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November 5, 2010

ULM Alumni Association Awards Brunch held Oct. 30

Three deserving individuals were recognized at the annual Alumni Association Awards Brunch on Oct. 30, each accepting their awards with the same graciousness that earned them designation as 2010 award winners.

They include Robert Earle, who was named the 2010 recipient of the Golden Arrow Award, Senator Francis Thompson, who was named the recipient of the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award, and ULM employee, Anne Lockhart, who was named the recipient of the 2010 Alumni Association Service Award.

The following sections highlight the life and achievements of each award winner.

Robert Earle

Perhaps no one is a bigger fan of ULM alum Robert Earle than his wife and fellow alum, Bobbye Earle, who also happens to be president-elect of the ULM Alumni Association Board of Directors. But when Earle notified his wife that he would be this year's recipient of The Golden Arrow Award, the highest honor the ULM Alumni Association bestows each year, Bobbye insisted it couldn't be true.

"Oh I think he deserved it, most certainly. I was just thinking I would have known about it already," she explained, with a laugh.

"He has worked so hard for ULM for so many years," Bobbye said of her husband. "He tries to help everybody. The university has lots of great supporters; he just happens to be one of them."

The ULM Alumni Association established the award in 1981 to recognize alumni who serve the association and the university with distinction. Robert Earle fits that bill perfectly, according to ULM Associate Director of Alumni Relations Tommy Walpole.

"He and Bobbye have both been very active and very involved with ULM for as long as I can remember," he said.

"Robert has served on the board multiple times and always acts as host of the Union/Lincoln Parish golf tournaments to help raise money for the university. There are just so many things he has done through the years, it's hard to name them all," said Walpole. "He is certainly worthy of the award."

Robert and Bobbye Earle, who met on the ULM campus, have been married 51 years and have two grown children, Angel Earle Lyles and Chuck Earle. Their granddaughter, Leslie, is about to graduate from ULM's School of Nursing and another granddaughter, Lynden, is a sophomore business major at ULM. Two other family members who are both also ULM graduates are Robert Earle's sister and brother-in–law, Jean and Bob Tatum.

In an exciting twist to this year's homecoming presentation of the Golden Arrow Award, another one of the Earle's granddaughters, Lauren, 21, who is studying at the Boston Conservatory and is already renowned as an accomplished mezzo soprano opera performer, sang the National Anthem.

The Earles were instrumental in recently endowing a scholarship at ULM in honor of Howard Hicks for his 50-plus years of service to the Union Parish School System and life-long support of ULM. The scholarship provides college funding for deserving Union Parish students.

Robert Earle, who graduated in 1960 with a bachelor of science in health and physical education, first showed dedication to his alma mater through his stellar performances on the football and track field, lettering in both.

Earle said one of his greatest memories was competing with top-notch athletes, including the Styron twins, Don and Dave, who established world records in track while at ULM. Don Styron's track record still stands and the NFL drafted some of Earle's football teammates.

"Being around those kinds of athletes was very inspirational," said Earle. "There are a lot of teammates I still keep in touch with today, and my sister married one of them, so naturally we've kept in touch!"

A member of the ULM L Club and former president on the ULM Athletic Foundation, Earle has also been the recipient of the J.H. "Slim" Scogin Exemplary Service Award, established in 1985 and awarded to an individual who has demonstrated lengthy and exemplary service to ULM Athletics and the ULM Athletic Foundation.

George Luffey, a 2008 recipient of ULM's George T. Walker Lifetime Achievement Award, coached Earle and his friend Jim Ladadio. Earle was himself a coach for 16 years.

Earle earned his Master's in Education from Mississippi College and later received a Juris Doctorate from Southern University Law School. He practices law at The Earle Law Firm in Farmerville.

Currently, Earle serves on the FCA Board of Directors, Ruston Region, and is President of the Union Parish ULM Alumni Chapter. Earle and his wife are members of the Farmerville United Methodist Church and are active in numerous other civic organizations. Robert Earle is also a member of the Farmerville Lions Club where he has served as treasurer and president.

A lot has changed across the ULM campus since Robert Earle first met Bobbye, but neither one's enthusiasm for the university and its mission has diminished.

"The appearance of the campus is completely different. There was nothing across the bayou when we were there, and the pharmacy school was just getting started," he said. "People can't imagine the good things that have happened, and continue to happen, at ULM. I'm very excited about how far we've come."

Senator Francis C. Thompson

It seems appropriate that State Sen. Francis C. Thompson, one of the longest serving members of the Louisiana legislature, occupies an office in an old train depot in downtown Delhi, where so many artifacts highlight his career and personal interests that visitors must question if they have accidentally wandered into a museum.

Mounted trophy deer cover the walls and look out over a room that features an old cast iron stove, railroad memorabilia, framed family photographs, awards, old newspaper clippings and a picture of the classic "Tin Lizzy" automobile — and that's just a start.

But perhaps the greatest summation of Thompson, the teacher, the public servant and family man, is the simple hope that he might one day be remembered as one of Louisiana's leading "education legislators."

On Oct. 30, Thompson added to his office collection after he was recognized as the 2010 recipient of the ULM Alumni Association's George T. Walker Lifetime Achievement Award during the ULM Alumni Awards Brunch. Founded four years ago, the award recognizes those who distinguish themselves through professional and personal achievement, and who serve the university and the alumni association well over the course of several years.

