Alumni to be honored at annual ceremony

Dr. William Cefalu is the 2017 Alumnus of the Year. Courtesy of Michelle Biggs

Charles “Chuck” Toney is the 2017 Young Alumnus of the Year recipient. Courtesy of Rene Abadie

The Alumni Awards Evening will be honoring the Alumnus of the Year and the Young Alumnus of the Year. The event itself will be undergoing some changes compared to past Alumni Awards Evenings.

The recipients of the alumnus and young alumnus awards are Dr. William Cefalu and Charles “Chuck” Toney Jr.

“They both have outstanding credentials,” said Executive Director of Alumni Relations Michelle Biggs.

Biggs explained why she believes these two men were right for this award and why they are the epitome of what the university is all about.

“We’re very proud of all our graduates, but when they go on to receive such distinction as these two gentlemen have is something we all need to be proud of, and we need to share that with the world, that Southeastern produces incredible talent,” said Biggs. “We want to be able to recognize our alumni who not only have gone on to succeed and have very successful careers, but also continuously give back to the university whether that’s through volunteering or speaking to the classes, getting involved with their colleges or donating money, however it is.”

Cefalu was chosen for his accomplishments since graduating from the university.

 “Our Alumnus of the Year is nationally acclaimed,” said Biggs. “He is the chief scientific, medical and mission officer at the American Diabetes Association. He is well known to be an advocate for diabetes research and has written several articles and books on the disease of diabetes. The fact that he is a graduate of Southeastern is something we should all be proud of.”

Biggs explained why Toney was chosen for the Young Alumnus of the Year.

“He is an attorney based out of New Orleans,” said Biggs. “He has an interesting story because he was very involved while he was a student here. He was a component of bringing back football and was instrumental in the reestablishment of homecoming. Also, he worked to facilitate the building of the new Student Union and the Katrina Rita Memorial Fountain.”

Toney was surprised when he found out he would be receiving this award.

“I’ve been involved with the Alumni Association for some time and honestly didn’t think I would be named Young Alumnus of the Year,” said Toney

Toney maintains his connection to Southeastern in several ways. He is an active member of the Alumni Association and the New Orleans Chapter of the Alumni Association. He is also a board member of the Foundation board, and visits the university every year for homecoming.

The Alumni Awards Evening changes follow suit with the event not only honoring the Alumnus of the Year and Young Alumnus of the Year but recognizing lifetime members as well.

According to Biggs, lifetime members are going to be recognized during a champagne reception before the actual event, which is by invitation only. She said that the main event in the Student Union Ballroom on Oct.6 has an expected estimate of 400 attendees.

Biggs explained how the evening is getting an upgrade.

“We are taking it to the next level,” said Biggs. “We will have a string quartet playing. We are moving from a buffet styled dinner to a plated dinner for a more formal and little more elegant feel. Also, there will be a dessert display in the back of the room.”

Biggs went on to say the Alumni Awards Evening is sort of their premiere event with a cocktail hour from 6-7 p.m., and at 7p.m. is when the program and dinner portion of the evening will begin.