Six accomplished alumni named to Long Purple Line at NSU

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Six distinguished Northwestern State University alumni will be inducted into the university’s Alumni Hall of Distinction, the Long Purple Line. This year’s inductees are state official Sujuan Boutte of Prairieville, businessman Harvey F. Marcus Sr. of Monroe, Louisiana State University Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron, NSU Vice President for External Affairs Jerry Pierce, Fed Ex Freight executive John A. Smith of Memphis, Tennessee, and former NSU faculty member Thomas Whitehead of Natchitoches.

The induction will take place on Friday, April 3 at 11:30 a.m. in McCullen Hall at the Natchitoches Events Center, 750 Second St. Tickets are $25 and available by calling (318) 357-5513 or by going to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/long-purple-line-induction-2020-tickets-94499647991.

The Long Purple Line was created to provide recognition and appreciation to individuals whose career accomplishments or service to their fellow man have enhanced the reputation and prestige of Northwestern State.

Selection may be based upon past or continuing achievements in individuals’ careers, exemplary and extraordinary service to community, state and nation or both career accomplishments and service to mankind including service to their alma mater.

Only 136 of the university’s 75,000 alumni have been inducted into the Long Purple Line since it was established in 1990.

Boutte has a broad range of experience spanning postsecondary financial aid for traditional and non-traditional populations, K-12, higher education, government and private industry. She has held several high-level positions in Louisiana state agencies. Since 2013, she has been executive director of the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, managing an annual budget of almost $400 million. Boutte provides oversight of statewide college access and financial aid initiatives aimed at promoting, preparing for and providing college access to students and families including the Taylor Opportunity for Students Program (TOPS) and the Louisiana Go Grants. She previously served as the office’s deputy executive director, chief operations officer and chief research and planning officer.

Boutte has served as assistant secretary of the Office of Workforce Development and workforce planning executive consultant with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. She was also an education instruction specialist for IBM.

At Northwestern State, Boutte was director and founder of the Technology Training Institute, director of the Office of Public Service and coordinator of non-credit continuing education.

She earned a bachelor’s, master’s specialist and doctorate at Northwestern State and was a supervising teacher at the NSU Laboratory Schools for 12 years. Boutte was named Natchitoches Parish Elementary School Teacher of the Year, the Natchitoches Kiwanis’ Outstanding Young Educator and a Turner Broadcasting National Faculty Member.

Upon graduation from Northwestern State College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting, Marcus moved to Monroe. In the summer of 1963, he began his career in public accounting with a local CPA firm. After working for that firm for seven years, he opened his practice in 1970. After about 10 years, he partnered with fellow Northwestern State alumnus John Robinson to form Marcus, Robinson and Hassell which has offices in Monroe and Winnsboro.

Marcus has been involved in a number of successful business ventures throughout Louisiana and Arkansas which include healthcare companies, restaurants, commercial and residential development and management.

Marcus has supported NSU for decades and has served on numerous boards and committees that enhance the university, including the NSU Foundation Board, The Mary R. Gallaspy Trust No. 2 Board and the College of Business and Technology Advisory Board. He has also been honored as a member of the NSU College of Business Hall of Fame.

Marcus is active in state and national professional organizations, including the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Louisiana Society of Certified Public Accountants. In 2019, he received the certificate of recognition for 50-years loyal membership in the Louisiana Society of Certified Public Accountants

He has supported and donated to countless athletic and academic programs at NSU over the years, including establishing a faculty endowed professorship, and joined NSU alumni Bill Tilley, Bill Stokes and Joe Singletary in establishing a four-year endowed scholarship through the NSU Foundation.

Orgeron led LSU to the College Football Playoff title and a 15-0 record this past season. He was named National Coach of the Year by Walter Camp, Eddie Robinson and the Associated Press. He was also selected as the SEC Coach of the Year.

Orgeron’s staff and team included the winner of the 2019 Broyles Award as nation’s top assistant coach, the Heisman Trophy winner, winner of the Biletnikoff Award given to the outstanding receiver and the Jim Thorpe Award presented to the top defensive back. LSU set a school-record with five first team All-America selections in 2019. LSU’s offensive line claimed the Joe Moore Award as the top offensive line in college football.

Orgeron is LSU’s 33rd head football coach, and the first Louisiana native to serve as head coach of the Tigers in more than 30 years. Orgeron has a 40-9 record at LSU.

