LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — These are some notable people you may not have known were University of Louisiana-Lafayette alumni.
Frank Ocean: Grammy winning musician
Frank Ocean, formerly Christopher Breaux, attended UL in the Fall of 2005. Ocean is a renowned musician originally from Long Beach, California, but moved to New Orleans at the age of five with his family. He attend high school at Jon Ehret High School and enrolled at the University of New Orleans in 2005. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Ocean transferred to UL briefly before moving to Los Angeles to pursue his music career.
Ocean has won and been nominated for several music awards including two Grammy Awards, a Brit Award for International Male Solo Artist and his two studio albums have been listed on Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” (2020). Ocean was originally a ghost writer until joining the hip hop music collective Odd Future, which included artist Tyler, the Creator. His entrance into music came with the release of his mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra in 2011 which got him a contract with Def Jam records. Ocean released his first album Channel Orange in 2012 and visual album Endless in 2016 before self-releasing his second album Blonde a day later.
Ocean remains one of the most popular musicians in the industry, garnering 28.6 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Jonathan Lucroy: MLB All-Star
UL’s most famous baseball alumni is Lafayette’s own Ron Guidry, there’s another Cajun who has done well for himself in the MLB as well. Jonathon Lucroy spent twelve seasons in the MLB, most notably with the Milwaukee Brewers. Lucroy spent 3 seasons of his collegiate career with the Cajuns, becoming the starting catcher in his sophomore season. While at UL he set a school record with 182 career runs batted in (RBI), 414 total bases, and 54 doubles. He went on to be drafted by the Brewers in the third round of the 2007 MLB draft.
Lucroy was a two-time MLB All-Star (2014, 2016) and had a career batting average of .274, 108 homeruns and 548 runs batted in. In 2022 Lucroy was formally inducted into the Milwaukee Brewers Wall of Honor.
Leigh Hennessy: Stunt woman, trampoline champion
A Lafayette native, Leigh Hennessy is known as one the best athletes, male or female, to compete in the sport of trampoline. Hennessy attended Lafayette High School and went off to obtain a master’s degree in communications at UL. While at UL, she was a five-time National Amateur Athletic Union All-American for trampoline from 1976 to 1980. After leaving UL, she became a ten-time United States Champion and two-time World Champion. In 2007 she was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame for her trampoline achievements.
Hennessy broke into the film industry as a stunt woman after her time in gymnastics. She was a stunt woman in many films most notably performing stunts for Demi Moore in GI Jane and Lucy Liu in both Charlie’s Angels. Hennessy even served as a mentor for Miss America 1969 Judith Ford, who also attended UL for a time. She was recently inducted into the UL Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019.
Jay F. Honeycutt: Director of Kennedy Space Center
Born in Jena, Jay F. Honeycutt has made a name for himself in the engineering world. The Pineville High School graduate would attend, UL, at the time was University of Southwestern Louisiana. There he obtained a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, and would get an engineering job shortly after at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL. In 1966 he would move to Houston, TX to work at the Johnson Space Center as an engineer in flight operations for the Apollo Program. This would be the first of many positions Honeycutt would have in NASA. In 1995 Honeycutt was appointed as director of the Kennedy Space Center, a position he would hold until leaving NASA in 1997.
Honeycutt would become the president of Lockheed Martin Space Operation after leaving NASA from 1997-2004. In 2008 he became president of Odyssey Moon and was responsible for all programs and commercial launch operations. Honeycutt received many honors over his long career including the following:
- Exceptional Service Medal (1974, 1988)
- Special Achievement Award (1978, 1982)
- Outstanding Leadership Medal (1988, 1995)
- Equal Employment Opportunity Award (1993)
- Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award (1993)
Jefferson J. DeBlanc: WWII flying ace, Medal of Honor recipient
Originally from Lockport, LA, Jefferson F. DeBlanc enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve in 1941 before joining the Marine Corps in 1942. He became a pilot in the VMF-112 squadron flying the F4F Wildcat, and would be stationed overseas in Guadalcanal. On Nov. 13 1942, DeBlanc and the VMF-112 squadron intercepted Japanese bombers attempting to torpedo Allied ships. DeBlanc downed three planes and was promoted to first lieutenant. On Jan 31, 1943, while leading a mission over the Solomon Islands, he discovered a fuel leak in his plane. Despite the leak, DeBlanc would down five planes during the mission before ejecting from his plane and parachuting to the island below. He would receive the Medal of Honor for these heroic actions.
After his service, DeBlanc would obtain several degrees. His first would be a Bachelor of Science in physics and math from then Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now UL, in 1947. DeBlanc was teacher for a while in The Netherlands during the 70’s and 80’s. He even appeared in an episode of the History Channel’s series Dogfights. DeBlanc died at the age of 86 in Lafayette, and is buried at Saint Michael’s Cemetery in St. Martinville.
Other notable alumni
- Ali Landry– Miss USA 1996, actress
- Judith Ford– Miss America 1969
- Richard Simmons– TV personality
- George Rodrigue– Artist
- Saad Khan– Film director
- Charles B. DeBellevue– Flying Ace
- Meredith Blackwell– Biologist
Full list of UL notable alumni.