Keith Brown, executive director of alumni and community relations, said the honor could not have gone to a more deserving person.

"Senator Thompson is a true southern gentleman and statesman who has dedicated his life to enriching ULM, the region and state, for the betterment of all Louisianans," said Brown. "He epitomizes the characteristics of a person worthy of such a distinguished honor."

For Thompson, receiving the award at the annual event was like coming full circle, since he not only received his Ed.D. in Secondary Education from the university, but also taught in several areas across the ULM campus for nearly 25 years. Before his years as a professor, he taught in the Monroe City School System and served in the Louisiana Department of Education, making him one of the few who can truly say he knows Louisiana education, inside and out. Many of his family members are also members of teaching professions.

"Education is the great equalizer," Thompson said. "It puts people on the same plane, otherwise you'll always have separation."

Thompson has helped push legislation to foster the growth and improvement of education in Louisiana throughout the decades, most recently joining the effort to improve college admissions standards and co-sponsoring TOPS, Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, a series of merit-based scholarships that award amounts equal to tuition at a state public college, university, community college or technical school, or the weighted average of public school tuition at certain in-state private colleges.

Thompson's educational interests has a reach far outside the state. From 1980 to 2000, he served on the legislative advisory council of the Southern Regional Education Board, whose members include several governors, state legislators, senators and prominent educators across the South. He received a gubernatorial appointment to the board of control for the SREB in 2000, a position he still holds.

In his role as a state senator, he serves as chairman of the Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development Committee, a position he also held in the House. He served on the House Appropriations Committee and, more currently, serves on the Senate Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget and the Senate Finance Committee. He also serves as a senate member of the select Homeland Security Special Committee, the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, and the Labor and Industrial Relations and International Affairs Committee.

Thompson was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Business Leaders in Northeast Louisiana in the 2004 News-Star poll, and in 2005, inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame. Thompson and his wife, Marilyn, have been married 48 years, and have two sons, a daughter and nine grandchildren of whom they are enormously proud.

"I guess I've always been taught by my family that the top three priorities that result in a successful formula for living are, in this order, the Lord, family, and education," he said. "I hope to be able to uphold the standards and same level of commitment as others who have received this honor before me."

Anne Lockhart

Those who know Anne Lockhart, ULM's Director of Development, have probably noticed how hard it is not to break into a broad-faced smile when talking with her. That's because, no matter how serious the topic or issue at hand, Lockhart herself is almost always wearing a gracious smile, putting those around her instantly at ease.

Her friendly and approachable manner is only one reason she has so successfully built public and private enthusiasm for the University of Louisiana at Monroe through the years, establishing a foundation for giving to ULM that was unprecedented before her arrival. It also factored into her selection for the 2010 Alumni Association's Service Award, an award her supervisor was pleased to present her with at the annual Alumni Association Awards Brunch at 10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 30.

"Anne is a great choice and a deserving recipient of this year's Alumni Association Service Award," said Dr. Don Skelton, vice president of University Advancement and External Affairs. "Whether providing assistance to ULM's many constituents or serving in a volunteer capacity throughout the twin cities, Anne, in many ways, has become the 'go to' person in representing the University to its public."

Since 1997, the Association has annually selected a ULM staff member for outstanding service to the university. Service award recipients must have completed at least three consecutive years at ULM and have contributed to the betterment of the campus community.

Lockhart, who graduated from ULM in 1986 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management, has been touting her alma mater for 14 years now. In her job, she is responsible for directing and evaluating all initiatives to raise private funds in support of the university's strategic initiatives, specifically, the cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of major and estate or planned gifts. She also assists in the management of the George T. Walker Heritage Society and is responsible for promoting and supporting all initiatives of the ULM Foundation.

But Lockhart is quick to point out that it is as much the donor's generosity as it is her fundraising ability that has created so many opportunities to help fund the university.

"I hear the most wonderful, heartwarming stories from our alumni; their entire college experience is one they are so happy about," Lockhart said. "They receive so much here and feel compelled to give back. I am very fortunate to be a part of that. We're just a vehicle for helping people realize their dreams."

Lockhart herself is quite the giver, in terms of time spent serving university and community service organizations, something she says is "really the best way to get to know" colleagues across campus. Among the numerous university boards she is currently affiliated with are the ULM Magazine Editorial Board, University Naming Opportunities Advisory Committee, Envision ULM Executive Committee, Presidential Lyceum Committee and the ULM Hall of Distinction Committee.

Past committee assignments have included the "Reclaiming our Campus" Implementation Committee, University Millennium Celebration Steering Committee, Library Dedication Committee Chair and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Strategic Planning Committee, just to name a few.

Off campus, Lockhart is equally engaged with the community, serving in leadership roles for the United Way of Northeast Louisiana, Monroe Chamber of Commerce, First Presbyterian Church Stewardship and Nominating Committees, and the Junior League of Monroe Inc.

Lockhart is married to fellow ULM Alum Jim Lockhart, a 1973 Bachelor's of Art graduate, and they have a daughter, Lauren, a commercial banker in Austin, Texas. When she can carve out some down time, Lockhart enjoys being with her family and taking time to travel. Ultimately, though, it is dedication to her job that shines through.

"I do it with great joy," Lockhart said. "The opportunity to help those who want to leave a legacy or some meaningful gift to ULM is absolutely wonderful. I guess the best part about my job is that it provides me a chance to become friends with people who are also passionate about this university."

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