Founders Day Honors Prof Cavanaugh | Louisiana College

Founders Day Honors Prof Cavanaugh

by Norm Miller

Louisiana College's annual Founders Day Oct. 4 honored an alumnus and former professor, Charles J. Cavanaugh, whose name dons Cavanaugh Hall on the Pineville campus.

"The history of Louisiana College and the legacy of our father are woven together in a way that makes this institution and this man a part of your life and education today," said Shreveport neuro-surgeon David Cavanaugh, son of CJ Cavanaugh and keynoter of Founders Day.

"We want to show you why the relationship with this man and Louisiana College impacts your lives today over 40 years after his retirement," David Cavanaugh said to the 1,000 people in Guinn Auditorium.

Touted as the cornerstone of scientific education at LC, CJ Cavanaugh's teaching career spanned from 1945 to 1977 as professor of biology at his alma mater.

In his 32 years at Louisiana College, CJ Cavanaugh taught thousands of students, and advised hundreds of others on their way to medical professions and other careers, David Cavanaugh said.

"Prof," as he was affectionately known, developed and directed an outstanding pre-med program from which more than 90 percent of his students who applied to medical, dental, and veterinarian schools were accepted.

Several alumni who either studied under Prof’s tutelage or within the walls of Cavanaugh Hall offered comments:

  • I have been a practicing physician for 40 years, 30 of which have been in academic medicine training young physicians and orthopedics. I have treated a number of patients over the course of my career but can truly say Prof Cavanaugh touched more lives in a meaningful way than I. The impact of his life was huge, way beyond the confines of those of us who entered the field of medicine. He was a great teacher, role model, and mentor. I remember a time when I was considering dropping out of pre-medicine. He gave me a kick as well as encouragement, which came at a critical time in my life as a college student. I will always remember what he told me: "When the going gets tough the tough get going." The rest is history after giving up college football to get my grades in order to get into medical school. I am terrified to consider where I would be had it not been for Louisiana College and "Prof."

M.E. Brunet, MD
Alexandria, La.


  • Prof Cavanaugh was my biology teacher and pre-med adviser, but most of all, “A Second Dad!” He always gave extra attention to those of us who needed that additional help and encouragement. Prof not only helped his students while at LC, he would encourage us when medical school threw us curves. His door was always open, his classes were very interesting and occasionally comical. I remember falling asleep one hot summer day during class and hearing him call my name. I was suddenly jolted awake to hear Prof say, “Carroll don’t even try to answer, you were asleep!” Prof was God’s Gift to LC.

Dr. Linus Carroll
Columbia, La.


  • As long as I can remember, my dad and mom spoke of Louisiana College and their years here. My father graduated in 1951 (Biblical Studies), my mother in 1952 (English).  My siblings and I grew up with parents who directed us to LC after we completed high school. One of the key reasons that they wanted us to attend LC was the godly professors. One who they continually singled out was Professor Cavanaugh, who taught science. Though neither of my parents were science majors, they had sat under his teaching. My mother, who most directly influenced my career in science, to this day quotes Dr. Cavanaugh’s statement of faith: “If you ever doubt that there is a God, look at the human body.” In a day where we as LC faculty strive to effectively integrate our faith into our teaching, Professor Cavanaugh demonstrated mastery for integrating faith and learning without quoting Bible verses. His statement of faith was quiet and calm while being bigger than life. His wisdom in matters of science was flavored perfectly with his wit. His standard of excellence was balanced flawlessly with his grace and compassion. I had the privilege of sitting under his teaching also, in 1977, his last year as full-time faculty. He was honored with the Distinguished Service Award during one chapel service, where he spoke to the student body. His summation of his service to teaching at LC was this statement: “I never had a student that I did not love.” Only Professor Cavanaugh could say this and be taken seriously, for having sat in his classroom, I believed it that day and I believe it now. I stand on the shoulders of men like Professor Cavanaugh today, and his guidance is still an anchoring foundation for me. I am honored to have studied under him, and humbled to serve in the building with his name.

David L. Elliott, PhD
Chair, Division of Natural Sciences / Mathematics
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Louisiana College


  • Prof. Cavanaugh's influence in my life started before I was even born. He taught both of my parents, and eventually taught aunts, uncles--even my wife, Freda. When I decided to go into pre-med, there was no other college to consider. It was widely known that a letter of recommendation signed by Prof. Cavanaugh was highly prized and that his opinion carried a lot of weight with the acceptance committee at medical schools. ... Prof. Cavanaugh taught me to look at complex scientific problems in the grand scheme of things. He taught me not to just memorize problems and solutions to those problems in order to regurgitate them back as answers on a test, but to apply those scientific principles and to see how they fit in the grand scheme of things. He taught me to expect change--that the scientific world is complex but simple, that a master plan is in place, and that what changes in science is our understanding of what God set in motion. Prof continues to influence me even today, as his youngest son, David, is my best friend.

Ricky L. Jones, MD
Shreveport, La.


