April 11, 2012
by Matt DeVille
(All photos by Jim Zietz)
More than 300 people filled the Lod Cook Alumni Center’s Noland-Laborde Hall for the 2012 LSU Alumni Association Hall of Distinction gala on Friday, March 30.
The Association’s premier event of the year, the 2012 event spotlighted the 47th Hall of Distinction induction class. Leading the way for this year’s collection of honorees were 2012 Alumnus of the Year Dr. John Butler and NFL linebacker Bradie James, who was recognized as the Young Alumnus of the Year.
Other honorees included urban designer and landscape architect Kurt Culbertson; telecommunication industrialist Joseph Fail; lawyer and cattleman David Means; award-winning designer, writer and educator James Richards; food manufacturing mogul Donald Welge, and retired businessman Claude West.
The evening began with a welcome from LSU Alumni Association President Charlie Roberts and opening remarks from Chairman of the Alumni Association National Board of Directors Mike Woods.
Following the introduction of honorees, which included a champagne toast, 2011 Young Alumnus of the Year and world-renowned trumpeter Graham Breedlove entertained the attendees with an arrangement of LSU tunes.
James, an All-American linebacker at LSU from 1999-2002, was the first to be recognized as the 2012 Young Alumnus. James spent nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and recently signed with the Houston Texans. Away from football, he raises money for breast cancer awareness through his “Foundation 56,” an organization he started following the death of his mother in 2007.
Following his acceptance speech, James presented a check for $60,393 to Woman’s Hospital executives Teri Fontenot and Lynn Weill on behalf of Foundation 56.
A second presentation came later in the evening when Franklinton, La., councilman T.J. Butler presented his brother, 2012 Alumnus of the Year John Butler, with the key to the city.
A distinguished scholar, author, educator, war hero and musician, Butler addressed the gathering with an eloquent 15-minute address, which began with a tribute to his 94-year-old mother, Johnnie Mae Butler, who was in attendance.
The first African-American member of the LSU Tiger Band and a Vietnam War Bronze Star winner, Butler has authored more than 20 books on entrepreneurship and has been a professor at the Kelleher Entrepreneurship Center of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas for almost 40 years.
Butler complimented the guidance of his parents and grandparents for his success in education and business. He talked about the importance of a college education in his family and how every member of his family since 1900 has a college degree.
Bradie James has spent most of his life as an influential game changer – academically, on the playing field, and in business.
Growing up in Monroe, Mr. James was an All-State linebacker at West Monroe High School. In 1999, he joined the football team at LSU, where he became a star on the Tiger defense at the same time earning a degree in criminology. He enjoyed a heralded four-year career twice selected All-SEC and was named a first team All-American following his senior season.
In 2003, Mr. James was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys where he is currently a starting linebacker. In 2009, he set a team record becoming the first player in franchise history to lead the Cowboys in tackles five years in a row.
Following the untimely death of his mother Etta in 2007, Mr. James established Foundation 56 as his way to join in the fight against breast cancer. To date, Foundation 56 has donated nearly one million dollars to the cause including contributions to fund breast cancer services at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center as well as the purchase of mobile mammogram units at Woman’s Hospital.
In October 2011, the foundation unveiled the Bradie James Resource Center at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. The facility offers everything from fitted wigs and prosthesis to social therapy programs and support groups.
A major supporter of the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student Athletes and the Tiger Athletic Foundations Scholarship Program, Mr. James has teamed up with coach D-D Breaux and the LSU Gymnastics team to create the Etta James Memorial Meet, an annual meet that promotes breast cancer awareness and attracts thousands to the Pete Maravich Center.
Mr. James and his wife, Star, reside in North Texas with their son, Ace.