After 12 years of working in Oklahoma and Texas, UL alumnus David Edmiston had the chance to come back to his hometown and his alma mater to lead the Alumni Association. ultoday.com spoke with him recently.
Tell us about yourself.
I'm a 1982 graduate of Business Administration from the University of Louisiana. I come from a long line of UL alums. My father, my mother, by brother, my two sisters, my niece, my wife, and my son are all UL alumni. My son Drew played football here. My daughter Erin was Miss UL 2010, she was just on the homecoming court, and she'll become an alumna when she graduates this December.
I began attending UL football games at old McNaspy Stadium when was 6 years old. I was there when we beat Terry Bradshaw.
I used to hang out under McNaspy skateboarding, and they'd run me off. So I finally got a car and skateboarded at Cajun Field, and they ran me off from there, too. Now I'm back.
Without the skateboard.
I was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity. I first admired my wife in my Louisiana History class, although she never noticed me. Every time she walked through the door, I would tell my fraternity brothers that somehow I was going to find a way to date her.
The ironic thing about that is when my father was here, back when we were SLI, he walked up behind this beautiful young brunette and said, "I'm going to marry you some day." She was my mother. So it runs in the family.
And so does UL blood.
What did you do after graduation?
I started my own business in the home medical supply industry. I rented and sold medical supply equipment to the general public, and to medical institutions on the wholesale market as well. I owned that for 23 years, across the street from LGMC.
Then I had an opportunity to venture into the pharmaceutical industry with AstraZeneca and was transferred to Tulsa. After 3 years there, I had the opportunity to move to Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Soon after that, I was transferred to Houston as regional sales manger with 12 employees under me serving Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
On my journey to Tulsa some 12 years ago, as I left the Texas state line and ventured into Oklahoma, I immediately saw a landscape of green turn completely brown. The first thing out of my mouth to my mother was, "My God, where am I moving my family?" Three days later when my mother was heading back to Louisiana, I kissed her and said, "Keep the light on for me, I'll be back." So for 12 years, I've been clicking my heels to come back to Louisiana.
And I've always had the desire to work at UL. I had made that known to several friends on the campus and low and behold an opportunity opened up, and I got a phone call encouraging me to apply for this position, which I did.
Then one morning there was a big vermilion balloon on my front lawn, and I hopped on it and came back to UL.
Now I'm here, and I'm home. I was raised at this University. I have seen the challenges, and I have seen the progress, and I now get to live the dream that so many of us hope for.
Because UL is becoming a very well-respected university on the academic side, and now on the athletic side, too. You can't generate $68M in research funds without being respected. You don't have 2800 freshmen sign up for your University without being respected. You don't attract students from 101 countries without being respected. And you don't get 30,000 fans in your stadium without being respected.
It's a great time to be a Ragin' Cajun, and I am so blessed to be given an opportunity to serve this University, and to be home.
Tell us about the Alumni Association.
We serve the alumni of UL. In doing so, we're gong to reach out to all aspects of the University, athletics, academics, clubs throughout the country. We're going to become a more involved Alumni Association. It won't happen today, but it will happen tomorrow.
I have met with a number of the University leaders in athletics and academics, and our footprint will become much larger in the days to come. Our membership is increasing, enthusiasm is at an all-time high, and the future is bleeding vermilion and white.
Dr. Savoie has set a very aggressive agenda. How will the Alumni Association fit into that?
Dr. Savoie has actually been a great resource for me at the University. Dr. Savoie and his Executive Assistant Liz Landry both held this position, and they have been a great source for ideas and past history of the organization. They're a a wealth of knowledge.
We'll support Dr. Savoie's efforts by reaching out to all alumni. We develop friendships, that's our main thing, whether through social media, eMail, traditional mail and print, and meetings and events, to grow our membership which will ultimately result in stronger bonds between the University and its alumni.
That will help grow the University through increased donations to various University facets, through greater attendance at sporting and other events, and through move visibility for the University around the state and nation.
Tell us about the Alumni Association today.
We have over 8,000 members right now, and that's growing. We have 30+ alumni clubs and chapters, 7 full-time staff members, and 10 to 12 part-time student workers. There are 89K UL alumni out there, and something like 113K opportunities among alumni, alumni by choice, local businesses, and businesses owned by alumni elsewhere.
Your offices sit on one of the prettiest settings in South Louisiana.
Maurice Heymann commissioned UL alumnus A. Hays Town to design this home, which is still known as the Heymann Home. It was designed as a fireproof house, because it's made of poured concrete. At one time, the property was a nursery which went all the way to Pinhook.
That nursery is now the Oil Center.
The home is a beautiful asset, and my predecessor Dan Hare and the Council have done a great job of maintaining and upgrading the property. I have plans to continue in that path, and have met with people to continue the beautification progress.
Talk about the connection between UL and Lafayette.
You know, we have a local economic impact of over $725 million. We are a huge employer and we bring in students who spend a lot of money on tuition, room, board, and entertainment, and who contribute heavily to the thriving cultural life around out University as performers and artists, as workers, and as consumers.
The University is also heavily involved in the civic life of the community, and our alumni constantly take leadership roles in civic clubs, cultural organizations, professional organizations, the Chamber, in elected and appointed positions, and everywhere throughout Acadiana.
What makes UL different from other universities?
Our culture. Our people. Our lifestyle. Everyone talks about how friendly we are, and we are. We are vary passionate about the things we believe in, and we believe in people. You may be a stranger when you arrive, but you will leave with friends.
Everyone here is approachable, from the President, to the faculty, to the coaches, everybody. UL is officially a university, but it's really a family.
And we have a beautiful cypress swamp in the middle of campus.