Even though they work in different professions, the careers of Dr. James Henderson and Gerard F. Thomas Jr. of Natchitoches and Lenn Dohmann Prince of Ruston have been shaped by their willingness to serve others.
Henderson, Prince and Thomas will be honored by Northwestern State University on Friday when they are inducted into the University’s alumni hall of distinction, the Long Purple Line along with Dr. Julian E. Bailes of Chicago and the late Joe Delaney.
Honorees will be honored at a luncheon on April 7 at 11:30 a.m. in the Friedman Student Union Ballroom. Tickets are $20. For more information, call (318) 357-4414 or go to northwesternalumni.com/lpl17.
Henderson has devoted his career to providing educational opportunities to students. He became president of the University of Louisiana System on Jan. 1, overseeing one of the largest university systems in the United States with more than 90,000 students on nine campuses.
Henderson was president of Northwestern State for two years. In that period, NSU increased overall enrollment and improved its retention rate. Enrollment in the fall 2016 semester increased by seven percent to 9,819, the highest total since selective admissions were implemented in 2005. Northwestern State worked to strategically develop new programs that give students access to high demand skills and give employers in the region a competitive advantage.
As NSU’s president, Henderson worked closely with students, faculty, staff, alumni and stakeholders to strengthen the university. He was honored at the spring 2016 commencement ceremony with a resolution from Northwestern State’s Faculty Senate for his “multiple creative and innovative efforts to revitalize the life of the university.”
Henderson was chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College from 2009 – 2014. In that time, BPCC grew its enrollment by more than 84 percent and increased annual certificate and degree completions by 90 percent. He was senior vice president, workforce and economic development/career & technical education for the Louisiana Community & Technical College System from 2005 to 2009.
From 2001 to 2005, he was director of administration and director of workforce development for the Louisiana Department of Labor.
Henderson was in the private sector for 10 years in hotel management.
Prince is a native of Opelousas who began studies at Northwestern State in 1972, where she was a member of the NSU Chorale and played French horn in the NSU Orchestra. She was a member of Delta Zeta Sorority and represented NSU in the 1974 Miss Louisiana Pageant as Miss Northwestern-Lady of the Bracelet. She graduated in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance education and later earned a master’s degree in vocal performance form the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
While living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Prince continued her vocal studies with teacher and pedagogue Jane Snow, performing in many vocal ensembles in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and with the Southwest Opera Chorus in Albuquerque. While working towards her master’s degree, Prince was awarded a scholarship from the University of Miami to study in Salzburg, Austria, during the Salzburg Opera Festival where she studied and was coached by numerous world-renowned opera performers and teachers.
After moving to Ruston in 1992, Prince was host for many years to Northwestern State’s north-central Louisiana recruiting reception in her home. She was also a member of the Ruston Masterworks Chorus and the soprano soloist for many performances.
Prince and her husband Danny own and operate several businesses in several states, including nursing and rehabilitation centers, pharmacies and therapy companies, as well as Port au Prince restaurant on Lake Claiborne and Port au Prince Cross Lake. The Princes established two endowed professorships at NSU in 2012-13, one music and one in vocal education.
She was inducted into the Mrs. H.D. Dear Sr. and Alice Estelle Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts Hall of Fame in 2016.
Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern State in 1943. He was on active duty in the United States Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946. Thomas received a degree from LSU Law School in 1948.
He became a highly regarded attorney with the firm of Thomas, Dunahoe and Gregory practicing primarily in the field of negligence, workman’s compensation and general trial practice. Thomas was selected by his peers to appear in the publication, “The Best Lawyers in America.”
As an attorney, Thomas devoted countless hours to the profession through his activities in professional organizations. He was state committeeman for the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Trial Lawyers Association and president and state committeeman of the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association.
Thomas served as a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association House of Delegates, chairman of the State Bar Association section on negligence, worker’s compensation and admiralty and president of the LSU Law School Alumni Association. He was a member of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana from 1983 to 1987, serving as chairman in 1987.