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Joseph Ryan Fontenot – Elementary Education, 1965

Joseph Ryan Fontenot

June, 1965 Graduate in Elementary Education

                At graduation from U.S.L. in June 1965, my diploma was issued in the name of Joseph Ryan Fontenot and the degree earned was a B.A. in Education.  The major field pursued was Upper Elementary Education.  At that time, only one graduation per year was held at U.S.L.  I had actually completed all course work in August 1964, and had completed one year of teaching at Leonville High School at the time of graduation in 1965.

                A span of nine years elapsed between the time I entered college (Southwestern Louisiana Institute) for the Summer Semester of 1955 to completing course work in the Summer of 1964.  The first interruption of earning a college degree occurred following the 1956 Spring Semester when I resigned to earn money to hopefully return to college to complete my studies.  I had found it necessary to work in the dining hall at S.L.I. (the highest paying job on campus at the time) to pay school expenses.  The dining hall job necessitated working three shifts per day–breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Classes had to be scheduled around the job.  Difficulties were experienced at times, and especially when scheduling the one-day per week laboratory classes which were some three hours in length.

                After leaving S.L.I. in 1956, I began working at Cotton Products Company (Lou-Ana) in Opelousas and worked there until 1959.  In the Spring of 1959, I re-entered S.L.I. as a daily commuter with a group of students from Ville Platte.  One of the commuters (John Fontenot) is currently an instructor in the English Department at U.S.L.

                In 1960, following the Summer Semester, I was drafted into the military for a two-year term of service.  I trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina (basic training), and Fort Gordon, Georgia (signal school).  Shortly after signal school, I was issued orders to serve in the Pacific Theater (Korea) where I served the remainder of my military obligation until 1962.

In the Fall of 1962, I re-entered the university (now U.S.L.) and completed studies towards a B.A. in Education.

The traditional haircut upon entering in 1955 was a unique experience.  I had visited the campus on the weekend prior to Summer School and was promptly pounced upon by the upperclassmen for the haircut.  The bookstore was closed until Monday, so I had to sport a shaved head until I was able to purchase the red and white beanie cap worn by all of the first-time Freshmen.

Some of my fellow workers in the dining hall were Leon Scruggins (deceased), Webster Marcantel, Patrick Davis, and Ellis Fletcher.  The supervisor of the workers was a rather strict boss and was always concerned with the efficiency of the service provided by the dining facilities.  The new workers were assigned to the dumping of garbage from the trays.  The job changed to wrapping silverware, filling boxes, etc. as newer workers (usually first-time Freshmen) were employed.

During the first year at college, I was housed in Dormitory “C” in Little Abbeville.   As mentioned before, I commuted from Grand Prairie during the second stint (1959-60) at college.  When I returned to U.S.L. in 1962 from serving in the military (Army), I rented from Mr. and Mrs. Patin on St. Julien Street, along with other U.S.L. students (Raphael Bellow, Berl Smith, and Roland Smith).  This was the period that I enjoyed the most while at college.  Some of the “after-hours” entertainment spots included Domingue’s Bar on St. Julien, Voorhies, Toby’s at Four Corners and The Keg on McKinley Street.  On occasion, we ventured out to Rayne and Breaux Bridge.

After teaching one year, I married Lucille Joubert (1965 U.S.L. Graduate), and moved to Lawtell where we have resided since 1965 and have raised three sons–Philip, David and Billy.  I served as Principal of Lawtell High School from 1972 to 1988.  In 1988, I was appointed to a supervisory position at the Central Office in St. Landry Parish where I am currently serving as Superintendent of Schools.  I also served three years as Assistant Superintendent of Operations prior to being appointed Superintendent.

Following the earning of a B.A. Degree, I continued to attend college and have earned a M.Ed.+30, including Secondary Education certification as well as Administration and Supervision certification.  The advanced work was completed mainly from L.S.U. in Baton Rouge.  My future plans are to remain as School Superintendent until retirement.

Some of the instructor/professors at U.S.L. whose names I can recall and who have impacted my career in education are Dr. Charles Faulk, Mrs. Robinette, Mr. Joseph, Dr. Aycock, Dr. Steuben, Mrs. Price, Dr. Berhorst, Dr. Cosper, Dr. Meriwether, Dean Abel, Dean Blanco, Dean Coussan and Dean May.

After all has been said and done, there is no doubt that S.L.I./U.S.L. and its services have been the key to my success in my community.  I will be eternally grateful for the experiences provided.  I am especially proud to have been recognized at the Recognition Social of the Academic Showcase which the College of Education held on November 14, 1998 in Lafayette and to have received the Centennial Medallion.  Congratulations to U.S.L. and to all who have contributed to its stability and strength for these first one hundred years!