Activists of the Year
St. Charles Avenue magazine is proud to present its Activists of the Year 2012: Herschel Abbot Jr., Dr. Scott Cowen, Dana Hansel, Betsy Nalty, Dottie Reese and Greg Rusovich. By honoring these six locals, we're honoring the gifts of their time, their efforts, and their energies that they have given to our city.
Balancing leadership positions in a wide variety of organizations is a complicated act, but long-time activist Dana Hansel makes it look effortless. She sums up her commitment to bettering the city quite simply: “Those who can, should.”
Hansel’s civic involvement began during her childhood in Monroe. Being the only girl among four brothers, she had an independent spirit. Her ability to multi-task was apparent even as a teenager, when she juggled numerous school activities with academics and graduated as her high school’s valedictorian. Hansel credits her hard-working parents for her drive. “[They] fostered independence, responsibility and ownership,” she notes.
Hansel has been the model of responsibility as a New Orleanian. Amidst a successful 20-year career, including running investor relations at a top-ranked national bank and heading commercial lending at a local bank, her civic engagement never wavered. Even when she launched a consulting company, HBK LLC, nearly two years ago, she remained dedicated to a plethora of efforts, and has chaired numerous fundraisers in the city including “Art In Bloom,” “Soul Revival,” the Saks Fifth Avenue “Key to the Cure” and many more.
In all of her work, Hansel prefers a hands-on approach. “Whether it be through my work as a Sunday school teacher or working with the Young Leadership Council, I love mentoring,” she beams. “I love guiding and working with people to envision a better future and then developing strategies to achieve those goals.”
Through Hansel’s passion for mentoring, she hopes to inspire a new generation of activists in New Orleans. “You’re only going to get out what you put in, and don’t be afraid to go take some risks and try things,” she advises those looking to forge a similar path. Hansel has a “pay it forward” philosophy that reminds her to always be thankful for what she has and to share those things with those less fortunate.
Even though her list of accomplishments is long and growing, Hansel easily pinpoints her proudest moment. “It was when my youngest stepson was giving the address at his high school graduation,” she recalls. “Seeing him grow from a child into a mature, balanced, smart, humorous man was warming inside.” Family has always been Hansel’s priority, and through her activism, she has extended that nurturing attitude to the entire city of New Orleans.
Bridge House, Queen Cochon XIII
Cystic Fibrosis Leadership Award
CityBusiness, Top Women in the Community
Men of Fashion, Prix d’Elegance Award
Young Leadership Council, Role Model and Honorary Role Model
Past and Present Organizations
Art Council of New Orleans, former board member
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans
Contemporary Arts Center, former board member
Council for a Better Louisiana, graduate of Leadership Louisiana program
Dress for Success, former vice president
Junior League of New Orleans
Katrina Krewe, treasurer
Krewe of Muses, former treasurer and membership co-chair
Louisiana Museum Foundation, president
Louisiana State University Department of Psychiatry Advisory Council
Emeril Lagasse Dinner co-chair and member
Make-A-Wish Foundation, former board member
Metairie Park Country Day, major gifts committee chair
Metropolitan Leadership Forum, graduate
National Small Business Administration Advisory Council
Neighborhood Housing Services, former board member
New Orleans Botanical Garden Foundation, board member
New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, former board member
New Orleans Museum of Art Volunteer Committee
Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, former board member
United Way, former board member and United Way Women’s Leadership, board member
Women of the Storm
Women of Trinity Church, president
World Trade Center, former board member
Young Leadership Council, former president
Herschel Abbot Jr.
Herschel Abbott is a history buff. Whether he’s discussing his hero Winston Churchill or chairing a board meeting for the National World War II Museum, his penchant for commemorating the past fuels his drive to shape a better future.
“It is the indisputable fact that Churchill stood alone, and he rallied Britain to fight on when it was fighting on alone.” This dedication is apparent in all of Abbott’s work and is partly a product of his extensive law firm experience (he’s currently Special Counsel at Jones Walker).
Having grown up in Monroe and lived in multiple cities, Abbott is quick to call New Orleans home. “I fell in love with the city when I attended Tulane University – the people and the attitude toward life. It’s the only place I’d want to live.” Fortunately for New Orleans, he conveys this love through his involvement in a variety of organizations.
