Brought To You By NSU; Written by David West

Northwestern State University will induct four new members into its Alumni Hall of Distinction, the Long Purple Line. The inductees are the late businessman Johnny Antoon, State Senator Louie Bernard and Judge Van Kyzar, all of Natchitoches, and law professor Gail Stephenson of Baton Rouge.

The inductees will be honored at a luncheon on Friday, Nov. 3 at 12 noon. at the Natchitoches Events Center. Check-in begins at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $30. To purchase tickets, go to

Antoon was one of Northwestern State’s most loyal supporters. In 1975, Antoon opened his bar, which became a Natchitoches establishment for generations of Northwestern State students. In 1981, he opened the Student Body. Antoon also owned two restaurants, Monjuni’s and Antoon’s Riverfront Restaurant. Each of his businesses employed many NSU students who earned money to pay for college expenses and gained valuable experience which helped them get a job after college. Many of those students worked for Antoon for most of their time in college. Antoon was noted for always finding a way to help a student who needed a job. 

In 2008 on his 65th birthday, Antoon’s friends and family created the Johnny Antoon Scholarship to assist Northwestern students. Each year, a weekend of activities including a golf tournament to raise funds to enhance the scholarship fund which has awarded more than $100,000 to NSU students. The endowment has grown to more than $110,000. 

Antoon started summer school after graduating from high school but joined the Army a few weeks later. He returned to Northwestern after being discharged and earned a Bachelor Arts in Health and Physical Education in 1968 and a Master of Arts in History in 1972. Antoon also taught history at NSU. He passed away in 2015. 

Bernard, a life-long resident of Natchitoches Parish, has represented District 31 in the Louisiana Senate for the past four years. He serves as vice-chair of the Senate Insurance Committee in addition to other committee assignments. 

Bernard graduated from Natchitoches High School and earned a degree in political science and history from Northwestern State in 1973. He began his public service work with the Natchitoches Parish Police Jury where he worked 16 years as purchasing agent, assistant secretary-treasurer and then as administrator. Bernard was elected clerk of court for Natchitoches Parish in 1991. Prior to his retirement from the clerk’s office in 2016, he was an active member of the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association, having served a member of the board of directors, secretary, treasurer, vice-president, and was one of only two state clerks to serve as president of this organization twice. 

In addition to his public service, Bernard has been involved in numerous civic activities. They include chair of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, chair of the Melrose Arts & Crafts Festival, president of the Natchitoches Rotary Club, board of directors of the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce, chair of the Administrative Board of the First United Methodist Church, and a member of the board of directors of City Bank & Trust Company. 

Kyzar was elected to the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in 2016 from Third Circuit District 1, which includes the eight northernmost parishes of the 21 parish Circuit Court of Appeal and assumed office January 1, 2017.  

Kyzar served as district attorney for the 10th Judicial District for 20 years beginning in 1997 until his election to the court. After his initial election in 1996, he was elected three more times, without opposition. He served as an assistant district attorney for 12 years before he was elected district attorney. He was chosen by his peers to serve as president of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association in 2003 and was elected to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Louisiana District Attorneys Retirement System in 2008 until his retirement as district attorney in November 2016. During his tenure as district attorney, he also served as a member of the North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory Commission. 

A 1979 graduate of Northwestern State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, Kyzar was a three-year starter on the defensive line for the Demons football team. He graduated from the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1982 with his Juris Doctorate degree and spent 20 years as the senior partner in a private law firm engaged in the practice of civil law. 

Kyzar has been featured for his work as an attorney and district attorney on national television broadcasts Inside Edition, Unsolved Mysteries, Investigation Discovery network’s “Deadly Sins”, Oxygen network’s “Snapped”, and on the ESPN “30 for 30 Short” episode “Delaney” about the life and career of NSU and Kansas City Chiefs great running back Joe Delaney. He is a frequent speaker at legal education seminars, on topics including recent developments, criminal law and practice and professionalism. 

Stephenson has been a member of the faculty at Southern University Law Center since 2004. She was an adjunct faculty member at Southern and at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at LSU. 

Stephenson is active in state and local bar associations. She has been a member of the editorial board for the Louisiana Bar Journal since 1999 and serves as the recent developments editor. She was named 2014 Distinguished Law Professor by the Louisiana Bar Foundation. She was elected to the Baton Rouge Bar Association board of directors in 2004, served five terms on the board, and held every office, including serving as president in 2012.  

Stephenson received her juris doctorate from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1984, where she was a member of the Louisiana Law Review and Order of the Coif. She was inducted into the Paul M. Hebert Law Center Hall of Fame in 1987. She received her B.A. with honors from Northwestern State in 1976, where she was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi, Purple Jackets and the Political Science Honor Society. 

After receiving her law degree, Stephenson served as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola from 1984-1986. She worked as a law clerk and research attorney for Judge Melvin Shortess of the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal from 1986 to 1988 and 1991 to 2000. She then was promoted to the court’s Administrative General Counsel, where she served until joining SULC. From 1988 to 1991 she also practiced corporate and insurance defense and was director of litigation for the firm that became known as Henchey, Verbois & Hackenberg.


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