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LEH Announces 2018 Humanities Awards

NEW ORLEANS –The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH), in partnership with Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, has selected culinary giant and civil rights icon Leah Chase as its 2018 Humanist of the Year. The award is given annually by the state’s humanities council as part of its efforts to recognize the individuals and organizations making invaluable contributions to the culture of Louisiana. Mrs. Chase will be honored on May 10 at the 2018 LEH Bright Lights Awards Dinner in New Orleans.

Known as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine,” Leah Chase is a culinary giant and a civil rights icon. As Executive Chef of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans, she has fed presidents and young activists, world leaders and famous musicians. The restaurant served as a hive of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and remains a landmark for visiting dignitaries. She has testified before Congress to lobby for greater funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and authored several popular cookbooks, including The Dooky Chase Cookbook, And Still I Cook, and Leah Chase: Listen, I Say Like This. Chase has received many awards, including multiple awards from the NAACP, the New Orleans Times‐Picayune 1997 Loving Cup Award, the Weiss Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Outstanding Woman Award from the National Council of Negro Women. She also serves on many boards, including the Arts Council of New Orleans, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Urban League.

“Leah Chase is a true Louisiana treasure,” said LEH Executive Director Miranda Restovic. “Her life accomplishments certainly make her deserving of this recognition, but it is also her compassion and generosity, her humanity, which is instantly felt by all who are lucky enough to be in her presence, that make her such a perfect choice in 2018.”

Join the LEH and Master of Ceremonies Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser for the 2018 Bright Lights Awards Dinner and Celebration hosted at the Arbor Room at Popp Fountain on Thursday, May 10, at 6pm. Tickets begin at $150. Table sponsorships are available to interested parties. For more information, contact Mike Bourg at 504.620.2482 or [email protected], or visit

In addition to Chase, the LEH named these individuals and organizations as 2018 awardees:

Chair’s Award for Institutional Support

Rosemary and Randy Ewing are pillars of long‐term support for the humanities in Louisiana, in particular for the role the humanities can play in the education and health of children. An early advocate for PRIME TIME, Rosemary served on the Board of the LEH for more than two decades, and worked closely with LEH staff on the launch of PRIME TIME Head Start in Ouachita Parish. She continues to serve on the boards of directors of the Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and the Louisiana State Museum. Randy served in the state legislature from 1988–2000, the last four years as the President of the Senate. He led legislative adoption of the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program. He currently serves on the Louisiana Board of Regents. Not only generous with their time, effort, and advocacy, the Ewings have been staunch financial supporters of numerous charities, including major support for the LEH. Louisiana has benefited from their passion and focus on early childhood intervention in education and health.


Champion of Culture Award

Roger Ogden has made a monumental mark on the cultural landscape of Louisiana. Among his major efforts are the construction of the Aquarium of the Americas and the Woldenberg Park; the restoration of the state Supreme Court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal in the French Quarter; and establishment of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art as well as the Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College at LSU.


Humanities Books Award

The LEH recognizes two outstanding works of history as 2018 Books of the Year. Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in White and Black (Harper) by Michael Tisserand masterfully traces Herriman’s remarkable rise as a comic genius. The Thibodeaux Massacre: Racial Violence and the 1887 Sugar Cane Labor Strike (The History Press) by John DeSantis uses correspondence, interviews and federal records to detail this harrowing true story.


Humanities Documentary Film Award
Produced by Christina Melton, Deeply Rooted: John Coykendall’s Journey to Save our Seeds and Stories presents the story of a renowned heirloom seed saver and his passion for preserving the seeds and stories of a small Louisiana farming community in Washington Parish.


Michael P. Smith Memorial Award for Documentary Photography
A dedicated and accomplished photographer, LSU Professor Jeremiah Ariaz’s work reflects an artist profoundly committed to an authentic vision, one influenced by and, in many ways, led by the indigenous power of Louisiana’s distinct cultural and historical attributes.


Museum Exhibition of the Year

Storyville: Madams and Music, an exhibition of The Historic New Orleans Collection, revives the sights and sounds of New Orleans’s former red-light district a century after its closing. The exhibition encourages a better understanding of the music, people, and businesses that shaped the complicated legacies of Storyville. This is the inaugural Museum of the Year award.


Light Up for Literacy Award, presented in partnership with the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana and the Library of Congress

Sisters of the Holy Family (Mother House on Chef Menteur Ave. in New Orleans) have dedicated themselves to educating under-served and under-privileged populations since the order’s inception 175 years ago.


Lifetime Contribution to the Humanities

Mary Lou Christovich (posthumous) was a tireless preservationist, author, historian and philanthropist who played a leading role in founding and nurturing many local preservation groups.

Ben Sandmel has devoted his career to championing Louisiana’s traditional music and culture. Sandmel has written books about New Orleans R&B, and zydeco, contributed articles to leading magazines and academic anthologies, produced and played drums on a Grammy-nominated Cajun/country album, and conducted extensive fieldwork around the state, researching both Louisiana’s indigenous music and the folklore of riverboats. Since 1996 Sandmel has produced the oral history and interview venue, known as the Music Heritage Stage, at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.