Special report: Universities founded to offer minorities an escape from poverty struggling to fulfill their mission in Louisiana _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The A. C. Lewis Library at Grambling State University.

GRAMBLING — I spent 15 years of my career and life traveling from northern Louisiana to Baton Rouge as a legislator, first as a state representative and then as a state senator.

I dedicated my life to serving people, as a politician and as an attorney, and much of the state’s business gets discussed, debated and determined in Baton Rouge. Now when I travel to Baton Rouge, I will be representing Louisianans and others with children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren attending Grambling State University.

As the incoming president of Grambling, I am humbled and I am grateful to the University of Louisiana System Board Chairman Jimmie "Beau" Martin and the ULS Board of Supervisors and Interim ULS President Dan Reneau for this opportunity and the trust they have put in me. I was not thinking about being my university’s president when I walked the GSU campus as a student. Grambling State prepared me, and Southern University’s law school gave me additional grounding to make me battle-ready.

A lot has happened since I was a GSU student Tiger and a Southern Jaguar.

Higher education in Louisiana faces challenges unlike any time in our past. The relationships I’ve built over the past 15 years will serve Grambling State University well.

Governor Edwards and I served in the House together and worked closely together after I was elected to the Senate. I was in the House when Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne was in the Senate. Jay and I worked together when he was secretary of state to make the Eddie Robinson Museum a reality on the Grambling State campus.

Senate President John Alario and I served in the House and Senate together. Senate Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur and I served in the House and Senate together — we were roommates in the Pentagon Apartments, right across from the capitol grounds. Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Chairman J.P. Morrell and I served in the House and Senate together and served on the revenue committee.

I served in the House with Speaker Taylor Barras, Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry and Ways and Means Chairman Neil Abramson. Speaker Barras and Chairman Henry served on House and Governmental Affairs with me when I was chairman.

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy and House Majority whip Congressman Steve Scalise and I served in the House together. I have a close relationship with my congressman, Dr. Ralph Abraham. Congressman Cedric Richmond and I served in the House and roomed together while in Baton Rouge for a time — and he was a groomsman in my wedding.

These are some of the most powerful people in the state. I know our severe budget constraints and their desire to adequately fund higher education.

I will be counting on these leaders, and others, to secure Land Grant status for GSU, a must for our future success. I will be talking about appropriate funding. We will show that we can make difficult decisions and work with the ULS board and the Louisiana Board of Regents to partner to make Grambling State successful.

We will make bold, smart moves. We will bring back GSU’s undergraduate nursing program. We will get more grants and research money. Our faculty is very committed to providing top-quality instruction, and we will find ways to improve and expand course offerings and rigor. Athletics will have its rightful place in my administration. I have a great deal of respect for my other school, Southern, and we will seek to partner with the Jaguar Nation on more than our annual Bayou Classic.

I’m ready to get to work with Louisiana’s leaders to make the place where everybody is somebody even better.

Gallot was appointed as the 10th president of Grambling State University on Tuesday, July 26.