Long-time school leader remembered

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 16, 2009

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – St. John the Baptist Parish as a whole and its school system in particular lost a valuable friend this week.

Albert T. Becnel, who served as superintendent in the parish from 1964 to 1985, died Wednesday.

The long-time administrator was remembered fondly by his friends and colleagues.

“He kept a watchful eye over our district, and he will be dearly missed and always remembered for his commitment to the employees and students of our school system,” said current St. John Parish school system Superintendent Courtney Millet.

“Even at the age of 92, he was following the events in the system. He would often call me to give advice about school-related issues after watching our school board meetings on television,” she added.

Becnel spent most of his life in the River Parishes. He was born in Taft in 1916 and attended Lucy School and Edgard High School.

After earning his degree, he began his long and storied career as an educator in St. John Parish.

His career spanned two of the most turbulent times in the school system’s history, said current School Board President Gerald Keller. During the late 60s, the parish, like the rest of the country, struggled through integration, and in 1984, one year before Becnel’s tenure as superintendent ended, a teacher’s strike disrupted education in the district.

His son, Tommy Becnel, attested to his father’s unrelenting passion and unwavering leadership style during both crises.

“Being a resident of Taft and a graduate of Edgard High School, my father felt like racial harmony was very important,” stated the younger Becnel. “He had a love for both banks of the river. One of his biggest pet projects was to pass a bond issue to build the two new high schools on both sides of the river.”

Perhaps Keller put the collective feelings of the school system best when he said, “We’ve lost a good man. Although people saw him as controversial and forthright, he always did what was in the best interest of the children.”