  • In Cavanaugh Hall we learned about science. We learned facts like how the hippocampus of the brain is responsible for storing episodic memories and is close to and linked to the anterior olfactory nucleus where smell is registered. Those kind of facts explain our experiences. This fact explains why today, when I walk into Cavanaugh and fondly smell that signature aroma of books, formaldehyde and acetone that only exists in one place on earth, I am immediately and automatically transported to the hours, days, and years of fascination, study, lecture, learning, mentorship, and camaraderie experienced in Cavanaugh. As biology majors, it was our building. The rest of the campus belonged to all the other students, but Cavanaugh was our retreat. It may be the farthest building from Tudor, it may have an unusual fragrance, and it may be the antithesis to modern architecture, but it was our sanctum for learning and fascination about the natural ordered world of the Creator. Besides studying with my then friend and now wife, Amy, my other favorite memory is of a Dr. Sproul’s physics lecture where he became overwhelmed by emotion as the beauty of physics reflected the beauty of the Creator. The fragrance of Cavanaugh lingers today. Beginning with the fear of the Lord, the knowledge and memories formed in that building persist today joyfully triggered by a simple smell.

Bradley Loewer, MD
Lake Charles, La.


  • Nostalgia is great in my opinion, and Cavanaugh Hall is nostalgic. The cinder block walls painted white and mint green, the flagship lecture room with solid wood doors (without windows) and stadium seating, the labs with their black counter tops adjacent to chrome fixtures…this building is the essence scientific learning; it was exactly what I envisioned college science to be. Cavanaugh Hall is a building that commands respect and elicits some fear and anxiety to those entering hoping to only begin to understand the complexities of life and the physical laws surrounding us. Upon entering the front doors, a tile mosaic showing an atom and flask overshadowed by the cross firmly reminds us that these complexities that we strive to understand are divinely arranged and are certainly not random. Legendary places often elicit strong responses; through my first cranial nerve and on to my hippocampus, Cavanaugh Hall elicits deeply positive memories.

Jason R. Schwartz, MD/PhD
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Memphis, Tenn.


  • In Cavanagh Hall, some of the most precious parts of my life began. Of course I attended classes and learned a ton in many other buildings throughout my four years at Louisiana College; however, it was my Cavanagh Hall “home” where my passion for medicine was set afire by some of the best teachers I’ve known throughout all of my years of medical education. I can still remember the hallways, the desks, the blackboards, and especially the laboratories. Because of these experiences, I was extremely well-prepared for medical school and residency and a wonderful fulfilled life as a practicing Obstetrician and Gynecologist. Not only did Cavanaugh Hall give me the foundation of an incredible education, but it also gave me seven of the best friends of my entire life. My nerdy science friends and I are spread all over the country now, but our roots here gave us the start of a 24-year friendship that continues to be one of the richest and most fulfilling parts of my life.

Amber Moreau Shemwell, MD
The Woman’s Clinic of Monroe (La.)


  • The impact that the people at Louisiana College and Cavanaugh Hall have had on my life is difficult to put into words. I spent time here as a kid from south Louisiana whose parents and church leaders wanted me to know about LC. I studied biology here as a college student. I was mentored by the amazing professors of Cavanaugh Hall. I met my wife here. I have now been part of the biology faculty since 1996, spending most of my time in Cavanaugh Hall. My kids have grown up spending much time in Cavanaugh Hall with me. To say I'm fond of this place is a huge understatement. What an incredible place, this Cavanaugh Hall, where learners are challenged to engage biology, chemistry, physics and math in pursuit of an education that opens doors for the future and objectively pursues the truth about God's creation.

Wade Warren, PhD
Professor of Biology
Louisiana College


  • My first recollection of Cavanaugh Hall is walking in and being a bit on edge. College was new - exciting but nerve-racking. The classes were small, I met some good friends, all with similar goals. We formed some study groups and pushed each other to work hard. Because of that “small” feel, I was able to develop close relationships with the professors and my colleagues. I am a physician. I have developed a successful practice because of hard work and great support. My thanks go out to LSU Medical Center and Louisiana College for my medical education. Although I did not know Dr. Cavanaugh personally, I believe he would be proud of Dr. Black, the science department, and all those at LC who have shaped my future. Cavanaugh Hall will always be remembered.

Richard M. Vanlangendonck, MD
Ochsner Medical Center
New Orleans, La.


LC alumnus Dr. Steve Ortego noted in his closing prayer how Prof Cavanaugh's "strength of character ignited a park in all of us to hunger and to thirst to know more of [God's] wonderful world."

Family and close friends joined administrators, faculty, staff and students at Cavanaugh Hall for the unveiling of a historical marker honoring Prof Cavanaugh. Built in 1969, Cavanaugh Hall was dedicated to CJ Cavanaugh on May 16, 1975, which was declared by Pineville's Mayor Baden as Charles J Cavanaugh Day.

"Prof Cavanaugh was a transformational leaders who sought the best for his students," said LC President Dr Rick Brewer. "Though he was not aware of our Vision to Prepare Graduates and Transform Lives, his legacy assuredly lives as a precursor to such vision."

Brewer noted that the Cavanaugh Campaign underway seeks to upgrade Cavanaugh Hall which has not seen significant remodeling in almost 50 years. Gifts and pledges toward the $3 million goal total $340,000.