by Jennifer Boquet
Four Louisiana residents representing diverse backgrounds in history, art, philosophy, and film have joined the board of directors for the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Phebe Hayes, Ph.D.; Nathan Ponder, Ph.D.; Holly L. Wilson, Ph.D.; and Wendell Riley hail from north, central, and south Louisiana and, along with their varied experience in multiple fields, will enhance the organization’s mission to serve all 64 Louisiana parishes.
About the LEH
As the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the LEH maintains a singular presence throughout Louisiana as the only private nonprofit dedicated to making an impact in the cultural and education sectors in all Louisiana parishes. Its mission is to partner with communities, institutions, and individuals to explore Louisiana’s past, reflect on the present and imagine the future.
The LEH works with federal, state, and local governments to improve educational outcomes and preserve the state’s cultural traditions. The organization has established a strong reputation with corporations and foundations and is trusted to deliver responsive, sustainable programs for and with Louisianans, such as the now-franchised Prime Time, Inc. series of programs and 64 Parishes magazine and online encyclopedia.
Now celebrating our 50th anniversary and recognized for our enduring statewide impact, including more than $132 million invested in Louisiana communities, the LEH continues to seek out new opportunities to serve Louisiana.
About the LEH Board of Directors
The LEH board is statewide, and members are residents of Louisiana. Members represent the cultural, academic, philanthropic, and business communities. Board membership is voluntary, and members typically serve three-year terms with the option to renew twice. Members attend four full board meetings per year, participate with subcommittees to support short- and long-term organizational goal attainment, and aid in the cultivation of relationships that support organizational advocacy, fundraising, and program/initiative success.
LEH’s new board members are:
Phebe Hayes, Ph.D.
Since retiring from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2013, Dean Emerita and Professor Dr. Hayes has worked to uncover the hidden histories of African Americans in Iberia Parish and surrounding communities, including the founding of the nonprofit Iberia African American Historical Society. Hayes’ essays have been published in the LEH publication 64 Parishes and Acadiana Profile Magazine. She and co-author Margaret Simon will release their book, “Were You There,” a biography of Dr. Emma Wakefield, via UL Press in 2024. Dr. Hayes is a graduate of Xavier University of New Orleans, the University of Southwestern Louisiana, and Louisiana State University.
Nathan Ponder, Ph.D.
Dr. Ponder serves as the dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Louisiana State University at Alexandria. Ponder earned his Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and spent a year teaching in Peru before returning to the United States to work as an actuary in Dallas and San Francisco. He eventually completed his Ph.D. in mathematics at Tulane University and pursued a career in academia. Under Ponder’s decade of leadership, LSUA has developed a number of thriving degree programs that are delivered both in person and online.
Holly L. Wilson, Ph.D.
Dr. Wilson is chair of the Department of English and Humanities and professor of philosophy at Louisiana State University at Alexandria. She has taught philosophy and religion at Louisiana universities for 25 years, and she helped develop the first stand-alone bachelor of arts in religious studies at a public university in Louisiana. Wilson has dedicated her lifelong scholarship to writing about Immanuel Kant, an 18th-century German philosopher, including the book “Kant’s Pragmatic Anthropology.” Wilson is currently working on “The Happiness Experiment,” a book showing the convergence of seven religions on the question of what happiness is and how to get it.
Wendell Riley is the executive director of Robinson Film Center, a nonprofit art house cinema whose mission is to educate, enrich and entertain Northwest Louisiana and the surrounding communities through film. Before joining RFC, Riley worked in the animation and film industries in Shreveport, serving as a production manager and producer for Disney, Gatorade, Chipotle, Radio Flyer, and Unilever. In 2018, he was nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy Award for his work on “The Boy Who Learned to Fly,” an animated project chronicling the early life of Usain Bolt. He serves on the boards of directors for the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra and Cohabitat Shreveport.
About Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all residents of the state. Guided by the vision that everyone can realize their full potential through the humanities, LEH partners with communities, institutions, and individuals to provide grant-supported outreach programs, literacy initiatives for all ages, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, public lectures, library projects, 64 Parishes magazine, and other diverse public humanities programming. For more information, visit www.leh.org.