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    Next Friday, December 10th, the Middle School Theatre and Orchestra will present an outdoor production of Charlotte's Web at 5:30 in the Freret Quad. You can buy tickets online...

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    Biographies

    Following are some brief bios of our candidates, including a small sampling of their accomplishments.

     

    Louis Armstrong

    Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 4, 1901, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong’s life began in poverty and ended with a six-decade career that included Carnegie Hall, the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a long list of inductions and honors, including a commemorative postage stamp in his honor. He attended Abijah Fisk School for Boys.

    Armstrong’s virtuoso trumpet playing revolutionized music, and his extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist and vocalist have continued to have a profound impact on American music. Armstrong was a pioneer who influenced many great musicians. They often credited him with their successes. His distinctive playing style was developed through his inspired study that led to his own technique. 

    Armstrong performed with a wide number of musical groups and changed the jazz world when he introduced the extended solo, and soon other musicians began to imitate his style.  His improvisations altered the landscape of jazz.  He became one of the most popular artists in the 1920s, and some of his recordings from this era remain as favorite recordings. This popularity continued as he maintained a rigorous tour schedule and held heartfelt performances for audiences across the world throughout his life. 

    Audiences also recognized his remarkable skills as a singer, and he became internationally recognized as the voice of jazz. His 1956 recording of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” with Ella Fitzgerald was one of the most popular and best-loved duets of the 1950s. He also appeared in numerous films, the best of which was a documentary titled Satchmo the Great (1957). Bing Crosby once called Armstrong the “greatest pop singer in the world that ever was and ever will be forever and ever because when he sings a sad song you feel like crying, and when he sings a happy song you feel like laughing.”

    Armstrong expressed his strong views about school desegregation conflicts in Little Rock, Arkansas, and took a stand against prejudice and discrimination. During this time, he sent a critical letter to President Eisenhower and canceled his scheduled State Department tour of the Soviet Union. 

    The New Orleans main airport was renamed in his honor, the US Open tennis tournament’s stadium also honors him and New Orleans renamed a park after him. These honors are in addition to a list of museums and programs that celebrate his contributions. 

    Louis Armstrong remains an icon of American history, and he is revered as a genius of American music.

     

    Elijah Brimmer, Jr. 

    Elijah Brimmer, Jr. was born June 24, 1945, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Elijah Brimmer, Sr. and Agnes Landry Brimmer. He was raised in the Uptown Garden District and lived in the area until his death. Brimmer was educated in the Orleans Parish School District and received formal education at James Lewis Elementary School, Carter G. Woodson and Booker T. Washington High School. 

    Brimmer’s musical talent awarded him a full four-year scholarship to Grambling State University where he marched in the Prestigious Tiger Band and played all over the nation. He graduated from Grambling in 1969 with a bachelor of arts in Music. Following graduation, he worked in the Orleans Parish School District as a Student Teacher and began writing sheet music for various schools in the district. He worked at George Washington Carver High until he received a full-time Music Teacher/Band Director position at Alcee Fortier High School in 1978. He was one of the very few African-American educators who entered the campus, and his top goal was to educate all those he came in contact with; not just musically but educationally as a whole, on life lessons. 

    Elijah Brimmer faced many challenges dealing with students from different wards and four housing projects: Calliope, Melpomene, Magnolia and St. Thomas, where gangs/drug territories began to form in the late 80s/early 90s. He bridged the gap among those wards and housing projects through music because everyone had one common goal: to be the best marching band Uptown. He drove by public bus stops early mornings and late evenings to provide transportation to his students to and from school practice, after football and basketball games, and following carnival parades. 

    For 20 years he administered the Fortier Band Summer Camp to keep new and current students abreast of new music and techniques, but more importantly to keep his students involved and having an outlet during the summer. While he lost several students during this time to violence, he provided countless students an outlet to do something and be something by participating in the band or marching auxiliary unit. 

    Community members say “Brimmei,” as he was affectionately called, “was a father to the fatherless, a mentor, role model, advocate, visionary and leader not only in the school district but a pillar in his community.” 

    In 2016 The “Elijah Brimmer, Jr. Foundation” along with the Fortier and Cohen Alumni Association donated instruments to students at Sophie B. Wright School. Each year following, the Fortier and Cohen alumni come together to pay tribute to Brimmer in a basketball tournament. The students gather and reminisce about their experiences in high school and how one man brought them together, teaching them and their offspring. 

