UL System chairman a returned college dropout, Jeanerette native
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Those who work closest with him describe him as a loyal, passionate man who only runs at one speed: full-throttle.
Chairman of the University of Louisiana System, his official name is E. Gerald Hebert. But everyone from his family to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who appointed him to the board, knows him as simply T-Boy.
He is a colorful character, quick to show his Ragin’ Cajun spirit and quicker to note that he is fair and unbiased to the other eight universities in the UL System.
A Jeanerette native, T-Boy didn’t come to be system chairman from a lifetime of academia. The 64-year-old actually earned his bachelor’s degree in 2012 from UL after dropping out of the same university in 1969.
“I decided to come back to UL after being appointed to the board because I felt like to be authoritative, I’d have to have a degree, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.
T-Boy left school to pursue training and a career in drilling and fluid services. He now owns and is president of Patriot Services Corporation.
UL System President Sandra Woodley says that T-Boy’s journey to earning his bachelor’s degree later in life is an important example to those he serves.
“In Louisiana, we have a growing need to educate adults who badly need this knowledge,” Woodley said. “We have more than 600,000 people in Louisiana who have some college but no degree. We need to find a way to reach out to them and get them back in school.”
Woodley, too, was a nontraditional student who spent 10 years taking university and community college classes while raising two children to earn her bachelor’s degree. She has since earned master’s and doctoral degrees.
“It’s important to have people like T-Boy Hebert and myself to serve as role models for others,” Woodley said, “to show them that it’s not too late. It’s never too late.”
T-Boy says became a Ragin’ Cajun at the age of 10, when his peewee football team attended a game at Cajun Field. He remembers how grand everything felt, from the band performance and the ROTC procession to the cannon being shot and the team rushing onto the field.
“It was just an experience I never forgot,” T-Boy said. “And I knew that night. It made such an impression on me that this was going to be the university of choice for me.”
While attending the university from 1966 to 1969, T-Boy participated in the school’s weightlifting team.
He remains active to this day in the school’s athletics program by providing funding for the football’s nutrition program.
A “60-year-old man in the midst of 18- to -20-year-olds,” T-Boy remembers settling into his first class back on the campus, a sociology course in H. L. Griffin Hall.
“I knew when I walked back in that I was going to graduate,” he said.
T-Boy had regretted not earning his degree for 39 years, he said, even though he’d created his own successful business.
He worked hard to pull his 1.69 GPA from 1969 to a solid 3.3 GPA by the time he earned his general studies degree in 2012.
UL President E. Joseph Savoie awarded him with a special degree with the name E. G. “T-Boy” Hebert during commencement ceremonies.
“The greatest challenge was ‘Do you still have it in you?’” T-Boy said. “And that’s part of the reason I went back. I’m all about challenge in everything that I do. That’s what turns my crank.”
Winfred Sibille, a member of the UL System board from Sunset, says that T-Boy can be counted on once he makes his mind up about something or makes promise to someone.
“He’s a very, very active member of the board,” Sibille said. “He’s not passive in anything he does.”
While T-Boy’s main residence is in Kenner, he has a second home in Lafayette, which he calls his staging area between Houston and Kenner, where his two offices are located.
T-Boy is currently pursuing his master’s degree in toxicology from the University of New Orleans and might continue on with his doctoral degree afterward, he said.
“I love the learning experience,” T-Boy said. “So if I start, I know I’ll finish. Time isn’t of the essence, so I may just as well pursue a PhD.”