By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
PINEVILLE – Louisiana College honored legendary biology professor Charles J. Cavanaugh with the unveiling of a historical marker in front of the Cavanaugh Hall of Science during its annual Founders Day celebration October 4.
“Prof Cavanaugh was a transformational leader who sought the best for his students,” said LC President Rick Brewer. “Though he was not aware of our Vision to Prepare Graduates and Transform Lives, his legacy assuredly lives as a precursor to such vision.”
Cavanaugh, who earned his degree from Louisiana College in 1932, began his career in higher education at New York University and Hofstra College in Long Island, New York. While he enjoyed life in New York, Cavanaugh longed to return to Louisiana.
Finally, in 1945, Cavanaugh received his long-awaited invitation to teach at Louisiana College as chairman of the biology department. Throughout the next 32 years, Cavanaugh taught thousands of future physicians and other medical personnel.
During his tenure at Louisiana College, Cavanaugh developed and directed a pre-med program from which more than 90 percent of students who applied to medical, dental and veterinary schools were accepted. Away from campus, Cavanaugh taught Sunday school at First Baptist Church in Pineville for more than 40 years and raised a family with his wife, Eloise.
Near the end of his career, he spearheaded a campaign to construct the Cavanaugh Hall of Science. The facility contains offices, classrooms and laboratories for biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics and nursing.
Brewer noted that the Cavanaugh Campaign underway seeks to upgrade the Cavanaugh Hall of Science, which has not seen significant remodeling since it opened in 1969. Gifts and pledges toward the $3 million goal totaled $340,000 through mid-October.
Family and close friends joined administrators, faculty, staff and students at Cavanaugh Hall for the unveiling of a historical marker honoring Cavanaugh.
David Cavanaugh, the son of Cavanaugh, reflected on the impact his father made on the history of Louisiana College and challenged students to treasure the legacy so many others have made on their life on campus.
“The next time you look to Cavanaugh Hall, we hope that you’d think of it more than just a location for classes or a place to study and meet friends,” he said. “We do hope that, for at least for a moment, you would think of this man and his legacy, a legacy that is completely intertwined with that of your school, Louisiana College. Although he graduated from Louisiana College over 80 years ago and retired from teaching over 40 years ago, his influence still has a positive effect on you and your education here because he like so many others contributed in a way that generations would benefit.”
Ricky Jones, a physician in Shreveport, said Cavanaugh not only taught him but his parents and extended family members when they were students at Louisiana College. Jones said Cavanaugh taught him to look at complex scientific problems from a broader perspective.
“He taught me not to just memorize problems and solutions to those problems in order to regurgitate them back as answers on a test, but to apply those scientific principles and to see how they fit in the grand scheme of things,” Jones said. “He taught me to expect change – that the scientific world is complex but simple, that a master plan is in place, and that what changes in science is our undertanding of what God set in motion.
“Prof. Cavanaugh got a call from the medical school committee confirming my acceptance and he delivered the news to me in the middle of a physics test,” he said. “He continues to influence me even today, as his youngest son, David, is my best friend.”