Two weeks ago, a pie arrived at The Advocate’s front desk.

It wasn’t just any pie. It was from Shreveport’s own Strawn’s Eat Shop, its covered-in-glory strawberry icebox pie. It’s like manna from the Red River.

It arrived in the hands of my Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts roommate Caroline Seale, whom I hadn’t seen in 15 years. Fifteen. And she brought me a pie. And it wasn’t my birthday or anything — I whined on Facebook that I wanted Strawn’s pie, she was in Shreveport and would be going to New Orleans, and bam, I had pie.

Seventeen years ago, 15-year-old me unpacked my bags at LSMSA. I was more than a little scared and more than a little bit of a mess. Thank you, Laura Lurati, my first roommate, for not killing me dead that first few weeks.

I was sans parents, in a college dorm and had a class schedule that included things like Russian I. Thank you, also, to professor Kenneth Olson for not killing me during those two years.

Two years, now three with the addition of a sophomore class. But, boy, are they big ones. Once you’ve made it at LSMSA — really adopted the culture and all it has to offer — it stays with you.

Being at LSMSA taught me when to recognize when someone needs help, even if he doesn’t know it yet, and know how to offer it. It taught me how to ask for help myself and how to accept it graciously. How to most effectively manage my time and talents. How to be comfortable with myself. How to really open my eyes and see all the opportunities before me.

I still use all my LSMSA skills. Well, maybe not how to conjugate Russian verbs, but it’s a neat party trick. Sorry, Dr. Olson.

Without LSMSA, I probably wouldn’t have met Caroline, though we grew up only 45 minutes apart. I wouldn’t have met Emily Hindrichs, a globe-trotting soprano, who recorded a beautiful version of “You Are My Sunshine” for Ainsley after Bear realized Mama can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

I wouldn’t know an incredibly rich network of doctors, lawyers, public servants, engineers, servicemen and women, and other people with important and impressive job titles, not to mention all us ordinary alums who have titles like mom, dad, teacher, pharmacist, writer, photographer, artist and entrepreneur. And I wouldn’t have cold Strawn’s pie at my desk in Baton Rouge.

Standing far on the other side of our graduation day, it amazes me what that little phrase, “I went to LSMSA,” can do, and not just as it relates to pie and musical stylings. Even with complete strangers who went there, it instantly creates a bond.

I don’t know why I was chosen to stand in those ranks, what they saw in me. But I know what I see in them. I see a love of knowledge and learning that fosters creativity and exploration on a scale not normally associated with Louisiana public education. I see friendships that stand the test of time, space and term papers. I see real, living connections that continue to improve my life even today.

I see Gifties. And I’m proud to be one.

Beth Colvin is The Advocate’s assistant Food editor. She can be reached at