Shannon Luders-Manuel has found her voice as a mixed-race writer

Finding her voice: Addressing race with creativity and compassion

Shannon Luders-Manuel (2007 alumna) wasn’t sure what a thesis statement was when she came to SOU as an English major. She now makes her living as a writer, essayist and critical mixed-race scholar who has been published in a number of academic, news and creative publications.

Luders-Manuel garnered national attention in 2017, when the New York Times published her essay, “My Grandmother’s Story is Ending as Mine Begins.” It is true that the piece in the Times increased her audience base, but it is equally true that Luders-Manuel’s other works are where she earned her writing chops. 

Luders-Manuel has found herself at the epicenter of some of the nation’s most polarizing race issues as a public speaker and author of “Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide: Educators’ Guide.”

“When I talk about my family culture, I’m mixed,” she wrote on For Harriet, an online community for women of African ancestry. “When I talk about racism, I’m black. When Trayvon Martin was shot for wearing a hoodie, I was black. When Eric Garner was choked to death for selling cigarettes on the street, I was black. When Sandra Bland was arrested for failing to turn on her blinker, I was black. When churchgoers were shot for being black, I was black.”

Luders-Manuel found her voice while sharing her experience as a mixed-race woman at SOU and during graduate school at the University of Massachusetts. She has been researching and writing the biracial experience for more than 10 years. The essay posted on For Harriet was shared over 50,000 times on Facebook when it was published in 2015.

Luders-Manuel originally chose SOU because it was an easy drive to visit family in California, but she realized shortly after arriving in Ashland that she had found her place.

“There was such a welcoming community,” she said. “I lived in Baker dorm, and it had a real family feel. Also, I had a work-study job at the library, and we really had a tight-knit community of students working there. Some of us still stay in touch.”

Though she has been away from SOU for 13 years, she still draws on the lessons she learned here. Luders-Manuel recalls one of her favorite instructors, Alma Rosa Alvarez.

“Professor Alvarez used to make us write short-response papers,” Luders-Manuel said. “After we turned them in, she would offer feedback and keep giving them back for rewrites until they were correct. She’d do this as many times as needed.

“If she did like it, she would put a tiny check mark at the top of the paper. I remember when I got the checkmark, I would be so excited. It was one of the most effective ways of learning to write well. She wouldn’t just tell you about your errors, she’d make you work to change them.”

Alvarez, says Luders-Manuel, was also the first teacher of color that she ever had. “It was important to me to see a woman of color in that position,” she said. “Even though we are different ethnicities, I could see myself in her. She was also my biggest advocate. Professor Alvarez was the one who encouraged me to go to graduate school, and I’m so glad I did that. I am so grateful to her.”

Luders-Manuel, who earned a master’s degree from UMass, said she hadn’t always seen college in her future. “It wasn’t something my family encouraged at first, and it took me a long time to take the leap,” she said. 

She credits SOU for giving her the foundation to write in a variety of genres, including business, news, academic and marketing.

“I am able to write in many different genres because I had so many different classes and opportunities while I was at SOU,” Luders-Manuel said. “That has helped me more than anything.”

This story was repurposed from the fall 2017 issue of SOU’s alumni magazine, The Raider

Alum and coach work together on face mask project

SOU alum and football coach team up on face masks for virus protection

SOU alum Crystal Clarity and her mother Betty Camner have pulled together to produce homemade face masks to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Homemade masks are great for people in the system, not around patients, so that we can control the spread of the virus,” said SOU football coach Charlie Hall.

Hall has organized a drive for personal protective equipment, or PPE, for local health care provider Asante, which offers services to 600,000 people in southern Oregon and northern California. The Asante Foundation, which is Hall’s point of contact, is the philanthropic arm of Asante and teams up with partners in the community to enhance health care in the region.

“My daughter is an ICU nurse at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford,” Hall said. “(She) told my wife and I that Asante had to conserve PPE and that they may need to source their own PPE because of a shortage.

“After making a few calls, I learned Asante was launching PPE donation sites, (and) I asked if I can help with a site in Ashland. I am trying to use my platform as a longtime coach … to rally the community and support our health care workers in need.”

Clarity, who graduated from SOU in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast telecommunications, heard and responded to Hall’s call to action. She works for a small, Seattle-based public relations agency that helps tech startups in the Pacific Northwest. While Clarity is still able to work via virtual meetings, her mother has been put out of a job due to the quarantine.

