After serving as Director of Communications and External Relations at LSU Law for the past 16 years, Karen Soniat is embarking on a new journey in her career at The National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
“Karen really put the ‘relations’ back in alumni relations for our institution during her time here. Along the way, she helped raise millions of dollars for professorships, scholarships, building programs, and more,” said LSU Law Interim Dean Lee Ann Lockridge at a farewell gathering for Soniat held in early August. “But most of all, I think all of us recognize her unflagging enthusiasm, passion, loyalty, hard work, and dedication that she has put into her job and everything she does. We really can’t thank her enough for all that she has done for our institution.”
While at LSU Law, Soniat helped usher in a new era of communications and alumni relations at the law school, including the launch of a magazine and newsletter, and an extensive overhaul of the law school’s website. She was also instrumental in raising funds for major initiatives at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, including the Centennial Celebration and Plaza renovation, the Classroom to Courtroom Campaign, and the establishment of the LSU John P. Laborde Energy Law Center, among others.
Along with energy law center namesake John P. Laborde and other generous supporters, 1973 LSU Law graduate John T. Nesser III was instrumental in establishing the energy law program. Nesser has served as vice chairman of the center since its inception in 2012 and his family’s gift to establish the Nesser Family Endowed Chair in Energy Law is among the largest gifts LSU Law has ever received. In total, approximately $8 million was raised to establish the energy law program, making it the single largest development initiative that has ever been undertaken at LSU Law. It was just one of the major projects that Soniat played an outsized role in bringing to fruition.
“Karen has been a vital part of virtually every undertaking of the law school during her tenure,” Nesser said. “She has been a leader in the development of the Laborde Energy Center. When my wife, Cynthia, and I were considering and then undertaking The Nesser Family contribution, Karen worked tirelessly with us to secure and document our donation. Karen’s role was extremely instrumental in bringing our contribution to fruition.”
Soniat began her new role as Vice President of Annual Giving and Membership at the National World War II Museum in August. She said the transition has been bittersweet.
“I’m really excited about the new challenge and wonderful opportunity to build a new program. But the hardest part of this decision was knowing that I would no longer be working with all the extraordinary colleagues and alumni who really are true friends — and I don’t plan on leaving those relationships behind,” she said. “It has been a dream to be at the LSU Law Center, and I just hope I made a difference.”
Jim Roy is among the many LSU Law alumni and supporters who has formed a close friendship with Soniat over the past 16 years.
“She always offered innovative ideas and encouragement to those assisting her. Under her guidance, the Law Center’s Alumni Relations program evolved from nothing to being a state-of-the-art alumni relations and development program,” says Roy, a 1976 LSU Law graduate and former LSU Board of Supervisors president. “We will personally miss her can-do attitude and candor that were always tempered with a pleasant demeanor.”
LSU Law Chancellor Emeritus John Costonis hired Soniat in 2005 and said he immediately knew that she would have a transformational impact on alumni relations and communications at LSU Law.
“I could not imagine a better person for the position, and the way that she could rethink programs and pursue activities on behalf of the law school with an incredible sense of both imagination and drive was phenomenal,” he said. “If there was ever anything that could be done, she would do it, and she just never stopped. She has achieved some extraordinary accomplishments here and I have no doubt that we will be reading about her and her activities in the future.”