Orgeron was a defensive lineman for the NSU Demons and earned a degree in 1985. His coaching career began as a graduate assistant at Northwestern State and McNeese State. Orgeron was an assistant strength coach at Arkansas then worked as an assistant coach at Miami (Florida), Nicholls, Syracuse and Southern Cal, acquiring a reputation as one of the top defensive line coaches and recruiters in college football. He was head coach at the University of Mississippi for three years, then was on the staff of New Orleans Saints and the University of Tennessee before returning to Southern Cal. Orgeron joined the LSU coaching staff in 2015.

Recruited to Northwestern as an athletic trainer, Pierce was a four-year letterman in that position. He was an N Club officer and sports editor of the university newspaper. He joined the staff of The New Orleans Times-Picayune after receiving his journalism degree in 1961 and became executive sports editor at age 24.

Pierce returned to Northwestern in 1965 as Sports Information Director. He later served as News Bureau Director and assistant to the president and has been vice president of External Affairs for more than 30 years.

He was co-chair of Northwestern’s Centennial celebration and 125th anniversary activities and has been the university’s representative to the NCAA and Southland Conference. He is a former president of the conference. Pierce coordinates governmental affairs at NSU and was Northwestern’s liaison for the filming of “Steel Magnolias.”

Pierce brought the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame to Natchitoches in 1972 and directed the program for nearly 20 years. During that time, he was named one of the 20 “Most Influential People in Sports in Louisiana” by The Times-Picayune.

Author of thousands of newspaper and magazine articles and a book of columns and co-editor of books on the making of “Steel Magnolias” and the history of NSU, Pierce has received numerous journalism awards and other honors for civic, social and professional activities.

Inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and N Club Hall of Fame, Pierce was recognized this year as a donor to NSU for more than 20 consecutive years. He and his wife Regina have established endowed scholarships in athletics and education at the university.

Smith is president and chief executive officer of FedEx Freight, the market leader in the less-than-truckload (LTL) industry. He also serves on the Strategic Management Committee of FedEx Corporation, which sets the direction for the FedEx enterprise. FedEx Corporation employs more than 450,000 team members worldwide and uses nearly 700 airplanes and 189,000 motorized vehicles to deliver 15 million shipments every day in more than 220 countries. FedEx Corporation reported $69 billion in revenue in Fiscal Year 2019.

Smith has more than 30 years of experience in the transportation industry and joined FedEx in 2000. As CEO, he provides strategic direction for all FedEx Freight operations throughout North America.

Prior to his current role, Smith most recently served as the senior vice president of operations for FedEx Freight. His experience spans every area of the business, including operations, sales, transportation, fleet maintenance, facility services and safety.

Smith serves on the boards of the Arkansas Trucking Association and the American Transportation Research Institute and was named treasurer of the board for the American Trucking Associations in October 2019. He graduated from Northwestern State University with a degree in geology.

Smith was a four-year starter on the Demon football team as an offensive tackle. He was a two-time All-Louisiana selection and a pre-season All-Gulf Star Conference choice. He was the winner of the Demon Award given to the outstanding offensive lineman.

Whitehead was a member of Northwestern State’s faculty for 30 years, serving as an associate professor of journalism and director of International Programs. He served as an advisor for various student media, providing training to students preparing for a professional career. He also oversaw the university’s Distinguished Lecture Series, which brought numerous leading figures to campus.

A strong advocate for preserving Northwestern State’s history, Whitehead co-authored the book “Northwestern State University at 125” which was published in 2009. He led efforts to make the university’s past more accessible through its Traditions website, which showcases digital collections of the university’s student newspaper, yearbook and alumni magazine and information on alumni honorees, past presidents and historic campus buildings.

Whitehead worked as a production location consultant for the film “Steel Magnolias.” He also worked as a local contact and executive assistant to the film’s producer Ray Stark. Whitehead was a co-author of the “Steel Magnolias Scrapbook.”

One of the leading experts on Natchitoches Parish artist Clementine Hunter, Whitehead worked on documentaries and co-authored and edited books about Hunter.

He is active in local historic preservation organizations and served on the Louisiana Film and Video Commission, the board of directors of Friends of Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the national advisory council of Kappa Alpha Order social fraternity. He is a member of the National Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and the Honor Society of Phi Eta Sigma.

Since retiring from NSU, he was worked as a governmental affairs and special events consultant.