“I came up with the idea to make the masks a few weeks ago, and purchased all the supplies and had them shipped to my mom,” Clarity said. “My mom loves to sew and I knew this project would give her a sense of purpose, especially since she has so much time on her hands right now.”

The raw materials needed to make the 100 percent cotton and elastic masks were purchased from Joann’s Crafts for under $50 dollars.

“In these unprecedented times, we need to all step up and work together as a community to get through this,” Clarity said. “Even though we can’t physically be together, if we all look for how we can be generous, compassionate and helpful, we’ll be coming together as a community – just in a different way.

“We know hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, food banks, etc, will all need more supplies. This was our way of doing our small part to help.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Master distiller Molly Troupe

SOU alumna and distiller helps to make hand sanitizer

SOU chemistry graduate Molly Troupe (2012), the master distiller at Portland’s Freeland Spirits, is setting aside drinks and helping to make hand sanitizer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SOU alumna is using her academic training and a World Health Organization-recommended formula to help her community in a time of crisis.

“Spirits are about community,” said Troupe, a member of the American Craft Spirits Association Board of Directors. “As shortages arose with hand sanitizer, we saw that we could help by providing the community with our own.”

Freeland has allowed community members to pre-order and pick up a maximum of two bottles per day of the sanitizer since the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau announced in late March that it would waive certain provisions regarding distilled spirits regulations. That move allows distilleries that produce alcoholic beverages to pivot their production to ethanol-based hand sanitizers.

As social distancing and quarantine measures continue, distilleries around the U.S. have taken the lead in addressing a shortage of germ-killing hand sanitizer. Troupe and the Freeland Spirits distillery have joined big industry names such as Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey in altering their business operations to support healthy communities and slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I am extremely proud to be a part of this industry,” Troupe said. “Our own businesses are at economic risk and rapidly pivoting due to physical distancing, and instead of falling victim to the whiplash, the distilling community has stepped up in a large way, postponing their own projects to help while the need is there.”

To shift production to hand sanitizer, distillers have to denature the ethanol they would otherwise have used to make spirits, then blend it with hydrogen peroxide and glycerin. In spirits, the ethanol is not nearly as potent. The ethanol used for hand sanitizer is sometimes too strong for normal distillery machinery to handle, which slows the process, but distilleries such as Freeland Spirits continue to fill the need for their communities.

Sanitizer and spirits can be ordered from the Portland distillery at All Portland orders are delivered to customers’ car windows with minimal contact.

Story by Kennedy Cartwright, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

From trailer of "Illegal, the Project"

SOU alumnus premieres first documentary, “Illegal,” at film festivals

Southern Oregon University alumnus Nick Alexander premiered his documentary film, “Illegal the Project,” on Sunday at New York City’s 9th Annual Winter Film Awards International Film Festival. It will be shown locally in April during the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

The feature-length documentary – which focuses on Salvadoran immigrant and successful Rogue Valley entrepreneur Laz Ayala – will also be shown at several film festivals along the West Coast.

After graduating from SOU in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in emerging media and digital arts, Alexander founded Nick Alexander Films – a video production company focused on marketing, weddings and documentaries.

The company’s first film, “Illegal the Project,” follows Ayala’s story as it explores the challenges of present-day immigration and efforts to humanize and reform it.

The film’s premier this past weekend was at Cinema Village – the oldest continuously operated cinema in Greenwich Village and one of the longest-tenured in New York City. It was one of 79 films in various genres from 27 countries that were selected from more than 650 submissions for the Winter Film Awards.

The Ashland screenings will be April 16-20, during the Ashland Independent Film Festival, when a variety of movies will be shown at the Varsity Theatre, Ashland Street Cinema the Historic Ashland Armory.

Additional showings of Alexander’s film are scheduled for the Red Dirt Film Festival on March 6-8 in Stillwater, Oklahoma; the Universe Multicultural Film Festival on April 3-5 at Palos Verdes Peninsula in California; and the Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival on May 8-10 in Santa Monica, California.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Javier del Rio

SOU to present Distinguished Alumni Awards

(Ashland, Ore.) — An arts graduate with a 30-year career as a museum curator and a regional education leader who has championed the underrepresented will be honored Friday when Southern Oregon University presents its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards during a luncheon on campus.

