University honors namesake, John McNeese - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

University honors namesake, John McNeese

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McNeese was named in honor of John McNeese, a man called an innovator, a reformer and a great pioneer of education. And now, the university and his family officially opened John McNeese Park as part of the 2012 homecoming ceremonies.

John McNeese was born in 1843 in New York. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, fighting at Gettysburg and eventually wound up in Lake Charles where he married and became an educator. 

Though he studied law, education was his passion. And now, almost 100 years since his death, his legacy lives on through the institution that bears his name. His family, some of whom are alums, came from as far away as the Washington, D.C. for the opening of John McNeese Park.

McNeese President Dr. Philip Williams said it's a reminder of the unique connection here with the man known as the father of public education in Louisiana.

"We like to say that we're the only university in the state of Louisiana that's named for an educator and that's a great thing to be able to say. John McNeese was a pioneer in education, the first superintendent for the Imperial Calcasieu region and we've got his statue right here in campus now," Williams said.  

Williams spoke of John McNeese's heroic commitment to education.

"He would walk around in the swamp going to see people on stilts, because it was so important for him that every person get an education in this region," McNeese said.

John McNeese family members here included his great great granddaughter Becky Andrews who hopes students will learn about the university's namesake and be inspired.

"He worked extremely hard to establish a funding basis for the school systems and for education in Louisiana. He is the father for sustained funding for education, quite frankly. He put in the state constitution property tax funding," Andrews said.

John McNeese died in 1914 at the age of 70 and is buried in Orange Grove Cemetery in Lake Charles.

For more on John McNeese, including some of his historic papers and photos, click here.

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