100th Anniversary Gala Celebration

A Night to Rememberpicture of isaac delgado hall with "100th anniversary" text

Delgado Community College celebrated a century of service to the greater New Orleans community at its 100th Anniversary Gala Celebration on Friday, September 23 at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

The evening featured a Chancellor’s VIP Reception followed by dinner, music and presentations. Entertainment was provided by the National WWII Museum’s Victory Belles and Victory Swing Orchestra, by singer Gina Brown and Anutha Level, by the Knockaz Brass Band, by actors from Carl Mack Presents and by students from the Delgado Theatre Department. Prominent local and state officials, community and business partners and friends, alumni and college retirees, as well as faculty and staff, attended the milestone event.

Arriving at the event, guests were greeted by presenters portraying the college’s founder, Isaac Delgado, and other historical figures. A trio of musicians and dancers performed the music of Jamaica, where Isaac Delgado was born in 1839. Delgado students served as ambassadors, welcoming and assisting the guests as they arrived.

Inside the museum, guests viewed large, colorful three-dimensional exhibits about Isaac Delgado and the college’s significant role in winning World War II. Perseverance was the theme, illustrating the intersections of Delgado’s history with eras and events in local, state, national and world history. A large collection of historic items from the college archives in the City Park Campus Library provided tangible connections to the past. Also from the college archives was a gallery of portraits of Delgado’s chancellors and presidents from the college’s earliest days through the present.

VIP guests gathered in the museum’s Stage Door Canteen, where they were entertained by the Victory Belles dressed in tropical outfits in keeping with the 90-plus degree heat of the late September day. After an hour of visiting and hospitality, the guests formed a second line behind the Knockaz Brass Band and joyfully made their way down the corridor leading to the Boeing Pavilion. The Pavilion was decorated in shimmering Delgado gold and green, providing a striking visual experience that was expressive of the Delgado community’s pride in their institution and its 100-year legacy.

Nearly 50 tables seated more than 500 guests for the dinner, music and special presentations. Overhead, a group of World War II airplanes permanently displayed in the museum’s collection reminded guests of the very special location and the heroic contributions of previous generations.

Guests were welcomed by the master of ceremonies, Theatre Professor Kristopher LaMorte, followed by the presentation of the colors by the New Orleans Army Recruiting Company and the national anthem sung by the Victory Belles. Delgado’s Chancellor, Dr. Larissa Littleton Steib, was then introduced by Delgado Allied Health Professor Francesca Langlow.

Chancellor Steib, noted Langlow, is a New Orleans native who served in several capacities during a lengthy previous tenure at Delgado before returning as Chancellor in 2019. During the past three years, she has led the college through a pandemic, a massive pivot to virtual operations, a category four hurricane and the Centennial celebration. At the same time, she has accomplished record-breaking fundraising totaling more than $23 million.

Chancellor Steib welcomed dignitaries and officials in attendance, including Dr. Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) and a former Delgado chancellor. Other former Delgado chancellors and presidents attending the gala included Dr. James Caillier, Dr. Terence Kelly and Dr. Raymond Garrity.

Next to speak was the Chair of the LCTCS Board of Supervisors, Willie Mount, who was followed by Congressman Troy Carter in a video message. Congressman Steve Scalise sent greetings and congratulations as well. Then came presentations of special publications and  proclamations honoring Delgado by representatives of Congressman Carter, Governor John Bel Edwards, and Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the New Orleans City Council.

Demetric Mercadel, District Director, 2nd Congressional District, presented the proclamation on behalf of Congressman Carter. State Senator Jimmy Harris presented the proclamation on behalf of the Governor. District A Councilman Joe Giarusso presented the City of New Orleans’ proclamation on behalf of Mayor LaToya Cantrell and City Council. 

Presenting sponsors of the gala were the Georgusis family and Ochsner Health. Delgado Foundation Board Chair Lee Giorgio made remarks on behalf of the Georgusis family, whose previous generosity funded Delgado’s campus child care center, which is named in honor of their late son, Joey Georgusis. Dr. Missy Sparks, a Delgado graduate, spoke on behalf of Ochsner Health, where she serves as Vice President for Talent Acquisition.

Ochsner Health provided a $20 million gift in 2021 enabling Delgado to construct its new Ochsner Center for Allied Health and Nursing and to provide instructional support for students in health care fields. The new center will open early in 2023 at the Delgado City Park Campus—the original campus of the Isaac Delgado Trades School, precursor to today’s comprehensive Delgado Community College.

Next, Dr. Peter Cho, Executive Dean of the Delgado West Bank Campus and Dean of Business and Technology, spoke about the original gift by Isaac Delgado to establish the college in 1921. A new video documentary of Delgado’s history then premiered, filling the two video screens on the stage and a third on the pavilion’s riverside wall with images and sounds from Delgado’s 100-year legacy in the New Orleans region.

