by Leah Jackson

Northwestern State University’s College of Business and Technology hosted a remembrance ceremony in August for four members of the faculty who passed away in the past year. Fred Clark, William “Phil” Habig, Dr. Ted Jones and Dr. John G. Williams were honored through personal tributes and the dedication of four trees outside Russell Hall.

NSU Interim President Dr. Marcus Jones said the occasion paid tribute “to colleagues who are no longer with us but whose vast contributions to Northwestern and the College of Business will positively impact the university for generations to come.”

Provost Dr. Greg Handel, Dr. Danny Upshaw, associate professor of business; and past presidents, Dr. Chris Maggio and Dr. Jim Henderson, offered remarks, which began with an invocation by Student Government Association President Tja’h Edwards. Each talked about their personal and professional relationships with the four honorees who were teachers, mentors, advisors, colleagues, friends, men of inspiration and representatives of Northwestern.

Clark (1931-2021) was a native of Coushatta who graduated from NSU at age 18 and served during the Korean Conflict.  While stationed in Germany, his assignment included teaching fellow soldiers, most of them older and more senior in rank. After being honorably discharged, he earned a graduate degree in education and began his corporate career with Agriculture Chemicals of Dallas. He and his young family relocated a couple of times before settling in Baton Rouge where he served as director and treasurer for American Republic/Fidelity National Corporation. While there, he sat for and passed his CPA exam on the first attempt.

In 1968, he began a long career in the sugar cane business.  He served as director and treasurer of Cinclare Sugar Plantation in Brusly and president and CEO of Sterling Sugars in Franklin.  At Sterling, he directed significant expansions in the farming and milling operations, processing record cane tonnage on a near annual basis, while keeping order among a diverse and colorful board of directors. Following his retirement from Sterling Sugars, he was tapped by Gov. M.J. “Mike” Foster to chair the Louisiana Parole Board for eight years.

Clark returned to his alma mater as executive in residence for the College of Business, a full faculty member and fundraiser.  He was inducted into the Long Purple Line, NSU’s alumni hall of distinction.  During his long career, he served as director of Commercial Bank in Franklin, president of the American Sugar Cane League and held ownership in finance companies, fencing establishments and rental properties.

Habig (1945-2020) was born and raised in Long Beach, California, and lived most of his life in Belmont Shore.  He was an alumnus of Pepperdine University, Navy Reserve Seaman and held an MBA.  He retired from IBM after a 30-year career in sales and marketing, after which he and his wife Kym had a successful gift retail store.  He was about to begin a second career at California State University in Long Beach when his wife talked him into selling everything and moving into a motorhome and traveling throughout the country on a full-time basis. They moved to Natchitoches in 2005 just in time for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Habig was an instructor of marketing and salesmanship for 15 years, where he loved teaching and engaging with his students, and with his wife opened Cane River Kitchenware.

Habig enjoyed crossword puzzles, adventure novels, grabbing a beer with family and friends, morning coffee with the newspaper, telling corny jokes, sitting on the porch with a martini in a homemade glass watching Cane River and puttering around the house. He loved to go on family trips and include as many of his children as possible.  He was an amazing teacher and father and his wacky dance moves could light up any room. Throughout his life enjoyed water skiing, snow skiing, boating, woodworking, motorcycling through Baja, Mexico, working on cars and going to the gym with his workout buddies.  He served as president of Rotary Club of Natchitoches and president of the Long Beach Ski Club, dubbed “Phast Phil.”

Favorite memories of his children include walking as a family to get sushi on 2nd Street, learning to ski at Big Bear and Mammoth, road trips in the blue 80s minivan, knowing he was always there for them and getting in trouble for driving his sacred Mustang.  He loved and doted on his wife and was always chuckling.  His family compared him to salmon, because no matter what or how hard the current, he just kept swimming.

Jones (1934-2019) was a prominent attorney and lobbyist.  He was born in Tifton, Georgia, and raised by his grandparents.  He served in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed for most of his service at England Air Force Base in Alexandria.  Thereafter he funded the entirety of his own education, culminating with a Master of Law (LL.M.) in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center and embarked on an illustrious 50+ year career in law and politics that would see him play music on the campaign trail for Earl K. Long and play with and represent some famous musicians such as Gov. Jimmie Davis and Merle Haggard, having twice also backed Elvin Presley on the Louisiana Hayride before he became a star.

Over the course of his career, Jones held a number of public sector legal and policy positions with the state and the federal government.  He also represented several U.S. congressmen and senators, U.S. presidential and state gubernatorial candidates, Louisiana governors and a multitude of public authorities. He also represented the State of Louisiana and City of Baton Rouge for several years in Washington, D.C., and secured significant federal appropriations on behalf of each.  He once successfully lobbied federal legislation enabling LSU football season ticket holders to deduct at least some portion of their ticket payments to the Tiger Athletic Foundation each year.  Jones got involved with the Washington, D.C., Mardi Gras Ball in the early 1960s and became a Senior Lieutenant in the Mystic Krewe of Louisianians in 1980.  He was also a member of the Sugar Bowl Committee from 1984-2011, inducted into the Thumbpickers (music) Hall of Fame in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, in 1999 inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in 2007.  He was honored as a Louisiana Legend by LPB in 2018.

Jones was an adjunct professor of tax law at Southern University from 1983-1989 and, at death, held the Charles D. Ragus Endowed Chair in the School of Business at NSU as a full-time member of the faculty.  He was dearly loved by his family and by countless others whose lives he impacted in meaningful and lasting ways.  He had more friends than any of his family members could count.  He was a true patron of Louisiana whose kindness, positive influence and important work will continue to be felt from the Gulf Coast to the nation’s capital.

Williams (1944-2020) was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and grew up on Cane River in Natchitoches. He was a graduate of St. Mary’s High School where he played baseball and basketball. He studied agriculture at LSU before entering Tulane Law School.  In 1968, he graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, got married and entered the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Judge Advocate General.  He returned to Natchitoches in 1973 to practice law, served as assistant district attorney and taught in the College of Business at NSU.  He was a member of the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and served as lector for many years.   He was also a founding member of the Dirty Dozen Social Club.

Williams was a great husband, father, friend and storyteller.  He cheered for LSU, NSU and the Saints and never got tired of watching John Wayne movies.  He was proud of his military service and his hometown.  He greatly enjoyed teaching over the course of 47 years, sometimes teaching the children and grandchildren of former students. He loved travelling across the country as well as abroad with his family.

The NSU Brass Quintet and Professor of Music Michael Rorex contributed to the remembrance program, which also included a poetry reading by Annabelle Parker, president of the Student Advisory and Outreach Board.  Dr. Carmella Parker was principal organizer of the event.

The four magnolia trees planted in memory of Clark, Habig, Jones and Williams border the Barry Smiley Memorial Plaza, also named in honor of a former business dean and professor.

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