UL Lafayette’s first lady, Gail Savoie, died at 67; arrangements pending | Education

Gail Heinbach Savoie, first lady at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, died Sunday, the university announced. she was 67

A native of Calcasieu Parish, married for 44 years to UL President E. Joseph Savoie, she was an elementary school teacher and his partner in his roles as a university administrator and as commissioner of higher education.

In a statement to the campus, Savoie remembered his wife of 44 years as, “a proud ambassador for her alma mater” and its “greatest cheerleader.”

“My family and I are grateful for your thoughts of support at this difficult time,” Savoie said. “Gail loved her University family, and so we do.”

Like her husband, the first lady was a graduate of what was then called the University of Southwestern Louisiana, where she was a cheerleader and pledged to Delta Delta Delta sorority. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the university in 1977.

She taught at St. Ignatius School in Grand Coteau and St. Antoine’s and Woodvale elementary schools in Lafayette. She was also a gifted artist — she took up her brush after their son had received lessons — and was an animal advocate.

The Savoies met as students at Sulfur High School — he was a year older — and, like her future husband, she attended the university in Lafayette after falling in love with the campus. She remained an active alumna.

“I remember my first time walking on this campus at orientation. I could not believe that people would actually look at you in the face, smile and say, ‘Hi,’ and they didn’t know who the heck you were,” she recollected in a 2008 interview. “I had never experienced that and it was just great. I knew I had found home. I didn’t want to be anywhere else and, to this day, you can walk on this campus and still have that same feeling of acceptance.

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“The hospitality here is just so incredible. I don’t know of another place like it.”

She relished her roles as a local, state and national ambassador for her alma mater and was a fixture at university activities and athletic events. She was a judge for the annual Paint the Town Red contest during Homecoming and hosted multiple events at the President’s House for the campus and Lafayette communities.

Her favorite was Sneaux Day during the holiday season, according to a statement from the campus.

The Savoies were married in 1977; About a year later, Raymond Blanco hired Joseph Savoie as assistant dean of student personnel and the couple’s attachment to higher education was fixed.

Gail Savoie is survived by her husband and their children, Blaire Savoie and Adam Savoie; a granddaughter, Addison Marie Saulnier; a brother, Clay Heinbach and his wife, Paula; and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

Funeral arrangements were pending Sunday under the direction of Delhomme Funeral Home in Lafayette. The university will share service information on its website and through its social media channels when it becomes available.

In lieu of flowers, the Savoie family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Savoie Family Endowed Scholarship Fund, c/o the UL Lafayette Foundation, PO Box 44290, Lafayette, LA 70504.

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