A total of 1,786 degrees were awarded during the UL Lafayette’s 161st Commencement ceremonies Friday at the Cajundome and Convention Center.
Dr. Mary Neiheisel, a longtime nursing professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is the winner of this year’s Lafayette Civic Cup.
The Civic Cup recognizes an honoree’s humanitarianism. The Young Men’s Business Club of Lafayette first presented the award in 1933. Today, it’s given by the Community Foundation of Acadiana.
Neiheisel is the award’s 85th recipient. Her service to the community will be celebrated during ceremonies Thursday, Nov. 9, at the Lafayette Petroleum Club.
She joined the University’s nursing faculty in 1966, shortly after she married Richard Neiheisel. He taught European, American and Russian histories at the University from 1962 until his death in 1987.
“He is really on my mind with the Civic Cup award. He would be so delighted, so happy and proud,” Mary Neiheisel said.
Civic Cup recipients are chosen by a committee of past honorees. Neiheisel’s extensive résumé of community engagement, which began shortly after her arrival in Lafayette in 1966, gave the panel a lot to consider.
The late Dr. Ben Kaplan, a sociology professor at the University, and his wife Blondie “had engaged my husband in Community Concerts, and we continued the engagement after we were married,” Neiheisel remembered. “You join one group, you meet people from other groups. Soon we were members of the Fine Arts Foundation.”
In the ensuing 50 years, Neiheisel joined a host of local and regional organizations dedicated to community service, children and women’s health, the arts, and literacy.
A selection of her affiliations include United Way of Acadiana, Lafayette Rotary Club, Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, Acadiana Center for the Arts, Leadership Lafayette, Chorale Acadienne, Friends of the Humanities, Zonta International and Lafayette Public Library Foundation.
She’s particularly proud of her work with Faith House, which named her its 2015 Employee of the Year. A certified family nurse practitioner, Neiheisel is the domestic violence crisis center’s nurse advocate.
She’s also lent her medical expertise to organizations such as Shots for Tots, March of Dimes, Women’s Foundation, and the Family Violence Intervention Program.
“The city means the world to me. It is definitely home, a place in which I found friends, employment, volunteer activities, arts and culture and ways to help grow our community. It is truly a city of opportunity and strong caring people.”
Neiheisel began her nursing education at Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in San Antonio. She then earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Incarnate Word College, also in San Antonio. She received a master’s degree in nursing education from the University of Colorado in 1965, and joined the University of Southwestern Louisiana’s nursing faculty the following year.
She eventually earned a doctorate in education from LSU. She also holds adult and gerontology nurse practitioner certifications.
She was one of the state’s first advanced nurse practitioners.
At UL Lafayette, Neiheisel piloted the core courses for its nurse practitioner program and served as its director. She was the program’s first graduate nursing program coordinator.
She was the first College of Nursing faculty member to be awarded the UL Lafayette Foundation’s Distinguished Professor Award. She won the honor in 1976.
Neiheisel is a Distinguished Scholar and Fellow of the National Academies of Practice. In 2006, she was recognized as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the first individual from the state to receive the designation.
Neiheisel joins a number of University administrators and faculty who’ve received the Civic Cup. Past honorees included:
- 1938 – Dr. Joel L. Fletcher, the University’s third president, who received the award when he was dean of the College of Agriculture;
- 1941 – Edith Garland Dupré, an English professor who was among the first faculty members at the new Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute;
- 1984 – Marie “Mario” Mamalakis, a library science professor and the University’s public relations director;
- 1989 – E. Glynn Abel, longtime dean of men;
- 1991 – Dr. Ray P. Authement, the University’s fifth president; and
- 2000 – Dr. Jean T. Kreamer, then-director of Media and Printing Services.
“This honor takes my breath away,” Neiheisel said. “Never in a million years did I see myself receiving this award. I knew and know several recipients and have a very special admiration for them. It is truly humbling to be on a list with these extraordinary people.”