Two beloved members of the Southeastern community have left a lasting legacy on students, the University, and those who knew them, embodying the spirit of giving back and of true Lion Pride.
Some people become members of our Southeastern Family by earning their degree here, some by joining the ranks of staff and faculty. Others are initially drawn to becoming part of the community on their own through a variety of reasons—an appreciation for or interest in helping boost the economic and cultural impact the University has on the region, the fun and welcoming atmosphere, a desire to help current students successfully achieve all of their goals, and even love.
This past year Southeastern lost two very special members of its community: Freda Oddo Green and Ruth Settoon Kenelly. Each became a deeply rooted member of the Lion Pride through a beautiful, social personality; a desire to give back; and love for a fellow Lion. And each left an indelible mark on the institution and on those who knew them.
FREDA ODDO GREEN
Freda was a force of nature. Born January 19, 1923, as an only child, she was a woman before her time—independent, strong, hard-working, determined, and not afraid to speak her mind, but also always displaying an impeccable sense of fashion and etiquette.
Freda had a passion for teaching younger generations the importance of etiquette, for traveling, and for spending time with family and friends. Wherever she went, she would form lasting friendships with the people she met, and she traveled the world.
After living in New York and New Orleans, Freda moved to Hammond from Amite for the great-granddaughter she raised, Michelle, who was attending Trafton Academy. Freda was first introduced to campus through Michelle, whose school used the facilities at Southeastern for running track. As Freda increasingly became involved in the local community with organizations like the Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce and her church, she began meeting proud Lions. Recognizing Freda’s talent for getting things done, they invited her to join their activities at the University. When it was time for Michelle to enter college, she chose to attend Southeastern, strengthening Freda’s ties to and love for the University.
Freda had a strong philanthropic spirit, and she never hesitated to lend her time and talents to organizations across the region. At Southeastern, she served as a member of the Community Advisory Council, a charter and past board member of F.E.Lions (Female Enthusiasts for Southeastern Athletics), a past mentor of the Women’s Basketball team, and a member of the Columbia Theatre Advisory Board.
RUTH SETTOON KENELLY
Ruth was born in Denham Springs, Louisiana, on July 13, 1929, to Carl Chambers and Lela Barnett Chambers, the latter of whom started the family’s Lion legacy by becoming a 1934 graduate of Southeastern. After graduating from Denham Springs High School, Ruth attended Baton Rouge Business College. In 1947, she married V.E. “Son” Settoon. The pair owned and operated a general goods store together in Springfield, Louisiana, for close to 40 years, until Son’s passing.
In April of 1990, Ruth married legendary Southeastern director of athletics and Hall of Fame coach Pat Kenelly, attending almost all Southeastern home football and baseball games from then on. She also became a warm friend, generous supporter, and advocate of Southeastern, getting to see her two daughters, three granddaughters, and a grandson-in-law earn their degrees from the University.
“Whether she was called ‘Mama Ruth’ or the ‘Queen of Hammond,’ to know her was to love her,” said Mary Hannah (Prevot) Johnson, her granddaughter and the prior assistant athletics director for athletic advancement at Southeastern.
As a loyal supporter of Southeastern over the years, Ruth made a profound impact on countless students and the University through the establishment of the Pat Kenelly Endowed Scholarship in Baseball in 2004 and the naming of the Coach Pat Kenelly Baseball Diamond in 2006, along with additional annual program support. And, her memory keeps on giving through the newly initiated Ruth Settoon Kenelly Memorial Scholarship in Baseball, currently being funded by her devoted family and friends.
“Ms. Ruth was loved by her Southeastern Family,” added Wendy Lauderdale, vice president of University Advancement. “She had a way of making everyone feel special. And, she had an amazing ability of always reaching out and showing love and support at just the right time. It was like she was emotionally connected to all of us.
“Ms. Ruth could usually be found having breakfast with one of the members of the Southeastern Family at Yellow Bird, a local establishment in Hammond. She invited President Crain every time, hoping to have yet another opportunity to let ‘John’ know just how special she thought he was. Ms. Ruth loved everything about Southeastern and Southeastern loved everything about Ms. Ruth. We have all been blessed to have known her and rest assured that her memory will live on for generations to come in the hearts of her Southeastern Family.”
By Sheri Gibson