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Alumni Corner – Ken Knevel

Alumni Corner – Ken Knevel

Meet Ken Knevel, class of 1969. Ken attended St. Mary’s Cathedral Grade School before matriculating to Central Catholic. After graduating from CC, Ken attended the University of Notre Dame where he earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree. During college, Ken also studied abroad in Rome during his junior year.

After college, Ken came back to live in Lafayette where he worked for the city. One of the major initiatives that he worked on as Project Manager was the Railroad Relocation project. In 1982, Ken moved to Boston for three years before moving to New Orleans where he continues to live today.

In addition to Lafayette’s Railroad Relocation, some of Ken’s notable planning and architecture projects include medical office buildings and parking garages in Metairie, LA, Slidell, LA, and Gulfport, MS. He has also worked on retirement community centers and medical facilities in New Orleans. Ken has also won several awards including the Tippecanoe County Historical Association Preservation Award, the U.S. Department of Transportation Livable Communities Grand Prize, and the New Orleans American Institute of Architects Honor Award.

Dean Wilson, Atchafalaya Basin Keeper, and Ken Knevel, SouthWings flight, 2016

In addition to his work as an architect, Ken is a pilot. He received his license in 1970 at Halsmer Airport, east of Lafayette, now the location of the Subaru Plant. He flies for SouthWings, a volunteer environmental and conservation pilots’ organization whose territory spans the Southeast and Gulf coasts from Virginia to New Orleans. In 2017, he was feted as their Pilot of the Year.

In 1991, Ken married Toby Burroughs. Toby was a vice-president for Morgan Stanley and lost several friends in the 9/11 WTC bombing. She was working out of the New Orleans office that day.

Now retired, Ken and Toby drive from New Orleans to Maine every year with their four German Shepherds. Toby founded New Orleans German Shepherd Rescue in 2002. The Rescue is a non-profit group dedicated to rescuing German Shepherds in the greater New Orleans area as well as educating the public about the breed. She has saved and placed nearly 1,500 GS canines.

Ken and Toby in Maine

How did your education at LCSS prepare you for college and your career?

It wasn’t so much what I learned, but how I learned to learn. Minute facts, dates, formulae are forgotten, but the process is what prepared me to embrace learning and not fear the obstacles to learn. How to find answers is as important as the answers themselves. All careers encounter situations where you may have no idea how to do a particular task. Do you fake your way through and hope for the best? Wrong – you seek out others who have gone before you, and don’t be afraid to ask.

Fr. Loner

Father Loner, our beloved Red Skelton in a cassock, always encouraged a hands-on approach to education. His mantra was, “Fun While Doing.” He was the Lance yearbook moderator who enabled a novice staff of teenagers to write, layout, and publish a “Triple Crown” award-winning tome. If we could do this, we could do most anything. This typifies the inclusive incubator-like atmosphere of all my LCSS experiences and validates its motto: “Preparing Students for Life.”

What did you like most about your experience at LCSS?

Yes, there was a lot to like: football, Lance yearbook, running down the halls, dances, class trips, etc., but it all boils down to feeling included or excluded, belonging or alone. At CC, I always felt this was where I belonged, my “center place.” To this day, I compare many of my long-term situations to our hallowed institution. Few have equaled where I spent some of the best years of my life.

This is where the clichés could run rampant, but it’s fairly simple: people! Grand experience can only be time shared with people. It’s the time spent with classmates, teachers, staff, even coaches, that I’ll cherish most. Many are still good friends 50 years later. So, disparate individuals from different backgrounds and incomes became one family grounded together, not shallow, hollow connections like “likes” on a FaceBook page. We were kin, clan, a tribe. As we learned in Latin class, “Unus Pro Omnibus, Omnes Pro Uno,” translates to, “One for All and All for One.” We may not be Musketeers, but we are Knights, after all.

Lance 1969

What is your favorite memory from your years at LCSS?

50 years ago – ah, I remember it just like it was yesterday. Problem is, I can barely remember yesterday. Just kidding – whenever I need a good laugh, I think about George Weise and me driving backward from CC to downtown, on a snowy day, at night, and not getting arrested. Also, there are football double sessions in stifling heat when contact meant contact, and Coach LaRocca’s prescriptive words for any infirmity were, “take a salt tablet.”

Tom Arth and Ken Knevel, Co-captions, with Coach Paul LaRocca, 1968-69

Once (and only once) my senior year, I skipped school and meandered around downtown the whole day. Next morning, Principal Father Vernon, a real taskmaster and strict disciplinarian, called me to his office. Gulp, I’m in for it now. To my relief and bewilderment, he didn’t harshly reprimand or mete out months of detention. His surprising words are permanently etched in the folds of my brain: “Ken, I understand the need for all youths to discover themselves, to have the time and the space to do so. I won’t tell your parents. I hope you find what you’re looking for.” Kind, empathetic, and insightful – what he was, what CC was, and still is. Something the world sorely needs today.

Senior Football Players 1969

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