     

    Jeanne Marie Lusher, M.D.
    Dr. Jeanne Marie Lusher was recognized as a passionate advocate of methods to improve the standard of care for children with sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, and other genetic blood disorders, leaving an indelible mark on the history of pediatric medicine. Her lifelong commitment to treating blood disorders in children began in 1961 during her pediatric residency at Charity Hospital in New Orleans when she helped care for a young girl with hemophilia who was bleeding profusely. She received fellowship training in hematology and oncology at Tulane University, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, and Washington University in St. Louis. 

    Although Lusher had an interest in music and played several instruments in the band and orchestra while in high school, she decided to pursue a career in science. She made significant contributions to the scientific literature of her field, authoring nine books, more than 270 peer-reviewed papers, and more than 60 book chapters. Dr. Lusher also chaired or co-chaired numerous scientific symposia and congresses in the US and abroad.

    Dr. Lusher was a respected member of the medical staff at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit for more than 45 years, achieving global renown as a pediatric hematologist and oncologist. Her distinguished career was as both a clinician and a researcher. Her career at Wayne State University and Children’s Hospital of Michigan culminated in her becoming chief of Hematology/Oncology, the Marion Barnhard Hemostasis Research Professor, and Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics. She received recognition in outstanding research by the National Hemophilia Foundation as its Physician of the Year in 1993  and with its 2015 Inspiration Award.  She was honored with the 2002 American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Distinguished Career Award. The annual award for work on hemophilia is now named for her.

    Dr. Jeanne Lusher is internationally recognized as an expert in the development and management of factor VIII (FVIII) and factor IX (FIX) inhibitors, as well as the analysis and clinical study of new clotting factor concentrates for the treatment of bleeding disorders. Along with a colleague, she was the first to identify inhibitors as antibodies to factor VIII in 1966. 

    In 2021 the National Hemophilia Foundation established the Jeanne Marie Lusher Diversity Research Fellowships. They provide $52,000 per year for three years to support new clinicians and researchers, as well as those involved in fellowship programs, who demonstrate an interest in basic science research in bleeding disorders. The JML Fellowships aim to increase diversity among hematologists by fostering a career-long interest in inherited bleeding disorders. They are open to Black, Indigenous, and people of color who are enrolled in a doctoral program in a biomedical field relevant to blood disorders. The focus of JML fellows will be on blood disorders as well as on inequities in health care faced by people with inherited blood disorders.

    In addition to her remarkable contributions to science and medicine, Dr. Lusher is remembered for her outstanding character, connection and empathy with patients, superb mentorship, generosity and kindheartedness. 

     

    Ellis Louis Marsalis, Jr. 

    Ellis Louis Marsalis, Jr., a New Orleans native, was born on November 14, 1934. The legendary jazz pianist, educator, and patriarch of the Marsalis jazz family earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education from Dillard University in 1955. Marsalis played modern jazz with local colleagues until enlisting in the Marine Corps the following year. He became a member of the Corps Four, a Marines jazz quartet that performed on television and radio to boost recruiting efforts.

    At the conclusion of active duty service in the United States Marine Corps and teaching in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, he returned to New Orleans with his wife and child. In the late 60s, he joined Al Hirt’s band, and over the years performed with a host of jazz legends. He also earned a Master’s degree in music education from Loyola University. In 1974, he became the director of jazz studies at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He mentored such contemporary artists as Reginald Veal, Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick, Jr. and many others, including four of his six sons (Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason). 

    During the later years as a music educator, he taught at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and the University of New Orleans, where he helped to establish and lead the department of jazz studies for 12 years.

    After Hurricane Katrina, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, named in his honor, opened as a part of the Musician’s Village. The Center is a safe and supportive environment where children and youth develop musically, academically and socially; where local musicians perform, record and develop professionally; and where the community gathers. 

    It is worth noting that he received an Honorary Doctorate in 2007 from Loyola University and was not only an accomplished musician, educator, and trailblazer, but was a man who had a love and passion for Jazz. In all his accomplishments and endeavors he was still an astute weekly performing artist for over three decades at Snug Harbor, retiring in December of 2019 at the age of 85. 

     

    Allen Toussaint
    Allen Toussaint was a revered songwriter, producer, pianist and singer who grew up in the New Orleans neighborhood of Gert Town. He attended Booker T. Washington High School and started playing piano as a young boy. He began his music career as a teenager playing for Fats Domino and other artists.  He is credited for the early rock and R&B music that brought New Orleans to the national stage. 

