BATON ROUGE, La. – Loyd J. Rockhold, a key philanthropist of the Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning and founder of the Special Children’s Foundation, died peacefully on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010, after a courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer. He was 88.

A Marine Corps veteran, Rockhold served proudly in World War II as a master tech sergeant and later earned his civil engineering degree from LSU in 1947. His vision for improving the lives of children, particularly individuals with developmental disabilities, led him to establish the Special Children’s Foundation in 1975.

“Children of Louisiana, as well as the entire community of citizens with disabilities, lost a great friend. We at the Picard Center will always remember his commitment to the development of our Center and how proud he was of our work,” noted Picard Center Executive Director Dr. Billy R. Stokes.

A memorial service for Rockhold is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 30 at First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge at 10 a.m. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

During his life, Rockhold held a deep interest in the well-being of Louisiana’s children and worked alongside Stokes and then-Superintendent of Education Cecil J. Picard to establish the Loyd J. Rockhold Center for Child Development in New Orleans. In July 2005, the Center relocated to its new home at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and with the support of the Rockhold family, the Center was renamed the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development.

Since that time, Rockhold and his family established two endowed chairs and an endowed professorship to ensure that the Center’s research in early childhood education and health would continue to flourish. The Loyd J. Rockhold Endowed Chair in Early Childhood was established to help the Picard Center partner with the education community on early childhood activities and continue longitudinal and annual research of the LA 4 prekindergarten program. Likewise, the Paula Chavers Rockhold Endowed Chair in Health Studies was created to look at school health and tie it back to Coordinated School Health initiatives, as well as to study childhood obesity and mental health issues among children.

“The Loyd J. Rockhold Endowed Professorship in Child Development has recently been occupied by Dr. Gary Asmus, who is a prominent researcher working with local, state and national organizations on literacy and education research,” stated Stokes. “The creation of this professorship by the Rockhold family allows Dr. Asmus to continue his vital research benefiting Louisiana’s children.”

Additionally, Rockhold’s foundation donated initial funding for the construction and architect fees for a new building to house the entire Picard Center operation in UL Lafayette’s Research Park. The building is slated for completion in the summer of 2011. Stokes says, “From the time Mr. Rockhold went into the hospital, he still wanted us to bring him pictures to see the steady progress of the building. Even toward the end of his life, he was still asking a lot of engineering questions about the building, from his experience as an engineer. He was so excited to see this new building, knowing that his work would continue for years to come.”

Nicknamed “Rock” by Picard Center employees, he believed in living life to the fullest and “walked on top of the Wall of China, visited Iguazu Falls, camped out in the Rockies in the snow and won a jitterbug contest at age 80,” according to his obituary.

In addition to the Picard Center, Rockhold and his foundation supported numerous other causes, including Boy Scouts of America, Arthritis Association of Louisiana, Special Olympics, United Service Organizations, Cancer Services of Baton Rouge, Braveheart Children in Need, Food Bank, Public Broadcasting System, March of Dimes and many more. As a final gift, Rockhold donated his body to the LSU Medical School.

Loyd is survived by his wife, Terry Rockhold; seven daughters, Sharon Holder, Jan Serignea and husband Ralph, Gloria Rockhold, Cindy Martrain and husband Dale, Marie Greco and husband Andy, Sandy Guidry and husband Scot, and Mary Frances Rockhold; sister, Gladys Chaney Fowler; and former wife, Manuela Pea Rockhold. He is also survived by 17 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, and innumerable friends. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Paula Chavers Rockhold; mother, Essie; father, George; brothers, Edward, Raymond, James Alton, Floyd (his twin), and Fred; and sister, Evelyn Roubique.

At the family's request, contributions in Rockhold’s name may be made to First Baptist Church, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, or a charity or organization of their choice, including the Picard Center, Arthritis Association of Louisiana, and Boy Scouts of America. For more information on providing a donation to the Picard Center in Loyd Rockhold’s name, please call 337-482-1591.

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