RODRIGUE AND GUIDRY HONORED AS OUTSTANDING ALUMS
The weekend of October 10, artist George Rodrigue and Yankee pitcher Ron Guidry were honored as University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Outstanding Alumni 2003, during a Homecoming celebration of the University's Centennial Birthday. Festivities included class lectures by both honorees, a formal reception and awards ceremony, a ride in the Homecoming parade, and a half-time presentation at the UL stadium.
This is the second time George and Ron have been honored together. They became friends twelve years ago when they were both recognized as Louisiana Legends.
George's friends and family supported him at the celebrations. He accepted his award in the UL Alumni House, the former Hays Town home of Hebert Heymann, where we were surrounded by George's paintings --- images he created years ago of UL activities, such as sports, dance, and Homecoming. University President Ray Authemont recounted the positive recognition George has brought to both the university and the community with his artistic accomplishments, particularly his commissions to paint U.S. Presidents, his work with Absolut and Xerox Corporations, and his successful series of art books. In addition, they discussed with pride and interest his upcoming 40-year retrospective monograph by Abrams, tracing his art from his school projects to his oak trees and Cajuns, and his Blue Dog and Hurricane canvases. George commented that the speech sounded like "This Is Your Life," and that he hoped there weren't any surprises.
But there was an incredible surprise. When asked to return to the podium, George received the news that his friends and collectors Don and Chris Sanders of Houston, had established the George Rodrigue Endowed Scholarship in Visual Arts. Of more than 100 endowed scholarships at UL, this was only the second ever established in the art department. This scholarship allows George the opportunity to choose and help a student each semester follow their own dreams in the visual arts. He was notably touched by this gesture --- a gift and honor which goes to the heart of his own path to personal success.
University President Authemont also outlined Ron Guidry's accomplishments. However, it was Ron's personal account which hit home:
Ron discussed his recent trip to New York, where he became one of only two pitchers to ever have their number retired. More than 5,000 New Yorkers honored him at Yankee Stadium, where his framed No. 49 jersey was carried onto the field. In Monument Park his plaque now hangs with sixteen other baseball legends, such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio. Mayor Bloomberg declared the day "Ron Guidry Day."
Ron said that he always regretted the way he left New York after his last season. He said it was a quiet day, and that he never got to say good-bye. When he returned in August, he was genuinely shocked when people recognized him at the airport and shook his hand on the street. There was a tear in the eye of the Louisiana Lightning as he spoke of the experience. He spoke also about the game of baseball --- specifically, his game. He spoke about perfection and a true love of the sport.
Just like George, he's a nice, country, Cajun guy, who left Louisiana to follow his dream and continued that dream by returning to his roots. Today Ron lives near Lafayette, where he fishes and plays golf, and spends time with his wife Bonnie and their three children.
Also just like George, Ron has a child at UL. His daughter attends the university, just as George's son Andre does. They were both on hand to honor their parents, as was George's son Jacques, a student at Louisiana State University.
Neither George nor Ron actually graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. They both explained why they had to leave (George to California and Ron to New York) and yet why UL was an indispespensible part of their roads to success (The Art Center in Pasadena, a graduate level school, accepted George based on his UL portfolio; and the New York Yankees noticed Ron on the UL baseball diamond). Their reminiscences clearly outlined their pride in their roots and their gratefulness in receiving this distinguished recognition 'at home.'