Bruce Guenther, who earned a bachelor’s degree in applied design from SOU in 1971, will receive this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award. The award recognizes alumni whose personal and professional achievements have significantly benefited humankind and brought distinction to Southern Oregon University.

Javier del Rio, currently the assistant superintendent for business and human resources at the Phoenix-Talent School District, will be recognized with the Excellence in Education Award. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from SOU in 1994 and a master’s degree in education in 2005.

Bruce Guenther

Bruce Guenther

Guenther grew up in Medford and came to what was then Southern Oregon College in the late 1960s to study art and participate in the honors program. He found his career path when he landed a National Endowment for the Arts curatorial internship at the Portland Art Museum after graduation. Guenther served in curator roles at the Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Orange County Museum of Art in California. He returned to the Portland Art Museum as chief curator in 2000 and oversaw two major expansions before retiring in 2014.

Del Rio, who came to SOU as an exchange student from Spain, went to work for MCI Telecommunications in Los Angeles after earning his bachelor’s degree. He discovered his calling a few years later when he began teaching under an emergency credential in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He earned his teaching license from Cal State, Northridge, while he worked and then returned to SOU for his master’s degree. He has served in a variety of roles in the Phoenix-Talent School District and as principal in the Medford School District. At each stop in his education career, del Rio has advocated for underprivileged and underrepresented children, and those for whom English is a second language.


Van Delden holding baby

Van Delden: Returning kindness with compassion

Service has been a way of life for Dr. James Van Delden (’70). He has delivered babies in war-torn nations, cared for children on Native American reservations of the Great Plains and served on medical missions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“I was a family doctor; I wanted to help wherever families and kids needed a doctor,” he said.

Van Delden’s career path began when he emigrated with his family from the Netherlands to Grants Pass in 1961 at the age of 12. He was born in what is now Indonesia, and became a U.S. citizen while studying pre-med and playing soccer at Southern Oregon College in the late 1960s. He chose the small college in Ashland because of the atmosphere – it offered what he needed.

Van Delden with mother and child“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at SOC,” Van Delden said. “The professors were very helpful, I made a lot of friends and I loved soccer.”

The kindness of his instructors, friends and teammates made a lasting impression on Van Delden, who studied biology. His experience at SOC had a profound influence and led to a lifelong commitment to help others. “When people give to you, you want to give back,” he said.

Van Delden entered medical school in 1969 at Creighton University in Nebraska, with a bachelor’s degree and just three years of pre-med coursework at SOU. “Graduation was a glorious day, but then I went back to work swing shift at the plywood mill to earn some money for med school,” said Van Delden.

“I truly had no funds when I reached third-year status at Creighton, and the U.S. Army came to the rescue by signing me up in 1971 and made me an instant ‘butter bar’ (a second lieutenant),” explained Van Delden.

He was then on active duty during his senior year and was stationed in West Germany after completing his medical degree in 1973.

After retiring from active duty in 1977, Van Delden joined the Army National Guard and signed on with the Indian Health Service as a civilian. The Indian Health Service is a division of the U.S. Public Health Service, and is the principal federal health care advocate and provider for American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to the more than 550 federally recognized tribes.

“I had two careers simultaneously,” he said. “I was working full time at the Indian Health Service and part-time as a soldier.”

Van Delden was recalled to active duty with Army National Guard during Desert Storm in 1990. He retired from the Army in 2001 after 30 years, earning the rank of Brigadier General upon retirement. Van Delden’s career with the Indian Health Service ended in 2005, although he remained busy helping tribal administrators with their own medical clinics for almost 10 years.

“It was a fun ride,” he said. “I met lots of good folks, and I was honored to have been able to be a part of their lives.”

Throughout his career and into retirement, the SOU alumnus’ focus has remained squarely on serving those in need.

“If there is a situation where I can be of help, then that is what I will do,” he said.

He volunteers with veterans’ organizations and continues to work at the Omaha Nation tribal clinic in Nebraska.

Van Delden said his sense of service comes from the joy he takes in meeting people and the many kindnesses people have shown him over the years.

“I’d tell anyone who wanted a career in medicine or in any public service to just think of those who were of service to you,” he said. “Then knuckle down, hit the books and engage with your community.

