The family of one of Northwestern State’s most iconic and beloved athletic heroes, the late Walter Ledet, has provided a significant boost to the “Walter P. Ledet Track Scholarship” in support of the recently launched “Perpetually Purple” program.
“Perpetually Purple” encourages supporters to enhance an endowment fund that provides essential resources for the continuing success of NSU Athletics.
Ledet, an Abbeville native, was NSU’s first All-America football player and became a legendary coaching figure and a high-ranking university administrator. He was a 1996 inductee in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. A 1938 Little All-America guard for the Demons, he joined the coaching staff of Harry Turpin the following year and was an assistant football coach until 1964. From 1952-64, he was Northwestern State’s highly-successful head track and field coach whose teams won five straight Gulf States Conference championships from 1953-57, missing a sixth by half a point.
He helped shape the careers of three other Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame members from NSU: football greats Charlie Tolar, Charlie Hennigan and Jackie Smith, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who came to the Demons on a track scholarship as a hurdler.
The Ledet family recently more than doubled a $10,000 endowed scholarship honoring him, raising the endowment among the top 15 supporting Northwestern State student-athletes.
“We’re deeply appreciative of the Ledet family stepping forward to support student-athletes now and forever more at NSU,” said director of athletics Greg Burke. “They created a scholarship endowment honoring Coach Ledet soon after his passing (in December 2012, at age 93) and recently made gifts to more than double the endowment, while expressing plans to continue growing the fund.
“It’s a wonderful and appropriate launch point to inspire similar gifts in our Perpetually Purple program for existing endowments and to create new ones,” said Burke, who added that additional announcements regarding “Perpetually Purple” commitments would be forthcoming. The Perpetually Purple program is managed by the Demons Unlimited Foundation, with a goal to grow the endowment, through outright donations or deferred gifts, over the next five years from $1.5 million to over $5 million, he said. “Annual gifts and fund raising events for NSU Athletics are imperative on an ongoing basis, but development of the Perpetually Purple endowment program is equally important,” said Burke. “NSU coaches, staff and student-athletes will be able to count on those endowed funds each and every year.”
Earnings from the 57 permanent funds which comprise the current $1.5 million endowment total are utilized to balance the Athletic Department’s annual scholarship budget. According to Burke, “Current endowment funding ensures that all 14 NSU sports can continue offering the maximum number of scholarships permitted by NCAA guidelines. Being able to do so is paramount to sustaining a high level of competitiveness but more importantly, continues to provide opportunities for young people to receive a scholarship which can lead to earning a college degree. Based on the fact that the five-year NCAA Graduation Success Rate of NSU Athletics is right at 70 percent over the past five years, endowment funds are a worthwhile investment.”
A fundamental goal of the initial push is to reach the $5 million milestone, allowing the endowment to completely underwrite book scholarships for all NSU student-athletes, an expense of nearly $200,000 currently paid by annual gifts to the DUF, he said. Annual gift revenues will then be redirected to more significantly enhance facilities, bolster recruiting budgets, retain or hire outstanding coaches, and offset ever-increasing scholarship costs.
A minimum of $10,000 is required to create an endowment fund. It can be established with an outright gift such as cash, a stock transfer or property sale, a life insurance policy, or can be included as a provision in a will or bequest. Arrangements can be made to fund an endowment over an extended period of time.
The option to include NSU in a will or bequest makes such a gift feasible for any Demon supporter, according to Burke. “There are supporters who may never have considered that option, and would find it very appealing,” he said. “Some people can contribute more on a deferred basis through a will, bequest or insurance policy than they could ever imagine doing currently.”
The endowment principle remains intact for perpetuity with a maximum of five percent interest income used for the intent designated by the donor who establishes the fund.
Burke, DUF executive director Adam Jonson and assistant athletic director Haley Blount are available to provide additional information and discuss the Perpetually Purple program. They can be reached by calling NSU Athletics at 318-357-5251, or by email: Burke (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jonson (email@example.com) or Blount Information can also be obtained through a direct online link, NSUDemons.com/endowments.
Three former NSU athletes made a provision in their estate which has already provided valuable funds for the athletic program through the Edwin Schroeder Athletic Scholarship, the Richard “Rough and Ready” Davis Athletic Scholarship and the Dr. Violet Davion Shaver Women’s Athletic Scholarship.
Several more individuals have informed NSU Athletics that a provision in their estate planning will benefit the endowment fund.
“We are very proud of the remarkable stretch of success we’re currently enjoying in athletics,” said Burke. “At the same time, it is critical – while stopping to ‘smell the roses’ – that focus remains on further developing the financial foundation of the NSU athletic program which will, in turn, position our student-athletes and coaches to sustain the current level of success.”
Achievement has been across the board in the program’s cornerstone values of academic achievement, personal responsibility and competitive success.
In each of the last two semesters, student-athletes have set new NSU Athletics records for the department’s cumulative GPA, a 2.96 in the Fall 2014 semester. There were a Southland-best 96 fall sports student-athletes who posted at least a 3.0 GPA while competing in football, women’s soccer, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country in 2014. NSU remains one of the few Division I athletics programs in the south to own a perfect slate, penalty free, in the 12-year history of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate annual report.
Meanwhile, NSU Athletics last month won the inaugural Southland Strong Community Service Award as student-athletes compiled over 3,100 hours of civic assistance during the 2014-15 academic year, more than 900 ahead of the second-place institution. For the second straight year, Northwestern State competitors swept the Southland’s Steve McCarty Citizenship Awards for service activities, with soccer senior Jackie Strug and football junior quarterback Daniel Hazlewood winning the awards.
Competitively, NSU has posted 10 Southland Conference regular-season or tournament championships in the past 26 months, and made eight NCAA Tournament appearances in five sports, while track and field athletes have won nine All-America awards for top 16 finishes at NCAA indoor and outdoor championships, and the men’s track team finished tied for 20th in team standings at the 2014 NCAA Outdoors. NSU is the only university north of I-10 in Louisiana to have an NCAA Tournament appearance in any sport in that span.