Former Coach: How suite it is - UL Lafayette names space in Union for Raymond Blanco
louisiana.edu/news-events/news, May 24, 2019
Raymond Blanco couldn’t wait. The retired University of Louisiana at Lafayette administrator and coach lifted the black velveteen cloth to preview the plaque beneath.
The ceremony designating a suite of office space in the University’s Student Union in his honor had yet to start, but Blanco freely admitted that patience was never his forte.
She went to work for Blanco shortly after her graduation in 1972. Daniels said her arrival on campus as a student in the late 1960s came amid continuing racial division. Though the University had integrated in 1954, the environment “was not good for black students” when she enrolled.
“We were not encouraged to participate. We were tolerated,” but that changed “once Dean Blanco came on board,” Daniels recounted.
Blanco replaced recalcitrant administrators who did not welcome black students. He pulled white and black students together and encouraged dialogues to increase understanding.
“He was changing the culture of the campus. And let me tell you, that wasn’t easy,” Daniels said. “His main thing was, everybody’s going to be respected. Everyone’s dignity will be respected, and everybody’s going to have a chance to have a voice.”
Blanco instilled those guiding principles in his staff, said Patricia Cottonham, the University’s current vice president for Student Affairs. She graduated from the University in 1979, then went to work for Blanco.
“He taught us lessons every day, lessons of tolerance, second chances, lessons of love and understanding. Dean Blanco was called to do the work that he did with young people. From the football field to the halls of the campus community, he was a man who believed – insisted – in justice and fairness for everyone," Cottonham said.
“He taught us that students were the most important people on campus, and we were always to treat them with dignity and respect."
Blanco and Kathleen Babineaux married in 1964. When she was elected Louisiana governor in 2003 – the first woman and only UL Lafayette graduate to hold the position – Raymond Blanco became the state’s first gentleman.
The former governor said that her husband worried during her political campaigns that his reputation would hurt her electoral chances. But that’s not what she found on the trail.
“I would meet people and they’d say, ‘Your husband saved my life.’ I heard that refrain over and over again. I kept coming back with those stories and he could just hardly believe it. Nonetheless, there was that reality out there, that he had touched so many lives in such a powerful way,” Kathleen Blanco said.
Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.