“So many people were good to me and supported me when I first came to the United States. It never occurred to me not to give back.”

Reposted from the Spring 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

Abbigail Rosewood to discuss her novel at SOU

SOU alumna Rosewood returns to read from her novel

SOU alumna and current best-selling author Abbigail Rosewood will return to her alma mater on Friday (May 24) as part of a cross-country book tour for her novel, “If I Had Two Lives.”

She will discuss and read from her book at 5 p.m. in the SOU Art Building’s Meese Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Rosewood received her bachelor’s degree at SOU in 2013, focusing on creative writing, then earned her master of fine arts degree in fiction from Columbia University in 2017. She won the Michael Baughman Fiction Award while at SOU.

“At the time, I was still finding my voice,” Rosewood said in a 2017 interview with the SOU alumni magazine. “In this nascent stage as a writer when you are vulnerable, doubtful of your abilities, it’s very easy for your flame to get snuffed out by an unkind comment, a skeptical glance. Writers are sensitive.

“Words such as ‘have faith’ and ‘believe’ are often so overused that they can lose their meaning, but that’s what the SOU community gave me,” she said. “They had faith and they believed in me.”

Rosewood’s “If I Had Two Lives” was published in April by Europa Editions, an independent publisher in New York. The novel has since been reviewed by publications ranging from the Hungry Reader and Foreword Reviews to The New Yorker and the Los Angeles Review of Books. The book quickly became the No. 1 bestseller in its genre at Kinokuniya USA, a Japan-based bookseller with retail stores across the U.S.

Her book tour is taking Rosewood to New York, Miami, Washington, D.C., Portland, Ashland and other locations.

“If I Had Two Lives” centers on the daughter of a political dissident growing up in a Vietnam military camp during the 1990s and the girl’s adulthood as an immigrant in New York, where she deals with issues from her youth. Trauma prompts her return to Vietnam, where she comes to grips with her identity.

Rosewood was born in Vietnam and lived there until age 12.

In an interview with SOU English Professor Ed Battistella for the “Literary Ashland” website, she said the novel is only indirectly about her life.

“My work is autobiographical in the sense that it is blanketed with emotional truths and emblemed with personal ‘objects,’” Rosewood said. “My writing will always be honest in this way and autobiographical even if I were writing about dragons.”

She told Battistella she has a second novel, “which is still looking for a home.”

Rosewood has also written several essays, reviews, articles and creative works for various online and print publications.

Molly Troupe and Jill Kuehler from Travel Oregon story on distilling

SOU alumna helping to reinvent the distilling world

SOU chemistry graduate Molly Troupe (2012) and her business partner are being portrayed by Oregon’s tourism marketing agency as “the women changing the distilling world” at their craft distillery in Portland.

Troupe and Jill Kuehler opened Freeland Spirits in northwest Portland two years ago. Kuehler serves as the CEO and Troupe is the master distiller – placing theirs among the fewer than 2 percent of U.S. distilleries that are owned and operated by women.

Freeland is also set apart by its commitment to fresh ingredients and flavors – such as the cucumber, mint and other farm-to-still components in its trademark gin.

“Distilling is like art, just in the way that you balance out your recipe,” Troupe said in the recent story and video for Travel Oregon, the marketing arm of the Oregon Tourism Commission.

“You try to create ebbs and flows, and top notes and bottom notes, and that beautiful middle note as well,” Troupe said. “All of the recipes we’re trying to achieve here have this amazing balance that takes a lot of time, patience and understanding of the art and science of distilling to actually achieve.”

Troupe earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis on forensics at SOU – where she was a resident assistant for housing, a chemistry lab teaching assistant and a mentor in organic chemistry. She then studied brewing and distilling at Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University, earning a master’s degree and the designation of master distiller.

She served for a year as a quality control assistant at Hood River Distillers and then three years as production manager and lead distiller at Bend’s Oregon Spirit Distillers.

That’s when Troupe was contacted and recruited by Kuehler, who had developed the vision of a women-run distillery that would get most of its ingredients from local, women-owned farms.

Troupe had already begun to make a name for herself as one of the nation’s youngest master distillers, and she has since been chosen for the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 list of food-and-drink innovators. She is also on the board of directors of the American Craft Spirits Association.