    Toussaint was a producer, composer, and arranger, and had many hits. He wrote many songs, including  “Ya Ya,” “Fortune Teller, ” “Ride Your Pony,” “Mother in Law,” “Lipstick Traces,” “Working in a Coalmine,” “Play Something Sweet,” “Get Out of My Life, Woman,” and “Ruler of My Heart” (this latter composition was changed to “Pain in My Heart” by Otis Redding). Toussaint’s song “Java” won jazz trumpeter Al Hirt a Grammy Award in 1964. Toussaint’s most famous production hit with Minuit Records, at which he had become a fixture, was Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law,” which hit Number One on the national charts in the summer of 1961.

    He created the famous Sea-Saint Studio in New Orleans and produced the hit “Right Time, Wrong Place” for Dr. John and Pattie LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” played with greats such as Paul McCartney, and wrote “Southern Nights” for Glen Campbell. His collaborations reached across diverse types of music, and he produced for many well-known artists such as The Rolling Stones. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones stated that Toussaint was one of the greatest songwriters from New Orleans. 

    Toussaint collaborated with Elvis Costello on the first major recording made as a creative response to the emotions and issues after Hurricane Katrina. River in Reverse won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album. His performance career advanced after Hurricane Katrina. 

    The list of honors and recognitions for Toussaint is long. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. His work includes Broadway plays, soundtracks, performances, productions and collaborations that led to recognition in multiple areas. 

    Toussaint played many benefit concerts and he was known for his kindness. He also was known for his community and charity work in New Orleans. At the time of his death, he was scheduled to perform for a New Orleans charity for the hungry and homeless that he had co-founded.

     

    Dr. Everett J. Williams, Jr. 

    Dr. Everett J. Williams, Jr., a New Orleans native, was the city’s first Black superintendent of its public school system, serving in that post from 1985 to 1992. His career in public education spanned four decades. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Xavier University, Williams earned a doctorate from Michigan State University. Williams’ first job as an educator was as an English teacher at Walter L. Cohen Senior High School. He later served as assistant principal at McDonogh 35 Senior High School and as principal at Carter G. Woodson Jr. High School. After several posts in the New Orleans Public Schools administration, he was tapped to lead the school system in 1985. 

    Dr. Williams led NOPS during economic difficulties following New Orleans’s loss of petroleum industry employment during the mid and late 1980s. As a sign of his impeccable leadership, he voluntarily cut his own salary by 10% to demonstrate austerity and asked top administrators to do the same. With a lack of funds for capital improvements forthcoming, he directed the closure of the last remaining wooden school buildings that were vestiges of the segregated school system: Old McDonogh 36, Meyer Annex, Macarty, Harney, etc. He promised he would not pass that task on to the next superintendent. 

    Williams is credited with establishing the public school system’s magnet school component to provide more quality alternatives for African American families, such as the creation of Lake Forest Magnet School, Franklin Elementary School (“Baby Ben”), special academies in high schools such as Walker, Abramson, Karr, Lawless, Reed, and others, and creating awards programs that allowed superintendents to recognize the academic achievements of public school scholars. 

    Williams advocated for more schools with diversity in student demographics and touted that, “Public schools should serve all children and diverse schools prevent minority isolation.” 

    Dr. Williams led NOPS into the modern age through new technology access in schools (personal computers, cable access and media production, distance learning, fax transmissions, geoprocessing, etc.) and led the effort for the development of a Master Plan for NOPS. He also toughened the school system’s disciplinary policy and created a systemwide multicultural curriculum. He retired from Orleans Parish Schools and worked as the Vice President of Community Relations for Freeport-McMoRan. 

    He continued to serve this community by volunteering on several non-profit civic boards. In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, he served on the Archbishop’s Community Appeal as the first African-American Chairman in 1996. Additionally, he served on the boards for Catholic Charities, Catholic Foundation, Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Xavier University, Notre Dame Seminary, Holy Rosary Academy and St. Joseph Seminary College. In 2010, he received the Pope John Paul II Award for his lifetime of service. In the greater New Orleans community, he served on the board of UNITY for the Homeless, Bridge House, Children’s Hospital, the Medical Center of Louisiana, the Blood Center of Louisiana, Baptist Community Ministries, School Leadership Center of Greater New Orleans and the Harvard Urban Superintendents Program Advisory Board. 

    Recognizing the power of education as a great equalizer and empowerment tool, Williams wrote in an epilogue to his groundbreaking book, Crescent City Schools: Public Education in New Orleans, 1841-1991: “I have tried to reshape this institution and redirect its resources so that the New Orleans public schools can educate the children of poverty with the same ease they educate the children of privilege. This dual and oftentimes contradictory demand is a wonder when it succeeds and a source of bottomless frustration when it fails.”