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Fall 2017 Commencement Speaker

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Kathleen Blanco will serve as the Fall 2017 Commencement speaker at University of Louisiana LafayetteKathleen Babineaux Blanco is the first woman to serve as governor of Louisiana.

She took office in 2004. The following year, she led the state during the largest natural disaster in American history at the time, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Louisiana coast. She also was in charge of recovery efforts.

During her term, Blanco directed the single-largest increased investment in education in Louisiana’s history, expanding the state’s pre-K program and fully funding Louisiana’s colleges and universities for the first time in over 25 years.

Before she became governor, Blanco completed two terms as lieutenant governor. She was elected to that post in 1995 and re-elected in 1999 with 80 percent of the vote. In that role, she supervised the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Under her leadership, tourism in Louisiana increased by 41 percent. This growth led to a $2.5 billion increase in the tourism industry's economic contribution to the state and the creation of 121,000 new tourism-related jobs.

In 1984, she became the first woman elected to represent Lafayette in the state legislature. Five years later, she was the first woman elected to the Public Service Commission. She later became the first woman to serve as its chair.

Earlier in her career, Blanco was a political consultant, a district manager with the U.S. Census, and a high school teacher.

She received a bachelor’s degree in business education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.