The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Alumni Association will recognize Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, Feeding America chief executive officer, with the 2023 Outstanding Alumni Award.
The Outstanding Alumni Award is the highest honor UL Lafayette gives to a former student. It recognizes professional and personal achievements that have brought honor and distinction to the University. Graduates and former students who attended no less than 10 years ago are eligible to receive this award.
Babineaux-Fontenot leads the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization and second-largest U.S. charity. She will receive her Outstanding Alumni Award during a private reception that will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the UL Lafayette Alumni Center. The event will represent a return home for Babineaux-Fontenot, who is from Opelousas, La.
As a first-generation student at the University, she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 1985.
“When I boarded a big yellow school bus on my first day of school at UL, then USL, in 1982, I was participating in history for my family. My grandparents were sharecroppers and neither of my parents had the privilege of graduating from high school, let alone going to college,” Babineaux-Fontenot said.
“Though I don’t remember everything that I thought that day, I do remember how I felt. Scared. Nervous. What if I don’t do well? What if I can’t? It is extraordinary that with the nourishment and investment I received since that day, I would now be the recipient of such an extraordinary honor. I am humbled, and I am motivated to be more every day,” she added.
As Feeding America CEO, Babineaux-Fontenot leads an organization with an expansive reach. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and more than 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries and meal programs, Feeding America helped provide 5.2 billion meals to tens of millions of people facing food insecurity last year.
Amy Armstrong, UL Lafayette's associate vice president for alumni engagement and chief executive officer of its Alumni Association, said that “the University places service at the heart of its institutional mission, and graduates like Claire Babineaux-Fontenot embody this ideal.”
“Her capacity for leadership is defined by a lifelong devotion to helping others and serving a greater good – traits that represent fully what it means to be an 'Outstanding Alumni,'" she added.
Babineaux-Fontenot’s contributions – and impact – in the fight against hunger are recognized widely, including with her inclusion among an international group of leaders and difference-makers for the TIME 100: The Most Influential People of 2020.
In a profile of Babineaux-Fontenot for the global media company’s newsmagazine, celebrity chef Rachael Ray wrote: “Without Claire, millions of people would lose access to food, and food-pantry lines would grow longer and longer. Claire feeds the world, and makes it a better place.”
Babineaux-Fontenot displayed a commitment to service from an early age, when she began volunteering in the fight against food insecurity and for other causes. Her dedication to helping others has remained strong throughout her life and career.
She has served on nonprofit boards such as the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the National Urban League and the National Association of Black Accountants.
Babineaux-Fontenot has distinguished herself in many realms, including law, the private sector and government.
Prior to joining Feeding America, she held leadership positions at the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, including executive vice president and global treasurer. Babineaux-Fontenot was partner-in-charge of the Baton Rouge office and tax practice leader for Adams and Reese law firm.
She was dispute resolution practice group leader for the southwest region at PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers), and an assistant secretary for the Office of Legal Affairs, a division of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety.
In addition to her degree from the University, Babineaux-Fontenot holds a law degree from Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge; she also holds and a master of laws degree in taxation from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas.
Photo caption: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Alumni Association will honor Claire Babineaux-Fontenot with the 2023 Outstanding Alumni Award. Babineaux-Fontenot, shown speaking during Fall 2019 Commencement, is CEO of Feeding America. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette