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The B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration broke ground Wednesday for a facility that will help its students gain real-world business experience without leaving the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus.

A $2.5 million gift from Lafayette businessman Michael P. Maraist, a 1971 business administration graduate, will fund the initial construction of the Maraist Financial Services Lab.

Using the latest technology, the lab will enable students to acquire hands-on experience in portfolio management, financial strategy and analysis. It will also provide data resources and statistical tools to enrich research opportunities for business students, faculty and the community.

“We are very proud to assist in the creation of this innovative new project,” Maraist said. “Our goal is to see a facility that teaches students leadership, service and dedication as well as providing them with an excellent education.”

Members of his family – including his 100-year-old mother, Gertrude, a 1939 graduate of the then-Southwestern Louisiana Institute – joined Maraist during the groundbreaking. Also taking part were faculty and administrators from the Moody College of Business Administration and University President Dr. Joseph Savoie.

“This facility is going to serve our students for generations to come,” Savoie said.

Construction on the Maraist Lab is expected to take about a year. The renovation of existing space and the addition of 1,000 feet of new construction will provide a high-tech learning environment in F.G. Mouton Hall. It also will alter the building’s façade, which faces the University’s Quadrangle.

Inside the lab, tickers will deliver up-to-the-second reports from Wall Street. Digital displays will flash breaking business news headlines. Students will learn, in real time, how financial markets work by utilizing state-of-the-art equipment to undertake projects similar to those that business professionals confront every day.

“The Maraist lab exemplifies the Moody College of Business Administration’s commitment to experiential learning, which counters the often-theoretical nature of classroom instruction with real-world scenarios and case studies,” said Dr. Gwen Fontenot, the college’s interim dean.

Students who engage in practical coursework are better prepared to confront the demands of the job market, which results in more profitability for their employers.

Fontenot added that the lab gives the college an opportunity to increase its existing relationships with business and industry. Executives will be invited to interact with students to discuss best practices essential to success in the private sector.

“The Maraist Financial Services Lab is a testament to the dedication and generosity of the Maraist family,” Fontenot said. “Those who know Mike know that he invests not only money but his own time to help people develop to their fullest potential. We are elated that he chose to invest in the future of our students and our commitment to continuous improvement.”

Maraist’s four-decade career in business seemed almost foreordained. His father, Louis, had a half-century career in banking and was president of St. Martinville Bank and the Morgan City Bank. Shortly after his 1971 graduation from USL, Michael Maraist was president of Acadiana Bank in Eunice. At 24 years old, he was the youngest bank president in the country. 

After a few years, amid a downturn in the oil and gas industry in the 1980s, Maraist left banking and began to purchase struggling oilfield service companies. He and his partners sold one of those companies, Timco Services, to Frank’s International in 2015.

He has real estate holdings in Texas and New Mexico. His most notable local property is Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club in Broussard, which he purchased in 2000.

Maraist returned to banking in 2006, when he became chairman of the board of the Lafayette-based Home Bank.

The addition of the Maraist Financial Services Lab will mark the first significant alteration to F.G. Mouton Hall in more than a decade. Built in 1963 at the Quadrangle’s eastern edge, F.G. Mouton was the primary home to the business school until the completion of Moody Hall in 2005.

Moody and F.G. Mouton halls make up the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, which the University named in honor of Crowley businessman Braxton I. Moody III in 2004. He is a 1949 business administration graduate.

Last year, The Princeton Review listed the Moody College of Business Administration among its “Best 295 Business Schools.”

For more about the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration and its programs, visit http://business.louisiana.edu.

Photo: Members of the Maraist family joined University of Louisiana at Lafayette administrators to break ground Wednesday on the Maraist Financial Services Lab. From left are Elizabeth “Liz” Maraist, Margaret “Mag” Maraist Ritchey, Louis Maraist, Gertrude “Mimi” Maraist; Lafayette businessman Michael P. Maraist, whose $2.5 million gift made the facility possible; Dr. Gwen Fontenot, interim dean of the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration; University President Dr. Joseph Savoie; and John Blohm, the University’s vice president for advancement. Photo: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette