Office of Diversity Impacts Students Through Prestigious Leadership Award

Recipients include Joseph Mamou, of Lafayette; Sharod McClendon, of Atlanta, Ga.; and Christopher Washington, of Jackson, Miss.

Joseph Mamou

Joseph Mamou, of Lafayette, La.Photo: Office of Diversity

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Office of Diversity awarded the inaugural Black Male Leadership Initiative, or BMLI, Pourciau and Bennett Leadership Award during the home football game against the University of Arkansas in November. This year’s recipients included Joseph Mamou, a senior from Lafayette, La.; Sharod McClendon, a senior from Atlanta, Ga.; and Christopher Washington, a senior from Jackson, Miss.

The LSU BMLI Pourciau and Bennett Leadership Award is named in honor of Kerry Pourciau and Kirk Bennett. Pourciau and Bennett were among the first African Americans to be elected to the Student Government Association at LSU.

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

Bennett came to LSU on an athletic scholarship for track and field, and lettered for the Tigers while competing in the shot put, discus and hammer throw events. A political science major, Bennett used his skills learned in the classroom to win the office of president of the LSU Student Government, becoming the second African American student body president in LSU’s history.

This leadership award recognizes students who meet the application selection criteria and exemplify the qualities of leadership and service, as demonstrated by Pourciau and Bennett. The award was made possible by a generous philanthropic gift to the university. To receive the award, students must be full time students at LSU and have completed two years of the BMLI Fellows Program.

Sharod McClendon

Sharod McClendon, of Atlanta, Ga.Photo: Office of Diversity

“The LSU Office of Diversity is really happy for the three young men receiving the awards and the creation of the scholarship. We are quite proud of our young men and the many people who have supported and encouraged them along the way,” said LSU Vice Provost for Diversity Dereck Rovaris Sr. “We are extremely grateful to our benefactors and the impressive legacies that they honor of Pourciau and Bennett.”

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

Mamou, McClendon and Washington are all alumni fellows of the Black Male Leadership Initiative.

“It is an honor to receive an award named after individuals such as Pourciau and Bennett, who made such great contributions on this campus; their accomplishments speak not only to their leadership, but to their resilience and dedication as well. BMLI has provided me with so many opportunities and allowed me to grow in every capacity. The brotherhood continues to inspire me to make a legacy of my own,” said Mamou, an industrial engineering major.

BMLI seeks to improve 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. The BMLI also works to help solidify how attending college, particularly LSU, can provide academically and socially relevant experiences specifically for young Black males and other students of color who are often targets of unfortunate circumstances even before they reach college.

Christopher Washington

Christopher Washington, of Jackson, Miss.Photo: Office of Diversity

As fellows, during their sophomore and junior years, Mamou, McClendon and Washington were required to participate in a number of enriching service, social and scholarship activities.

McClendon, who is pursuing a degree in political communications, said, “It is of great honor to continue on this legacy not only on behalf of Pourciau and Bennett, but the exceptional fellows from BMLI as well. I was so excited to hear that I had received the award because this is an organization that I am deeply invested in. BMLI helped shape me into the student leader I am today, and receiving this award reinforces the importance of creating a safe place for all students to flourish academically and socially in and outside of the classroom.”

Washington is majoring in architecture and currently studying abroad in Italy.

The LSU BMLI Fellows Program is a great way for African American male students to connect with other African American male students through academic, leadership, citizenship and social programming. Participants will be able to connect with faculty, staff and the LSU campus community and will be able to translate the experiences gained in the LSU BMLI Fellows Program to other areas of their personal and interpersonal development.

“It is truly a privilege to be able to award our BMLI alumni with scholarships in honor of notable and distinguished trailblazers like Mr. Pourciau and Mr. Bennett,” said Michael Coleman, graduate assistant for BMLI. “The accomplishments of our awardees this year are nothing short of phenomenal, and they are on the right path to achieve all of their goals and aspirations when they reach their upcoming milestone of graduating LSU.”

For more information on the LSU Office of Diversity, visit For more information on the Black Male Leadership Initiative, visit




Contact Emmy Hicks
LSU Office of Diversity


Ernie Ballard
LSU Media Relations