Guests then were treated to a series of sketches by costumed Delgado Theatre students, who acted, sang and danced through original depictions of the college’s 100 years. Stilt walkers appeared, dancing to music from the 1980s. Professor Michael Santos directed the students for their performances.

Fifty-year Delgado faculty member Harold Gaspard, who now serves as Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of Allied Health, then introduced the attending former chancellors and presidents--and family members representing those unable to attend or deceased. Guests applauded enthusiastically as these very special visitors were recognized.

Also recognized as special guests were members of the family of Andrew Higgins, the designer and manufacturer of the Higgins Boat—built by the thousands in New Orleans and made famous by its role carrying troops ashore in battle during World War II. Higgins once said of the push to build the Higgins Boats and the equally famous PT Boats, “We can't use ordinary hammer and saw carpenters, but we can use Delgado men.” The students attended classes at Delgado before working in the Higgins Industries plant next door to the college’s campus on City Park Avenue. The plant, which stood where Delgado’s administration building stands today, operated around the clock to meet production needs for the war effort. 

Dr. Tamika Duplessis, Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, then introduced a video featuring new interviews of notable Delgado alumni including renowned entertainer Irma Thomas, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto, Ocshner Health Nursing Leadership Development Director Ecoee Rooney, as well as other Delgado alumni, faculty and students. As the video ended, Joe Scheuermann, Athletic Director and Head Baseball Coach, acknowledged the many faculty and staff attending. The Victory Belles then performed the inspiring song “For Good” while a montage of faculty, staff and student photos streamed across the video screens.

Jamelle Lacey, Lyiena McMillan and Jean Claude Biayi of Frito-Lay Inc. then presented a $450,000 check to Chancellor Steib on behalf of the PepsiCo Foundation to support Uplift Scholarships for minority students at Delgado.

Also acknowledged was the Gayle and Tom Benson Foundation, donor of $1 million to the Delgado Tradition Campaign that will support a new athletics training facility, now under construction on the City Park Campus. Checks were presented on behalf of Boh Brothers Construction, who donated $50,000, and the Richard Colton Foundation, donor of $40,000.

The essential role of the Delgado Community College Foundation was spotlighted when Foundation Board President Lee Giorgio returned to join Chancellor Steib for a toast to 100 years of achievement and service at Delgado, and best wishes for future success. Dressed in green and gold, the Delgado school colors, the Victory Belles sang “Happy Birthday, Delgado” as Delgado Culinary Arts students brought out a special birthday cake. The 100 candles were blown out by Chancellor Steib and her family.

The gala ended with tours of the museum’s Campaigns of Courage exhibits and dancing to the music of Gina Brown and Anutha Level.

Special thanks to the following Delgado offices and services: Chancellor’s Office, Communications and Marketing, Library Services, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Workforce Development, Athletics, Facilities and Maintenance, Campus Police and the Delgado Foundation. And thanks to all the faculty, staff, students and alumni whose individual contributions toward making the gala a success created an unforgettable evening of celebration for the entire extended Delgado family.

Extended because of the pandemic, Delgado’s Centennial celebration will culminate this fall on Founder’s Day, November 23, which is the birthday of Isaac Delgado, the businessman whose philanthropy established the college a century ago.

Delgado Community College is one of the state’s largest higher education institutions. At its seven locations and online, Delgado serves a diverse population, providing career training, academic education and programs to improve the lives of students and support the New Orleans region.

In 2021, Delgado was ranked one of the nation’s top 50 community colleges by intelligent.com. Delgado’s science and mathematics and hospitality management programs were ranked as the best at any community college in the nation, and the business administration associate degree ranked second nationwide and best in the Southeast region.

The online resource College Factual ranks the Delgado Charity School of Nursing as the #1 Associate Degree in Nursing program in Louisiana. Delgado Allied Health graduates have a 94% pass rate on national and state certification examinations--98.8% of graduates find work in their chosen fields within six months.

Several new locations and ungraded facilities are coming into service. In August 2021 Delgado cut the ribbon on a new Advanced Technology building at the West Bank Campus in Algiers. In early 2023, Nursing and Allied Health programs will move into a new building at the City Park Campus that is funded through a partnership between Delgado and Ochsner Health. Planning is underway for a new workforce education building at the City Park Campus as well.

PepsiCo Foundation
At Delgado Community College’s 100th Anniversary Gala in the National WWII Museum on Friday, Sept. 23., representatives of Frito-Lay Inc. presented a $450,000 check to Delgado Chancellor Larissa Littleton Steib, second from right, on behalf of the PepsiCo Foundation to support Uplift Scholarships for minority students at Delgado. Photo by Frank Aymami III.
Delgado Centennial Gala
Delgado Community College celebrated 100 years of service to the New Orleans region at a gala held in the WWII Museum on Friday, Sept. 23. Photo by Frank Aymami III.

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