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District 7 School Board Member David Thibodaux Remembered for His Dedication and Passion

If you ever met David Thibodaux in person, it didn't take long to learn that he was a man of conviction. He had strong beliefs on any number of topics and, as the saying goes, wouldn't stand behind the door to tell you what he thought. His wife of nearly 19 years, Melody Faul Thibodaux, talked about his passion for teaching, for doing his best for the Lafayette Parish School System, and for his children. "His kids were the apples of his eyes," she said. "They were always his first concern."

Dr. David Thibodaux died Saturday evening, March 24, after a motocycle accident. Thibodaux, 53, leaves behind five children, Ben, 31; Shannon, 28; Jeremy, 27; Claire, 15; and Rachel, 13. He also has one grandchild, Cole, who called him "Doc" and one grandchild on the way. Melody recalled that David would not propose to her until he had his children's blessings. "When he asked his three children if they thought he should propose to me, they said 'well it's taken you long enough,'" she remembered. "When he did propose, his children were there and they gave me the engagement ring. I thought I was planning a surprise birthday party for him, but really it ended up being a surprise engagement party for me."

Thibodaux's other great love was teaching. He taught English at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette for 25 years. During that time, he was an inspiration to many of his students. "I know many people who said they took his class and decided to become teachers because of him," Melody said. "He would say that teaching is the highest calling, it's about service, and that inspired so many of his students. His students always loved him and he loved, loved, loved teaching. He was phenomenal in the classroom."

Thibodaux earned an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL). Melody said he originally wanted to be a lawyer, but during a pre-law class, instead of just reporting on what a law was about, he analyzed it and argued with his professor about the merit of the law. "The professor told him he was supposed to report what the law stated. When David argued that the law was wrong, immoral, the professor told him he would never be a lawyer," she recalled. He received his master's degree in English from USL and his doctorate in English from Kansas State University.  He also authored two books: Political Correctness: The Cloning of the American Mind and Beyond Political Correctness: Are There Limits to this Lunacy.

His belief in service led Thibodaux to run for Congress, first in 1986, then again in 1990, 1996, and 2004. He wanted to make a difference. While his attempts to represent his community in Congress always fell short, he was able to express his passion for service to the Lafayette Parish School System for 12 years. During that time, Thibodaux was a staunch advocate for small class sizes, neighborhood schools, quality educational facilities, and higher achievement levels.

Some people might argue with him about his methods for raising awareness for these issues, but they couldn't argue that David didn't care. He cared about children of all ages and races. He argued vehemently that our schools were not segregated but simply representative of the neighborhoods in the school zones. He cared more about putting money in the classroom than worrying about a fund balance (savings). He strongly believed that the best way to care for and educate students was to put fewer students in each classroom (lowering the pupil-teacher ratio). By doing so, he believed students could learn better because they would get more attention from their teacher, thus improve achievement. He believed that students would learn better if they were in schools and classrooms that were up-to-date and well-maintained, or as he would say, "not falling apart." Just before his death, David was speaking with civic groups and anyone else who would listen about the schools system's need for newer facilities and the possibility of a tax or millage to fund new construction. On every issue, he wouldn't back down just because he was out-voted or unsuccessful. He was like the "little engine that could" trying to chug its way up the mountain saying "I think I can." In fact, when the media dubbed him "Dr. No" for voting against any issue that didn't support small class size, neighborhood schools, etc., he enthusiastically adopted the moniker to further demonstrate his conviction on issues about which he cared so much.

David Thibodaux will be missed as a board member, a professor, a friend, but mostly as a father and husband.   "He was a wonderful husband and a wonderful friend," Melody recalls.  "He gave me his undivided attention.  When we talked, he looked me in the eye, he listened to me.  He had a gift for making people feel important."  In his teaching, his work, his personal relationships, Melody said David was always trying to help people "see," understand, and learn.  Because of his belief in helping people, Melody donated his corneas so that, once again, David could help someone else to see.

The wake will be held from 2-10 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, at Martin & Castille Funeral Home on St. Landry.  Funeral services will be held at 9:30 a.m. at St. John's Cathedral.