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Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham to address Loyola's centennial class

March 16, 2012

Pultizer Prize-winning author and presidential historian Jon Meacham will address the Loyola University New Orleans Class of 2012 during its commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 12 at 9:45 a.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Meacham, the executive vice president of Random House Publishing, will also receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during commencement exercises. Meacham joins Loyola’s other honorary degree recipients, Connie Jones, legendary cornet player and a founder of French Quarter Festival, and Paul Pastorek ’76, J.D. ’79, former Louisiana superintendent of education and Loyola alumnus.

Stephen Higginson, J.D., a newly-appointed judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit and a former Loyola faculty member, will deliver the address at Loyola’s College of Law commencement ceremony, which takes place that same day at 5:45 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

About the speakers and honorary degree recipients:

Jon Meacham is executive editor and executive vice president at Random House Publishing. Known as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals, Meacham is former managing editor of Newsweek and a bestselling author and commentator on politics, history and religious faith in America. He is a contributing editor to Time magazine and editor-at-large of WNET Public Media, the New York public television station.

Meacham’s New York Times bestseller, “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2009. His other bestsellers include “Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship,” and “American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers and the Making of a Nation.”

His impressive career in journalism and publishing led to his becoming one of the most influential people in that industry. Meacham is currently editing a book by Al Gore and a series of e-books published by Politico on the 2012 presidential campaign. His biography of Thomas Jefferson, “The Patriarch,” is scheduled for a 2012 release, and he is also at work on a biography of President George H.W. Bush.

Connie Jones is known among musicians as one of the most talented cornet players to emerge from New Orleans. The New Orleans native began his musical career at the age of five on piano, and then later began playing the trumpet and cornet. Out of high school, Jones joined the “Basin Street Six,” a band that included a young Pete Fountain. Since then, he has played with the bands of Santo Pecora, Jack Teagarden, Billy Krechmer, Billy Mexted, Frieddie Kohlman, Pete Fountain, The Dukes of Dixieland, and for nine years toured the country for Columbia Artists with his band, The Crescent Jazz Band. In 2007, Jones rejoined Pete Fountain’s band.

Jones has selflessly trained and supported the careers of New Orleans’ horn elite. While known as the consummate traditional jazz cornet player, his fundamental techniques are considered among the best in the field. Jones is also a founder, advocate and board member of the French Quarter Festival. As local artists and music styles were replaced in the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with more commercially viable and non-New Orleans music, Jones sought to found a nonprofit alternative to showcase local music and musicians.

Some of his TV credits include the “Today Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Mike Douglas Show” and many others. He has appeared as a guest soloist in concerts and festivals such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, French Quarter Festival, Satchmo Summerfest, and in many other national and international jazz festivals. Jones continues to be the trumpet/cornet instructor at the New Orleans Adult Jazz Camp.

Paul Pastorek ’76, J.D. ’79, is the general counsel and corporate secretary of EADS North America and has a career that spans more than 30 years in the legal community, government agencies and public service. He received both his undergraduate and juris doctorate degrees from Loyola University New Orleans.

Pastorek was a private practice attorney and partner for more than 27 years with the law firm Adams and Reese. His legal background led to his appointment as general counsel of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where he directed the activities of a more than 150-member legal team and served as the agency’s chief ethics officer.

In 1996, Pastorek went into public service as a member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, where he served until 2004 and was elected to three consecutive terms as board president. From 2007-11, he served as Louisiana superintendent of education and led a public agency of more than 700 employees and a $134 million annual budget, with oversight responsibility for an additional $5.5 billion in state and federal funding.

At the helm of the state education system, Pastorek’s advocacy for better accountability and his success in implementing meaningful reforms within Louisiana’s public schools and the recovery school district positively affected about 668,000 public school students. Key accomplishments during his tenure include historic gains in academic achievement, increasing the graduation rate and reducing the dropout rate, linking annual teacher evaluations in part with the growth in student achievement, removing the cap on the number of charter schools and enacting a state law that assigns traditional letter grades to public schools.

Pastorek is recognized nationally among proponents of education reform for directing the state’s efforts to turn around more than 100 of Louisiana’s most challenged schools, including the rebuilding of elementary and secondary schools in New Orleans that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Stephen Higginson, J.D., a former faculty member of Loyola’s College of Law, was appointed to the federal bench in November 2011 after being nominated by President Barack Obama in May of that year and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July. The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Higginson to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit with a vote of 88-0. The New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which Higginson joined after resigning his posts at the U.S. attorney's office and Loyola University New Orleans, handles appellate cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Higginson joined Loyola University as an associate professor of law in 2004, teaching constitutional law, evidence and criminal law. He began his distinguished legal career at the federal level in 1989. Since 1993, Higginson has served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana, where he became the chief of appeals in 1995.

As chief of appeals, Higginson has personally handled or supervised all criminal and civil appeals in the 5th Circuit, editing or writing more than 100 appellate briefs and presenting numerous oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Higginson is a recipient of the Department of Justice’s award for superior and outstanding performance as a federal prosecutor.

For more information, please contact Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5888 or publaff@loyno.edu.

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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