Newton Thomas Named 2015 LSU Alumnus of the Year

11/18/2014 01:58 PM


BATON ROUGE – Newtron Group founder, owner and CEO Newton Thomas has been named the LSU 2015 Alumnus of the Year. The announcement was made in a surprise visit to Newton’s office in Baton Rouge Tuesday, Nov. 18. Thomas will be inducted into the LSU Alumni Association’s Hall of Distinction on March 27, 2015.

“The Alumnus of the Year designation is the highest honor awarded to a distinguished graduate of LSU,” said Cliff Vannoy, association president and CEO. “The Hall of Distinction is our most prestigious event of the year, and in 2015, we have plans to make the event more spectacular than ever to recognize Thomas and his fellow inductees.”

President and Chancellor F. King Alexander and the Newtron Group staff were on hand to congratulate the very surprised honoree.

“The staff will be amazed when I say this,” said Thomas, “but I’m speechless.”

He credited the University Laboratory School and LSU for his success.

“My entire educational experience was at LSU,” he said. “LSU prepared me for life.”

Thomas joins notable past Alumni of the Year such as former Arco Chair Lod Cook; philanthropist Claude B. “Doc” Pennington; Tiger and professional basketball great Shaquille O’Neal; former Congressman and Forever LSU Campaign Chair Henson Moore; Academy Award-winning composer William “Bill” Conti; and businesswoman and philanthropist Laura Leach.

Also to be inducted are Young Alumnus of the Year track Olympian Lori S. “Lolo” Jones, of Prairieville; Raleigh Studios executive J. Patrick Mulhearn, of Baton Rouge; Vice President of Research at the University of Texas at Austin John Tinsley Oden, of Austin, Texas; Atlantic Company of America President David M. Suarez, of Washington, D.C.; and SEC Associate Commissioner of Communications Herbert H. “Herb” Vincent Jr., of Birmingham, Ala.

“Each year, the LSU Alumni Association recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves through their careers, their personal and civic accomplishments and their loyalty to their alma mater,” said association president and CEO Cliff Vannoy. “Newton Thomas has excelled in all of these areas. He exemplifies the essence of a true Tiger, and we are delighted to honor him with this prestigious award.”

A Baton Rouge native, Thomas graduated from U-High and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from LSU in 1967. He began his career as a project estimator with Southern Instruments and eventually served a two-year term as president. He left Southern Instruments to start Newtron Inc. The Newtron Group was formed in 1983 as the parent company of Newtron Inc. and Triad Electric & Controls Inc.

In 2012, Newtron was ranked in ENR Magazine as the 15th largest electrical contractor in the country. The company works throughout the contiguous United States and has offices in Baton Rouge; Lake Charles; Ocean Springs, Miss.; Houston; Corpus Christi, Texas; Beaumont, Texas; and Martinez, Calif.

Thomas has received numerous awards and recognitions during his career, among them induction into the LSU College of Engineering Hall of Distinction. The company was the winner of the Inaugural Douglas Manship Sr. Torch Award for Business Ethics in 2001 and was twice recognized as Company of the Year (Large Company Division) by Business Report and Junior Achievement. The most recent Company of the Year award was presented in 2012.

Jones, an Olympian in track, graduated from LSU in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in humanities and social sciences. At LSU, she won the 100-meter hurdles at the 2002 NCAA Track & Field Championship and won the 60-meter indoor hurdles at the NCAA championship meets in 2002 and 2004. In 2008, she won the USA Outdoor Championship, as well as the USA and World Indoor championships. She participated in both the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. In 2014, she appeared as a member of the U.S. Bobsled Team for the Sochi Winter Olympics and was in the cast of “Dancing With the Stars” Season 19.

Mulhearn graduated from LSU in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and earned a master’s degree in liberal arts in 2000. He is director of studio operations at Raleigh Studios Baton Rouge and president of the Louisiana Film & Entertainment Association. He was previously assistant director of film and television for the State of Louisiana having joined Louisiana Economic Development in 2006.

John Tinsley Oden, associate vice president for research and director of the Institute for Computational Engineering & Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from LSU in 1959. He holds the Cockrell Family Regents Chair in Engineering and the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Centennial Chair in Computer Systems and is a professor of aerospace engineering and mechanics, a professor of mathematics, and a professor of computer sciences.

Suarez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture at LSU in 1978, is president and chief executive officer of the Atlantic Company of America Inc., Washington, D.C.’s premier historic restoration construction firm. His firm has worked on impressive projects including the restoration of the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, the U.S. Treasury Building, Constitution Hall, the National Archives Building, and the Louisiana Old State Capitol.

Vincent, associate commissioner for communications for the Southeastern Conference, earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication in 1983. Prior to assuming his current position, he was senior associate athletic director for external affairs in LSU Athletics and associate vice chancellor for university relations. He began his career as assistant public relations director for the U.S. Football League’s New Orleans Breakers and also served a stint as sports information director at LSU.

According to Gil Rew, chair of the association’s national board of directors, Hall of Distinction inductees are chosen by an anonymous committee and approved by the board.

“The selection committee is a blue ribbon panel of judges that includes loyal supporters and representatives of the faculty and staff,” Rew explained. “It’s a daunting task, given the high quality of nominees. This year’s slate of inductees has, indeed, set the bar a notch higher.”

The first Alumnus of the Year Award was conferred in 1966; the Young Alumnus of the Year Award was established in 1999 to recognize alumni under the age of 40 who have attained professional prominence early in their careers. Including the 2015 inductees, the LSU Alumni Association has recognized 280 individuals representing a cross-section of LSU graduates. To view all inductees, visit

Nominations for 2016 are being accepted now. Biographic information, along with letters of recommendation, can be sent to the LSU Alumni Association Hall of Distinction Committee, 3828 West Lakeshore Dr., Baton Rouge, La. 70808.

For more information, contact Jackie Bartkiewicz, LSU Alumni Magazine editor, at 225-578-3370 or

Ernie  Ballard 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2014