Homecoming week at UL Lafayette is a tradition, unlike any other.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Alumni Association honored Richard Zuschlag and his family on Saturday, March 30, at the UL Lafayette Alumni Center.
The 2019 Annual Spring Gala raised approximately $103,500 and welcomed its largest crowd of guests within the last five years.
The gala’s silent auction raised $26,105. This total surpasses last year’s silent auction, making it the second highest in Spring Gala history. The auction’s success can be credited to the items generously donated by numerous businesses, our volunteers on the auction committee, and mobile bidding. Auction items sit on display throughout the Alumni Center grounds with ticket purchasers bidding from their smartphones, allowing for real-time bidding.
Guests enjoyed duck en brochette, charbroiled oysters, brie en croute with praline topping, and more from Stacy’s Catering. The silent auction included art, travel opportunities, and Ragin’ Cajuns merchandise up for bid. This year’s live auction offered unique experiences such as a private dinner at Chef Folse’s White Oak Plantation, a day with the Lafayette Parish Sherriff’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT), and a trip to Aspen, Colorado. Proceeds from the annual gala are dedicated to maintaining and improving Alumni Association initiatives and facilities.
This year’s gala welcomed a special guest of the honorees. Former United States Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in style with a custom cowboy hat and immediately began greeting the Zuschlag family, sponsors and patrons. Cheney made himself available for photos with guests before addressing the crowd. His speech included words of admiration for Richard Zuschlag, recognition of UL Lafayette academic achievements, and a quick joke on his health that left the crowd laughing.
Jake Delhomme introduced the honorees during the program before Richard Zuschlag took the stage on behalf of his family. “As young children, our parents taught us to work hard, share our gifts, and strive to make a difference in our communities. [My wife] Elaine and I have tried to instill those same values in our children,” Zuschlag began. “Each of our children and their spouses has taken those lessons to heart and work diligently in a vast variety of charitable, educational, and civic endeavors. They make Elaine and I very proud.” Zuschlag went on to say that this honor may top all the other accolades he was lucky enough to receive for one special reason. He continued with the classic story of how he, a “Yankee boy” met his wife, a “Cajun girl.” “Until tonight, the wonderful family I married into could hold one thing against me: I wasn’t Cajun. Well, tonight I’m proud to say I’m not only Cajun, I’m a Ragin’ Cajun.”
Zuschlag also acknowledged UL Lafayette for its impact on Acadian Ambulance over the years. A large number of its staff, including many members of the senior management team, are UL Lafayette graduates. “This university has continually generated a well-rounded, well-educated workforce that every company in our region benefits from.”
Zuschlag is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Acadian Companies which he founded in 1971.
Born in Greenville, Pennsylvania, Zuschlag is a graduate of the Capitol Institute of Technology.
Zuschlag served on the Bush-Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund committee and was instrumental in developing the Lafayette parish 911 system.
He has served on several boards and councils including the Lafayette Parish Communication District, New Orleans Business Council, Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Council for a Better Louisiana, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Foundation Board of Trustees.
He is a member of the American Ambulance Association, Brees Quarterback Club, Lafayette Civic Cup, and the Mystick Krewe of Louisianians.
Zuschlag is also the recipient of numerous awards such as the 1980 Louisiana Businessman of the Year, 1996 Lafayette Civic Cup Award, was king of 2005 Washington Mardi Gras and honored as 2005 Inc. Magazine Honorable Mention Entrepreneur of the Year. He was inducted into the Acadian Museum Hall of Fame as a Living Legend in 2005 and named as a Louisiana Legend by Louisiana Public Broadcasting in 2012. He was also the recipient of the 2016 Jewell P. Lowe Humanitarian Award presented by 232-HELP in Lafayette, Louisiana and the Community Foundation of Acadiana’s 2016 Leaders in Philanthropy Corporate Award.
Zuschlag and his wife, Elaine, currently reside in Lafayette. They have three children, Richard Blair Zuschlag, Erin Elizabeth LeBlanc, and Joseph Blaise Zuschlag and nine grandchildren, Annie Elizabeth LeBlanc, Andrew Ross LeBlanc, Audrey Blake LeBlanc, Rex Emery Zuschlag, Joseph Reader Zuschlag, Adley Claire Zuschlag, Mason Brooks, Charlotte Cecile Zuschlag and Millie Beth Zuschlag.
Troy Hebert, the president-elect of the UL Lafayette Alumni Association, served as chairman. Denise Lanclos served as auction chair.
Photo caption: Honorees Richard Zuschlag and his family take a photo with their guest, former Vice President Dick Cheney, at Spring Gala.