The UL Lafayette Zoological Crustacean Collection is likely the largest archive of gene sequence-quality marine decapod specimens from the Americas.
On Jacob LeBlanc’s first day of college in Fall 2014, students working a voter drive beckoned him to register.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette freshman begged off. They persisted. He demurred again.
It wasn’t a case of civic apathy. It was an issue of legality.
“I’m only 16,” LeBlanc finally admitted. They looked at him quizzically – a 16-year-old college student?
LeBlanc is accustomed to such responses, then and now. He’s lived the past 19 years in a hurry. So when he graduates Friday with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology – and as the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Graduate – it’s the next step in a life that seems perpetually on fast forward.
He skipped kindergarten, so he’s always been at least a year younger than his classmates. He took three high school courses as a middle-school student, and a schedule of seven classes a year allowed him to graduate high school at the end of his junior year.
LeBlanc shaved a year off his college career, too. He took 20 hours his first semester, and 19 each subsequent term. He finished his degree in six semesters with a pristine 4.0 GPA.
“I never stick around one place long,” said LeBlanc, the son of Vicki and Chris LeBlanc of Scott, La. “I do what I have to and then move on. There are other things to do.”
While the transcript that documents LeBlanc’s undergraduate tenure is short and repetitive – a scant two pages and As in every subject – his list of off-campus activities is more expansive. He’s the assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 156 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lafayette, where he reached the rank of Eagle Scout after amassing 60 merit badges. He regularly volunteers with charities that benefit children with Down syndrome.
He works part-time as a contractor’s assistant. In the evenings, after he puts down his hammer, he often picks up an accordion.
At age 12, he attended an informal Cajun music session with a cousin, and he remembers being enticed by the instrument’s tones. He asked for one as a Christmas gift that year and taught himself how to play, although he never learned to read music. He now jams weekly with other Cajun musicians. He doesn’t have a band, but he’s always willing to substitute when another player can’t make a scheduled gig.
LeBlanc is a dependable person, said Dr. G.H. Massiha, a professor of engineering at UL Lafayette.
LeBlanc took four of Massiha’s classes. In each, “he was the best student,” doing extra assignments even after an A in the course was assured, then volunteering to help others with their assignments, too.
Massiha recruited LeBlanc to join the student chapter of the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering during his first semester. Within six months, he was its vice president. The following year, he became president.
“I really don’t know what drives him,” Massiha said. “There is possibly a fire in him to want to be the best. I can just speculate.”
It’s unlikely that fire will be extinguished anytime soon. LeBlanc is already making plans. He’s since registered to vote, and he cast his first ballot in the Louisiana gubernatorial primary on Oct. 24, 2015, exactly two weeks after he turned 18. He’ll pursue a master’s degree in systems technology starting in the fall because he wants to return to the University and teach after he retires.
After he retires?
“I have a lot of time to think,” he said. “I think about things, think about the future, things I might want to do later on.
“I've got – at the max – 70 more years to live and I'll try to do as much as I can.”