Freeland Spirits focuses on craft gin and bourbon, distinguished by unique ingredients and pioneering techniques – such as the combination of heat and vacuum distillation that preserves the fresh flavors in its gin.

“We’re starting with West Coast domination – and then the world!” Troupe said in the Travel Oregon video.

The Amistad exchange program between SOU and Universidad de Guanajuato is going strong after 50 years

Bridging cultures, changing lives: International exchange and lasting friendships

Angelica Ruppe, (masters ’86) did not speak English when she arrived at Southern Oregon University from Mexico in 1984 to participate in the Amistad student exchange program. Ruppe had earned a degree in accounting at Universidad de Guanajuato and was taking part in the exchange program to earn a graduate degree from SOU.

“I took English classes as well as graduate classes such as accounting and law,” she said. “I studied English every chance I got and within three months, I could handle it. My dictionary was my best friend.”

Ruppe eventually would serve 23 years the CFO of La Clinica in Medford, before leaving in 2017 to visit Africa on a humanitarian mission. A strong believer in serving her community – in the Rogue Valley, Guanajuato and elsewhere – Ruppe served on the boards of the Community Health Advocates for Oregon, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Ashland Rotary.

Ruppe is among about 1,000 students and others who have participated in the 50-year-old exchange between SOU and the University of Guanajuato. The program is still going strong after five decades, bridging cultures and changing lives.

“The connections between the two universities are so rich and so strong. I don’t know of many programs like this that have lasted so long,” said Mary Gardiner, currently the interim director of SOU’s Office of International Programs.

Professors and administrators also have participated in the exchange program. Ashland’s sister-city relationship with Guanajuato has encouraged cultural and professional exchanges that have led to long-time friendships.

One reason the exchange has continued so long is because of the efforts of Ashland’s Amigo Club, an organization composed of community members and alumni who support the Amistad program. The Amigo Club has even endowed a scholarship to encourage the student exchanges.

“We are really delighted to have formed the Amigo Club Scholarship to support the exchange program,” said Amigo Club President Mina Turner. “It’s one of the Amigo Club’s great achievements since it became a nonprofit.”

Turner said she cannot overstate the importance of the program to both schools.

“The exchange helps make life-long bonds and educates people in a way that goes beyond academics,” she said. “Students get a great vision of a different culture, language, tradition and friendship.”

A driving force behind the program has been Graciela Tapp-Kocks, a professor emerita of Spanish at SOU who is known in Ashland and Guanajuato simply as “Señora Chela.” She pursued the sister-city relationship after a painful incident with her son in his Ashland elementary school.

“I thought if people could really experience Mexico and its culture, it would open up their worlds and change some of their misconceptions,” she said.

At the time, the city of Ashland was looking for a sister city, and it was considering partnering with a town in England.

“I knew that a relationship with Guanajuato, Mexico, would bring together two countries, two communities and two peoples in a civil, cultural and academic manner,” Señora Chela said.

She poured her energy into creating a relationship with Guanajuato. She spoke with representatives from both cities and both universities, and through sheer determination brought the schools together.

Over the ensuing years, Señora Chela has been among the most vocal supporters of the exchange program, and she has been a visible symbol of the enduring power of friendship. An equal number of students from each school participate in the exchanges, and students can study just about any subject the schools offer.

“The experience and the social connections they make are priceless,” Señora Chela said.

Brenda Johnson (’95) is currently the CEO of La Clinica, and she said her time in Guanajuato inspired her career choices and helped shape her life.

“I went to Guanajuato with the intention of becoming bilingual, but I got so much more out of it,” she said. “Education is not all intellectual. Some of the greatest and most transformational educational experiences happen when people really catapult themselves into an unfamiliar environment.

“When you trust yourself and immerse yourself in a new experience, the rewards can be phenomenal.”

Johnson, who graduated from SOU with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, said that one experience in particular inspired her to go into the medical profession.

“While I was in Guanajuato, I got sick, and I had to communicate my health needs and get treatment in a language I didn’t fully understand,” she said. “It made me think about migrant workers and how they access health care in the United States.”

Johnson works at La Clinica making sure people have access to health care regardless of language differences.

“We target a host of community needs but focus on low-income and migrant-worker communities,” she said. “My experiences, seeing the poverty and the resilience of people in Mexico, forever informs my professional choices.”

Mexico Sen. Juan Carlos Romero Hicks (masters ’79 and ’81) was among the earliest students to participate in the exchange program and is among SOU’s most accomplished alums.

“The Amistad program changed my life,” he said.

Romero Hicks came to SOU in 1978, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in industrial relations from Universidad de Guanajuato. His first child was born in Ashland the day before he started classes.

He has gone on to serve as president of the University of Guanajuato, director general of the Mexican National Science and Technology Council, governor of the State of Guanajuato and now is a federal senator. He said his time at SOU helped shape him and influence his path of service and politics.

“When I became president of the University of Guanajuato, I said none of that would have happened if it weren’t for my experiences with the exchange program,” Romero Hicks said. “The time I was there, I wouldn’t change for anything in my life. It gave me the education and the global perspective that shaped who I am.”

He said the positive experiences of living and learning abroad stay with a person forever.

“When I look back, I see four areas of growth during that period of my life – personal growth, language, cultural growth and academic,” he said. “Being bi-cultural is especially important to me. I think of being bilingual as like having two hands, but being bi-cultural is like playing the piano.”

The exchange program is filled with possibility for current and recent students. Kyanna Kuriyama participated in the exchange in 2014 and said it was an unforgettable experience.

“I actually chose SOU because of the Amistad program,” Kuriyama said. “I went on one of the trips to Guanajuato with Señora Chela when I was in high school, and it was so magical. I knew I wanted to return and study there.”

Kuriyama, a Spanish major, stayed with a host family while she attended classes.

“Staying with a family was great,” she said. “They were so nice, and it gave me even more opportunity to practice Spanish.

“People have a lot of misconceptions about Mexico, but if you go you’ll feel comfortable, you’ll make friends and you will learn more than you imagine.”

Señora Chela concurs.

“University exchange programs like La Amistad are hard work,” she said. “They thrive when they are supported by the administration and faculty.

“When I was teaching at SOU, I pushed the program. I would tell students to plan on going to Guanajuato, to come back and share their experience. I would encourage faculty exchanges and share stories about the program with anyone who was interested.”

Gardiner said the hard work has been worth it.

“Students who have participated in the exchange almost unanimously say that the experience has changed them in some way,” she said. “Their experiences in Guanajuato stay with them long after they have left school.”

Reposted from the Fall 2016 issue of The Raider, SOU’s Alumni Association magazine

SOU alumnus Daniel Breaux

Alumnus Daniel Breaux: Love at first sight

SOU graduate Daniel Breaux (‘14) says the school’s character-driven athletics philosophy stays with him every day, and he applies those values in his career as a police officer in Berkeley, California, as well as in his personal life.

Breaux came to SOU for football and its well-regarded criminal justice program.

“I wanted a school and a team that reflected my own values,” he said. “SOU and the athletic department did just that. When I visited the campus and met the athletic department staff and coaches, it was love at first sight.”

Breaux says he was particularly impressed with Athletic Director Matt Sayre and the late Craig Howard, who was then SOU’s head football coach, and their shared vision for the football program.

“Coach Howard said from the beginning that he was there to develop men who would become better husbands, fathers, employees and citizens of the world,” Breaux said. “Along the way, he’d help us become better players and win championships.

“I knew I was in the right place. It’s not just about winning games, it’s about academics, our school and our community.”

With encouragement from the coaching staff, Breaux dove into college life, serving in student government as an athletics senator, working with the planning committee for the new recreation center, helping to develop the Raider Weekend of Service and even volunteering at the local humane society.

“In student government, I learned whole new aspects of the university,” he said. “I learned about the work of servant leadership, and I developed an entirely new view about my role as a student and a contributor to the community.”

Breaux did all of this while winning accolades as a defensive end on the 2014 National Championship football team and managing to graduate with honors two terms early.

Howard was an integral part of his college life, Breaux says.

“I remember whenever the football team went to an event, Coach Howard would tell us to leave the room better than we found it,” he said. “I know sometimes he literally meant for us to clean up our garbage before we left, but I also took it as something to be applied to everyday life.

“Now I do the same with police work. I want to leave my community better and have a positive effect on the world around me.”

Reposted from the Spring 2016 issue of The Raider, SOU’s Alumni Association magazine