Three hundred people and infinite alumni pride packed the elegant Waldorf Astoria Ballroom at The Roosevelt New Orleans Tuesday as the University of New Orleans celebrated its inaugural class of UNO 25. The event, presented by Hancock Whitney, honored 25 high-impact businesses owned or led by graduates of the University of New Orleans.
“I am fond of saying that greater New Orleans doesn’t really work without the University of New Orleans,” said President John Nicklow, who served as the master of ceremonies. “I hope you will leave today with an even greater appreciation for the truth of that statement.”
The members of the inaugural class of UNO 25 represented diverse fields including engineering, accounting, media, real estate, banking, healthcare, technology, fitness, economic development and more. The program included brief videos from each company displayed on large screens in the ballroom, giving the honorees an opportunity to discuss their business and their gratitude for their UNO education. On the stage, bathed in Privateer-blue lights, President Nicklow congratulated representatives from each company and presented them with their UNO 25 award.
Reactions from the audience ranged from the subdued to the boisterous, with the announcement of Katie’s Restaurant drawing the liveliest response. As the ebullient chef and Privateer super-fan Scot Craig took the stage, his table of family and co-workers bellowed with delight.
“We have more than 45,000 alumni in the metro area alone,” Nicklow said. “Our graduates are leaders and innovators in every corner of the economy. The Privateer influence in this region is pervasive and profound.”
After handing out the awards to all 25 companies, Nicklow also made a surprise announcement, bestowing the President’s Medallion for Distinguished Service on Bobby Savoie, the CEO of Metairie-based Geocent, who earned a doctorate in engineering and applied science from UNO in 2009. The award is given to an individual from outside the direct employment of the University who performs extraordinary service to the University. Savoie is the chair of the University of New Orleans Foundation Board, and he has taken a significant leadership role in fundraising for the University. In 2014, he was named the University of New Orleans Homer L. Hitt Distinguished Alumnus.
“Our university is so vital to this city, this region, our students and their families,” Nicklow said in his concluding remarks. “We all know how important our institution is. My challenge to you is to help make others understand it. There are 1,000 ways that you can be UNO Proud in your own personal and professional life. By harnessing that pride across our alumni, our students and our employees, we can bring this university to new heights. If we can do that, nothing would make me prouder.”
The members of the inaugural class of UNO 25 are: