From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice

Reflection on the Aftermath

May 4, 2019 | Reflection, Weekly Update

Words nor pictures can adequately convey the experiences of the past 10 days on the Louisiana Tech campus. The EF3 tornado that passed through our campus and the Ruston community at 1:53 AM on April 25th changed everything in an instant. Kathy and I could hear the tornado pass and could hear trees snapping in the distance.  Messages began to come in from campus police and students indicating damage on campus.  I threw on clothes and headed to campus to investigate. Many students were walking around observing damage while checking on others. Police and first responders were checking on people, providing instructions and putting up barricades in damaged areas. Four hours later, our Emergency Response Team met in the Davison Athletics Complex to report damage and develop response action plans. That team did an incredible job in the immediate response and in campus recovery efforts since that time. We are most fortunate to have highly capable and dedicated leaders and staff who know how to manage through crises like this. I thank them for their remarkable efforts over the past ten days.

One of the first people to reach out and respond was Karl Malone. He immediately came to campus and began to clear major debris, and remained on campus for several days. There is no way that we could have had classes on Monday without his efforts. He has also impacted so many others across the community. Karl is one of many who have stepped up in exceptional ways.

We have had such strong cooperation and support from Mayor Ronny Walker and his team. They made it a priority for Tech to get back to operations as soon as possible while also dealing with devastation in residential and business areas across the city.

We also received immediate support from Governor Edwards and the state’s emergency response teams. The Governor and National Guard’s Major General Curtis gave us the opportunity to fly over the damaged areas to see the devastation. We also received strong encouragement and support from our legislative delegation, Regents, Supervisors and so many others. I deeply appreciate UL System President Jim Henderson for driving to campus early Monday morning so he could report back to our Board and others.

Our students have been super through this whole process. Their efforts were huge last Saturday in organizing a “Bigger Event” that resulted in approximately 1,500 people dedicating a day for campus and community clean up. Not only did they pile up a lot of debris, they brought everyone together in a spirit of caring and teamwork. That day was a turning point for our campus, I believe, not only in debris removal but in resolution and healing.

Tuesday, a delegation of Ruston leaders and Tech supporters went to Baton Rouge to meet with the Governor and key legislators. I also needed to be there to testify for a cybersecurity talent initiative bill being considered by the House Appropriations Committee. The day was productive in demonstrating a united Ruston and Tech community, and I thank all of the leaders who were able to join us.

Our Foundation had planned for weeks to have the first “Louisiana Tech Giving Day” on Wednesday and rather than shift dates, they shifted the focus to disaster recovery. They raised at least $1.25M that day for overall support of the institution, with approximately $300,000 dedicated to disaster recovery. The generosity of so many has been a bit overwhelming to me. Our sister institutions across the state and our conference have been generous in many ways, and I am deeply appreciative of that.

Our athletics facilities in baseball, softball, soccer and tennis were destroyed and will need to be rebuilt. Residential facilities and some academic facilities will need some significant repair work but remain mostly operational. We also have infrastructure systems that will need repair and replacement. We have a team already making plans to restore and rebuild these things as quickly as possible. It is an arduous process, but we have strong support at all levels in working through those processes that will enable us to get back to full speed. At the same time, we will follow through on our strategic plans to make Louisiana Tech a 21st century campus that provides the leadership for economic prosperity and educational advancement that is crucial for our community, the State and the Nation.

Before I close this blog, I want to acknowledge our athletics teams, particularly softball and baseball, who have been most significantly impacted. They have kept a positive spirit despite the loss of their “homes”, and in fact, were some of the first to get out and clean up debris on campus. They have had to make schedule changes and play in different venues. Last Sunday, Kathy and I were able to go watch the Lady Techsters play their final “home” game of the season at ULM. They swept the conference series that day and then recognized the five graduating seniors later that day. I thank the coaches, administrators and students for their resolve and determination and wish them the best through the remainder of the season.

Here is part of the story of the past 10 days in pics…