Gayle Benson to Headline Loyola University New Orleans Commencement 2019
NEW ORLEANS – One of New Orleans’ most influential women, Gayle Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, has a new role to play this spring on her team’s home playing field. A devoted Catholic and generous philanthropist, Benson will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters and deliver a commencement speech to approximately 700 graduates at Loyola University New Orleans’ Commencement 2019, to be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 11, in the Louisiana Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Details were shared in a press release.
Also receiving honorary degrees at Commencement 2019 are New Orleans musician Deacon John Moore; Rabbi Alexis Berk of Touro Synagogue; Hiroshi Motomura, an internationally recognized advocate and scholar in immigration and citizenship law, and La. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who will deliver the law commencement speech in a separate ceremony on Saturday evening.
“Whether she is quietly leading from the sidelines of the Superdome or creating new scholarships for students, Gayle Benson is a crucial contributor to the renaissance and spirit of New Orleans,” said Loyola president Tania Tetlow. “She is not only one of the most influential women in sports and in the city of New Orleans, she is a stalwart supporter of the Catholic faith, helping Loyola and Catholic schools across the city to educate future generations.”
Gayle Benson is an accomplished businesswoman, philanthropist, and civic volunteer. Following the passing of her husband, Loyola alumnus Tom Benson, H’87, she became the first woman to be the majority stakeholder of voting stock in both an NFL and NBA franchise.
Born and raised on the West Bank of New Orleans, Benson started her career as a manager for Celebrity Jewelry, and then branched out into real estate development and interior design. In 1975, Benson had notable brands as design clients such as Schwegmann’s Giant Grocery, Mercedes-Benz, Hyatt Hotels, the Ritz-Carlton and the Royal Orleans Hotel. She played an important role in 2000 when she worked with the Superdome on renovations to public spaces.
Benson and her late husband have long provided generous philanthropy as friends to the university, local Catholic high schools, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Ochsner Health Center, and other universities and communities in San Antonio. She is a member of the Ochsner Health Foundation Board and helped to create the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center, a bustling space for cancer care and research for the city.
Because of their service and commitment to the Catholic faith and community, in 2012, the Bensons were awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, the highest papal honor that Catholic lay people can receive.
The Benson family has been an important and large-hearted member of the Loyola University New Orleans community, providing 116 students with scholarships over the years, funding the Jesuit Social Research Institute, and donating funds to establish the Tom Benson Jesuit Center.
Through the generosity of the Tom and Gayle Benson Family Foundation, Mrs. Benson has benefited nonprofits throughout the city such as the New Orleans Museum of Art, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the Audubon Nature Institute, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Louisiana, and the Team Gleason organization. She also serves on a number of boards that benefit the growth of the city and the region, including the Greater New Orleans Foundation.