He’s recognized as a mastermind, a visionary, a Natchitoches treasure, and the founding father of a preeminent residential high school, which offers students one of the most transformative educational experiences in Louisiana.
The Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) was the brainchild of Dr. Robert Alost, who spent three years researching and dreaming before opening its doors in 1983. With help from community members and elected officials the necessary funding and facilities was secured and the initial legislation to create the school was passed. Dr. Alost then embarked on a statewide campaign to recruit the very first group of students and served as the school’s first Executive Director until 1986.
“He was dedicated to education and making sure students in Louisiana have an opportunity to grow,” said Dr. Alost’s wife Yvonne Alost. “You can see what’s happened with LSMSA as a result of his hard work.”
With competitive admissions for high-achieving, highly-motivated students, LSMSA fosters lifelong growth in young scholars toward reaching individual potentials and finding places of work and service in a global society through the examination and exchange of ideas in a community of learners.
“We can not begin to count the number of students and families positively impacted by Dr. Alost’s work in education,” said Dr. Steve Horton, LSMSA executive director. “He was a visionary beyond measure.”
Since LSMSA’s curriculum would mirror that of a college program, Dr. Alost felt the best place to start a search to staff the school was in colleges and universities throughout the nation.
More than 1,400 applications came in for only a handful of positions. It wasn’t hard to sell the school, even though there was very little to show– a dilapidated high school building under renovation, three run-down residence halls being updated for the purposing of classroom, faculty and administrative spaces, and a living community for teeenagers.
It all began with around 30 students. In the next sixth months the faculty Dr. Alost hired would be working with 200 of the brightest students in Louisiana. Since then, many faculty have walked the halls of the High School Building.
The Louisiana School recently announced it will honor its founder by renaming the school’s gymnasium for him. The announcement was made at the school’s 36th Commencement Ceremony on Aug. 9. Dr. Alost’s family was presented with an honorary LSMSA diploma.
“The family is very proud,” said Yvonne. “Robert wanted to give gifted students the opportunity to excel. There wasn’t a school at that time for students to get the education they’re getting now at LSMSA.”
Dr. Alost also served as president of Northwestern State University from where he created the Louisiana Scholars College. Because LSMSA is located on NSU’s campus, Dr. Alost was able to keep an eye on his beloved school, which he continued to do until his death on April 17, 2020.
“The unique community and advanced curriculum designed by Dr. Alost are what make LSMSA truly special,” said Dr. Horton. “Because of his dream, thoughtful, creative students from across Louisiana are able to access the state’s most rigorous preparation for college and the workforce when they attend LSMSA.”
When the state reaches Phase 4 and health and safety guidelines permit, LSMSA will hold a formal dedication ceremony to rename the gym the Robert A. Alost Gymnasium.
“This season has been a difficult one at LSMSA, and the loss of our visionary founder feels very heavy,” said Director of Academic Services Dr. Kristi Pope Key. “But as our tradition-rich community faces unprecedented challenges, it’s wonderful to remember that we can draw comfort and encouragement from the vision and dedication of those who wrestled this school into being nearly forty years ago.”
At the end of the day Dr. Alost knew education was the key.
“He worked very hard to get LSMSA up and going,” said Yvonne. “He deserves this recognition and he would be very proud today of how the school has grown.”
Dr. Alost was also active in numerous professional, civic and religious organizations, Alost was past president of the Natchitoches Parish Chamber of Commerce and served on the Board of Directors of the Natchitoches Tourist Commission. He was named Natchitoches’ Man of the Year in 1987. He was named to a 46-member NCAA Council Board of Directors in 1992.
Alost was inducted into the Northwestern Alumni Hall of Distinction, the Long Purple Line, in 2005 and was named a Natchitoches Treasure in 2018. He was also inducted into the Mrs. H.D. Dear Sr. and Alice E. D. Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts Hall of Fame in 2019.
Port Allen native Rhett Hart (’85), a member of LSMSA’s first graduating class, has perhaps put into words the feelings of many students and educators who had the opportunity to know Dr. Alost.
“Dr. Alost changed my life considerably for the better — academically, physically, mentally, and emotionally,” said Hart, currently a financial services professional in Dallas. “He thought I was fulfilling his dream, but instead, he was fulfilling a dream that I didn’t even know could exist.”