LSU Vet Med announces Distinguished Advocates of the Year

February 15, 2023

Distinguished Advocates

From left, Dean Oliver Garden, Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, Tracy Evans, Meg Sunstrom, and Eric Sunstrom.

Oliver Garden, BVetMed, PhD, DACVIM, DECVIM-CA, dean of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, is pleased to announce the LSU Vet Med Distinguished Advocate of the Year Award. The recipient of this award lends their name and time to advocate on behalf of LSU Vet Med in many different ways to different constituent groups.

In its inaugural year, this award will go to two friends of the school who give much of their time advocating on behalf of LSU Vet Med and working with the administration to plan new and innovative ways to help LSU Vet Med move forward in its missions to teach, heal, discover, and protect.

The 2023 recipients of the LSU Vet Med Distinguished Advocate of the Year award are Lt. General Russel Honoré and Mr. Eric Sunstrom. Honoré is the Chair of the LSU Vet Med Dean’s Advisory Council and Sunstrom is the Advisory Council Co-Chair and Chair of the Dean’s Communications Committee. 

Lt. General Russel L. Honoré

United States Army Lieutenant General (Retired) Russel L. Honoré was born on September 15, 1947, to Udell and Lloyd Honoré in Lakeland, La. Honoré was the eighth of 12 children. Raised on a subsistence farm in Pointe Coupee Parish, La., Honoré was taught to value hard work. Honoré attended Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, La., where he earned his B.S. degree in vocational agriculture. After completing ROTC training at Southern University, Honoré entered the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer for the United States Army Combat Development Command in 1971.

During his 37-year career in the United States military, Honoré held a variety of positions and served in several commanding and supervisory positions, including Instructor at the United States Army Armor School; Commander for the C Company, 4th Battalion, 5th Infantry; and Assistant G-1 (Personnel) for the 1st Infantry Division (Forward), United States Army Europe and Seventh Army. In 1989, Honoré became the commander for the 4th Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (Forward) in support of Operations Desert Shield/Storm. Between 1999 and 2000, Honoré served as the Vice Director for Operations for the Joint Staff, where he supported the Department of Defense planning and response for Hurricane Floyd, as well as the United States’ military response to the devastating flooding in Venezuela (1999) and Mozambique (2000).

In 2004, Honoré became the 33rd commanding general of the U.S. First Army at Fort Gillem, Georgia. In this position, Honoré coordinated the U.S. military’s preparedness and response to Hurricane Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, Honoré was designated commander of Joint Task Force Katrina. Honoré’s arrival in New Orleans came after what was widely believed to be a poor performance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Honoré gained media celebrity and accolades for his apparent turning around of the situation in the city as well as his gruff management style which contrasted with what many felt were the empty platitude of civilian officials.

Following his retirement from the military on January 11, 2008, Honoré declared that he would spend the second half of his life committed to creating a culture of preparedness in America. In this regard, Honoré joined The Gallup Organization as a Senior Scientist, the faculties of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and Nell Hodgson School of Nursing. Honoré also served as a CNN Preparedness contributor. Since 2008, Honoré has worked as a public speaker with Keppler Speakers out of Arlington, Virginia. In 2009 he wrote a popular radio segment entitled “Work is a Blessing” for National Public Radio (NPR)’s program, This I Believe. Honoré has published many written works including his 2009 book, Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family from Disasters and soon to be published, War Stories: Leadership in the New Normal.

Honoré is the recipient of numerous military and civilian awards, including six honorary doctorates from schools such as Stillman College and the United States Army War College. He received the 2006 NAACP Humanitarian Award, National Newspaper Publishers Association Newsmaker of the Year Award; Defense Distinguished Service Medal; and Army Distinguished Service Medal; as well as Keys to the City for Chrisholm, Minnesota, Riverdale, Georgia, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Honoré lives in Baton Rouge with his wife Beverly. He has thoroughbred horses that usually make a monthly stop at LSU Vet Med for medical care. He is the Chair of the LSU Vet Med Dean’s Advisory Council.

Eric M. Sunstrom

Eric M. Sunstrom is the founder and President of The Chesapeake Group. Now celebrating almost 20 years of operation, the company under his leadership has landed a most impressive client list, representing business and trade associations throughout the state and nation. 

Sunstrom draws on his years of experience working with a broad spectrum of clients, from tourism to mental health, and has over the years appeared before every standing committee in the Louisiana Legislature. Sunstrom has distinguished himself by not only meeting his clients’ legislative needs but by enhancing their operation to make them more efficient and effective. He began his career in government and public relations as the first ever Director of Governmental Affairs for the St. Tammany Home Builders Association (STHBA). Starting from scratch, he created a grassroots initiative that enabled the STHBA to become a powerful voice in local politics.

In 2000, Sunstrom was hired by the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) to become the Baton Rouge Regional Director and Deputy Director of Governmental Affairs. Under his direction, the LRA was successful in passing numerous bills impacting the industry. Most notably, Act 158 of the 2003 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature bans frivolous obesity lawsuits against restaurants. The first of its kind in the nation, Act 158 was passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Over the years, Sunstrom has also successfully defended the rights of restaurant owners against unwanted regulation. Through diligence and hard work, he delivered a message to the Legislature to protect the individual rights of business owners and free enterprise. He developed a reputation as a leader in his field, and in the process developed strong personal relationships with state legislators and governmental regulators.

In 2004, Sunstrom formed The Chesapeake Group, bringing his expertise to a wider range of clients, designing and implementing programs to promote legislative and regulatory initiatives on their behalf. Since that time, he has advocated issues from industry-supported fee increases, tax cuts, and pro-business legislation. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, he facilitated a seafood industry board made up of a wide range of both commercial and recreational fishermen to help steer federal recovery money to Louisiana.

Sunstrom holds a Bachelor of Political Science degree with a minor in History from Louisiana State University. He is a former member of the Governor’s DWI Task Force, and the Hunting and Fishing Advisory Education Council. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, he resides in Baton Rouge with his wife, Meg Casper, and their dog, Hera, a Cane Corso. Eric and Meg frequent LSU Vet Med with their pet and donate to LSU Vet Med. Sunstrom serves as co-chair of the LSU Vet Med’s Dean’s Advisory Council and Chair of the Communications Committee for the school.

“I am truly thrilled to be able to celebrate and honor the impactful service of these two friends of LSU Vet Med in their advocacy for the school and the veterinary profession,” said Dean Garden. “The expertise and commitment they bring to the school has allowed us to advance our Grand Challenges in a way that would otherwise have been impossible.”

About LSU Vet Med: Bettering lives through education, public service, and discovery

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is one of only 32 veterinary schools in the U.S. and the only one in Louisiana. LSU Vet Med is dedicated to improving and protecting the lives of animals and people through superior education, transformational research, and compassionate care. We teach. We heal. We discover. We protect.