Burkhalter to speak to grads

Elsie P. Burkhalter of Slidell, former chair and current member of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, will serve as commencement speaker at Southeastern Louisiana University’s fall graduation ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 11.

Scheduled for 10 a.m. at the University Center, the ceremony will recognize approximately 1,400 students receiving bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The event is the largest commencement ceremony in Southeastern’s 85-year history.

Six students will be “hooded” as they receive the Doctor of Education degree: Kelli T. Busbee, Slidell; Shelly Ann Chauvin, Edgard; Ann Marie Delarosa-Strain and Robert J. Deroche Jr., Mandeville; Jeanne Jenkins Ebey, Denham Springs; and Grant R. Gerald, Franklinton.

The commencement ceremony will feature the introduction of this year’s class of “Golden Graduates,” members of the Class of 1960 and previous years, who will lead the new graduates into the University Center dressed in golden academic regalia.

Burkhalter has served as a member of the UL System Board of Supervisors, Southeastern’s governing body, since 1993. With a lifelong involvement in education, she has served as president of the St. Tammany Federation of Teachers and School Employees since the union received its charter in 1979. She serves as vice president for the American Federation of Teachers, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana AFL-CIO and as second vice chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

A graduate of Southeastern with a master’s degree in education, Burkhalter earned her undergraduate degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge. Last year the Southeastern Alumni Association recognized her as the Distinguished Alumnus from the College of Education and Human Development.

Burkhalter has been active in local politics, having been elected to the Slidell City Council where she served as vice president and president of the council. On a national level she has been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for the past six conventions.

Named one of “50 people to watch” by New Orleans Magazine, she is a member of numerous organizations including the Rotary Club, Slidell Women Civic Club and League of Women Voters. In addition, she serves on the state’s Workforce Investment Board, the Louisiana Center for Women and Government and the Louisiana Student Financial Assistance Commission.

Burkhalter has been honored with the Louisiana Federation of Teachers Pioneer Award. She has also received the Extra Mile Award from the superintendent and the St. Tammany Parish School Board for outstanding contributions to the recovery of the St. Tammany Parish Public School System in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.