSU toward higher admission standards, which has resulted in students at the university having greater academic potential and aptitude. During Webb’s tenure, Northwestern State had the largest graduating classes in the university’s history.

Catholic Daughter of the Year

CatholicDaughter- Vienne
Diane DeBlieux Vienne received an award for Catholic Daughter of the Year from the Regent of Court #1372, Catholic Daughters of America, Natchitoches.

Diane is a long-time member of the Court, volunteers as a pink lady at the hospital, served on the Bereavement Committee at the church and is a Eucharistic Minister for the Basilica, faithfully taking communion to the sick and home bound.

Diane is always the first to offer to help with any project.

She and her husband, the late Coach Julien Vienne, raised two great children, and she is very involved with her grandchildren.

She taught school for over 30 years.

Involved with and committed to the Sisters of Divine Providence, she attends many of their celebrations and activities. Diane also attends missionary trips twice a year to Honduras and is involved extensively in Operation Christmas Child.

Diane Vienne is truly a generous and humble Rina who epitomizes what a Catholic Daughter is it should be.