Three pillars of the Northwestern State University family were honored and memorialized Nov. 18 when the NSU Foundation announced the creation of the Jack Brittain Jr., Jerry Pierce and Richard Ware First Generation Endowed Scholarships, made possible by a $300,000 donation from Robert “Skeeter” Salim.
“The impact of these scholarships cannot be overstated,” said NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones, noting that 34 percent of NSU students are the first in their families to attend college.
Jones and Edgar Cano-Lopez, assistant professor of art, unveiled a portrait of Brittain, Pierce and Ware depicting the three individuals with the NSU columns in the background, symbolic of their legacies at the university.
Salim, a Northwestern State tennis letterman from 1968-72 is a successful attorney with offices in Natchitoches and Houston. His support of Demon baseball has been pivotal for over two decades, resulting in significant facility enhancements and more. Also a significant supporter of men’s and women’s basketball through the years, Salim’s engagement with Demon baseball began in the John Cohen era and his involvement was vital to the renovations of Brown-Stroud Field led by Cohen in 2000, and improvements large and small since.
Salim has rallied other community leaders to become involved with the program. He has been actively involved in youth baseball in Natchitoches as well as with the Special Olympics. He was selected as one of the 100 Top Trial Lawyers determined by the American Trial Lawyers Association and named to America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators. He was inducted in to NSU’s N- Club Hall of Fame in 2019.
“I know how much these three people loved our university, loved this community and how much of an impact they had in so many lives and will forevermore have impact, certainly because of what’s happening there today,” said Doug Ireland, former Sports Information Director at NSU and friend to the three honorees.
“This was my idea about honoring these three guys together. These guys were always together. The three of them were just so intertwined and their love for Northwestern was incredible. You couldn’t have a conversation with any one of the three of them when Northwestern didn’t come up in the conversation,” Salim said. “I had a special relationship with all three of them.”
Brittain, a Natchitoches native and four-year (1974-78) Demon football letterman and 2013 N-Club Hall of Fame Distinguished Service Award honoree, was a passionate supporter of Natchitoches, Northwestern State and Demon Athletics. A standout multi-sport athlete at St. Mary’s Catholic School before coming to Northwestern State, Brittain primarily played wide receiver long before the pass-happy offenses of today were widespread. He played a pivotal role in keeping Joe Delaney’s memory and heroism alive after Delaney’s death trying to save three children in a Monroe Pond June 29, 1983.
Brittain’s largesse was not limited to Northwestern State football. In addition to serving as the sideline reporter for football radio broadcasts on the Demon Sports Network for 18 years, he was an avid supporter of all NSU athletics — offering assistance to various programs within the department, leaving a stamp on them in the process. His influence extended past the playing field and well past Natchitoches’ city limits.
After attending law school, Brittain was involved in the Louisiana political scene, working alongside U.S. Senators John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston and other high-ranking politicians. The networking connections he made assisted a litany of NSU administrators throughout their tenures in Natchitoches. Brittain served as legal counsel for the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The LSWA holds its annual convention in Natchitoches alongside the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction weekend. Whenever new Hall of Famers came to Natchitoches, they typically found Brittain involved in some shape or volunteer fashion. Brittain was made a life member of the LSWA and later received its Mac Russo Award, given to an individual or individuals who “contributes to the progress and ideals of the LSWA,” in 2017.
“Britt,” as he was known, passed away July 11, 2023, after a brief illness and his family established the Jack Brittain Jr. Memorial Scholarship that will benefit a female student-athlete.
Pierce served over 57 years on staff at NSU and was vice president of External Affairs from 1990 until his death last November. Pierce’s impact at the university, in the community and around the state was profound, not only as an administrator, but as a writer, humorist, ambassador, fund raiser and mentor to personnel at all levels of administration, including nine NSU presidents.
A graduate of Springhill High School, Pierce was recruited to NSU in 1957 as a football trainer and was a four-year letterman in that position. As a student, he was an N-Club officer and sports editor of The Current Sauce. He joined the staff at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans after receiving his journalism degree in 1961 and became executive sports editor at age 24.
Pierce returned to NSU in 1965 as Sports Information Director. He later served as News Bureau director and assistant to the president before he was named vice president of External Affairs, overseeing NSU Athletics, NSU Foundation and Alumni Affairs, News Bureau/Media Relations, Sports Information, the Wellness, Recreation and Activities Center and the NSU Recreation Complex.
He worked for years with legislators and other elected officials as the university’s governmental affairs representative, served as institutional representative to the NCAA and Southland Conference and was a former president of the conference. He cochaired Northwestern’s Centennial celebration and 125th anniversary activities. Pierce represented NSU as a speaker and master of ceremonies at hundreds of events across the state for decades and as host or guest on numerous radio and television shows and special broadcasts.
Pierce brought the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame to Natchitoches in 1972 and directed the program for nearly 20 years. In addition to writing and editing decades’ worth of news release and publications at NSU, he also wrote books and thousands of stories and articles of all kinds for Louisiana newspapers and statewide publications. He was Northwestern’s liaison for the filming of “Steel Magnolias” and “The Man in the Moon” and was coeditor of “Steel Magnolias Scrapbook” on the filming of the movie in Natchitoches.
Pierce earned numerous professional recognitions and was extensively involved in civic activities through the years, earning even more accolades. He provided substantial support to the university and was recognized for more than 20 consecutive years of contributions to the NSU Foundation. He and his wife Regina established endowed scholarships at the university in athletics and academics.
As district judge, Ware presided over the 39th Judicial District, which encompasses all of Red River Parish. Born in West Monroe, Ware was president of his senior class at West Monroe High School in 1967. As a hard-running fullback at NSU from 1967-70, he won all Gulf States Conference recognition and was the league’s Most Valuable Back as a senior. He led the demons in rushing in 1969 and 1970. His 1,735 career yards rushing ranks 10th all time in school history. He also played tennis for Coach Johnnie Emmons and was named to the Top 100 Demons of the Century roster, chosen for the 2007 football centennial celebration.
Ware did extensive work advocating prevention of child abuse in Louisiana. He was chairman of the Children’s Trust Fund Board and the Louisiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. He was a member of the Children’s Code Committee and the Continuing Revision Committee of the Louisiana Law Institute.
Ware was an avid supporter of Northwestern’s athletic and alumni activities and served as an adjunct faculty member while practicing law in Natchitoches before becoming district judge. Ware was the color analyst for radio broadcasts of Demon football games for 17 years.
He was killed in a car accident Aug. 31, 1996. That season, Northwestern’s football team wore black decals with Ware’s jersey number, 38, on their helmets.
“I wanted to do something for Northwestern, but I also wanted to honor these guys. What would be a better way than to see the picture of Richard and Britt and Jerry,” Salim said. “It won’t ever go away. In my mind, in my memory, these guys will never go away. Their names and their legacies will stay a part of Northwestern.”
An application for $60,000 in matching funds has been submitted to the Louisiana Board of Regents to bring the total endowment corpus to $360,000. The permanent scholarship endowment will assist first generation college students at Northwestern State University who are the first in their family to attend college.
To make a contribution to the scholarship fund, contact Cristy Bernard at (318) 357-4292 or visit www.northwesternstatealumni.com/BPWFG to make an online contribution.