Office of Diversity impacts students through prestigious scholarship


BATON ROUGE – The LSU Office of Diversity awarded the inaugural Black Male Leadership Initiative, or BMLI, Kerry Pourciau and Kirk Bennett Leadership Award on Saturday, Nov. 14, during the home football game against the University of Arkansas.

LSU students Derrick Lathan and Zackari Murphy were awarded with the leadership award during the first quarter of the football game. Both Latham and Murphy are alumni fellows of BMLI.

The award was made possible by a generous philanthropic gift to the university and matching funds on behalf of University College from Paul Ivey, the executive director of University College.

The BMLI Fellows Program is designed to improve the retention, graduation and participation rates for black male students through mentoring, leadership development and academic support, while connecting these students with faculty, staff and the campus community. Each year, around a dozen first year or transfer students are selected to participate. As fellows, during their sophomore and junior years, they are required to participate in a number of enriching service, social and scholarship activities.

The scholarship is named in honor of the late Kerry Porciau and Kirk Bennett, two individuals who share strong roots in the history of LSU. Pourciau and Bennett were among the first African Americans elected to Student Government at LSU.

“We are quite proud of our young men and the many people in their families and those here at LSU who have supported and encouraged them along the way,” Dereck Rovaris, vice provost for diversity said. “We are extremely grateful to our benefactors and the impressive legacies that they honor of Mr. Porciau and Mr. Bennett.”

To receive the scholarship, students must be full time students at LSU, have completed two years of the BMLI Fellows Program and continued to remain active in the program.

Students must also be in excellent academic standing, have demonstrated leadership through participation in campus activities, articulated how they remained active in BMLI as an alumni fellow and expressed how the program prepared them to be a leader in society.

“I was beyond ecstatic. So much of my time is dedicated to helping or counseling other people,” Lathan, a second year doctoral student in sociology said. “Receiving an award for something that I find fulfillment in shows me that I’m on the right path and other people value my effort to ensure that students maximize educational opportunity.”

“When I read the story behind the name of this award, it gave me a sense of adding to a legacy,” Murphy, a senior in psychology said. “This award inspires me to continue on my path to uplift and make a way for others to get to my position in life and even surpass me thus continuing the legacy.”

Pourciau became the first African American student body president at LSU in 1972. Before his death in 1994, he held positions with U.S. Sen. Russell Long and New Orleans Mayor Ernest N. Morial. He also served as economic director for the city of Baton Rouge, worked in public relations for Gulf States Utilities and the Louisiana Lottery Corporation.

Bennett attended LSU on an athletic scholarship. He was a member of the LSU track and field program and lettered for the Tigers, while competing in the shotput, discus and hammer throw. While building an impressive athletic resume, Bennett majored in political science, using his political skills to become the second African American student body president in LSU’s history. After earning his Master of Public Administration from Southern University, Bennett’s love for politics led him to run as a democrat for the Louisiana State House of Representatives District 67 in 1993 and as a republican for lieutenant governor in 2003. He founded the Young Leaders of Baton Rouge in 1993, a leadership and education program primarily serving urban-area boys from single-parent homes.

Before passing away in 2008, Bennett worked with the Port of Greater Baton Rouge’s Board of Commissioners and worked as a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual.

“The award enables us to share the history and evolution of inclusion, leadership and service in the LSU community,” Kenya Messer, associate vice provost for diversity said.



Contact Tara Kistler
LSU Media Relations


Contact Wilton C. Jackson
LSU Office of diversity