Among those organizations is St. Thomas Community Medical Center. “We do a lot of good in the community, and we’ve been able to provide medical care for people who would not otherwise receive it,” Abbott shares. “With the help of other organizations, we provide specialty care. That gives me a real source of pride and accomplishment.”
Abbott also has a passion for education and serves on the board for Dillard University. “What we’ve been able to at Dillard since Hurricane Katrina is nothing short of a miracle, and I’m very excited to be working with the new president [Walter Kimbrough].” Much of Abbott’s work in education has been in the museum sector. Though he began his board chairmanship of the National World War II Museum last year, he has been involved with the institution for over a decade.
It is obvious that New Orleans is grateful for Abbott’s many contributions; in 2011, he was honored as Rex – a role he undertook with his usual gusto. Working with so many organizations, Abbott is bound to face some obstacles, but his attitude keeps him moving forward. “Go around them,” he asserts. “Better to ask forgiveness than to beg permission.”
There is one particular person from whom he seeks forgiveness. “The key ingredient to my activism is my patient and long-suffering wife,” he notes. It seems Abbott has trouble saying ‘no’ to civic commitments. “I have been very fortunate in life, and all of us have an obligation to pay back the community we live in.”
Boy Scouts, Distinguished Citizens Award
Holy Cross College, SPES Utica Award
New Orleans Bar Association, President’s Award
The Times-Picayune, Loving Cup
Past and Present Organizations (selection)
Bach Consort, board member
Baptist Community Ministries, board chair
Blanchette Rockefeller Neuroscience Foundation, board member
Board of Governors of Tulane Medical Center, former board chair
Bureau of Governmental Research, board member
Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, former board chair
Council for a Better Louisiana, regional vice president
The Dean’s Council of Tulane Law School, board member
Dillard University, board member
Family Service of Greater New Orleans, former capital campaign chairman
Governor of Society of Colonial Wars, deputy lieutenant
Governors of Tulane University Medical Center, former board chair
Holy Cross College President’s Advisory Board, member
Lambeth House Foundation, former board chair and current board member
Louisiana Museum Foundation, board member
Metropolitan Crime Commission, board member
Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem in the Grand Priory of America, bailiff/chancellor
National World War II Museum, board chair
The President’s Council of Tulane University, board member
Southeast Louisiana Council, Boy Scouts of America, former chair
St. Thomas Community Health Center, board chair
Tulane Shakespeare Festival, board member
Vestry of Christ Church Cathedral, senior warden
WYES-TV, former board chair and current chairman of the search committee
There is an undeniable spark in Dottie Reese’s eyes. Every time she talks about a cause she believes in, you can see the brilliant flicker – and it’s contagious.
“I believe in collective responsibility,” she shares. “Everyone has a responsibility to do something within their community to make it better. We all have to do something more than go home after a day of work and say, ‘Somebody should take care of that,’ and always look to somebody else to do it. We are the somebodies.”
Reese works with organizations that span support for breast cancer survivors, mentorship for young women and education for the community – all which she balances gracefully with DMM Associates, a consulting company she co-founded to improve performance in organizations. Behind her award-winning work in health care and social justice is a passion for fostering wellness, equity and opportunity in New Orleans.
Currently she serves as board chair for the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, where the mission is to empower minorities through economic development. “There is a lot of money that’s coming into New Orleans with the rebuild of the city, and we need to focus on making sure that people in New Orleans are a part of the workforce and that they can make a living wage.”
To achieve this harmony in the city, Reese believes in the power of education, be it through the organizations such as Susan G. Komen, International Women’s Forum, the Crescent City Chapter of Links, and the YWCA. Reese recalls a recent Links project, “We had an international cultural awareness day with about 800 school children. We borrowed the big global balloon from the Children’s Museum and the Ashe Cultural Center loaned artifacts from Kenya and the Honorary Consul of South Africa provided artifacts from South Africa. It is so important in the enrichment of children to help them to see other cultures; the curiosity that gets piqued is wonderful.”
After long days of balancing community service with her consulting business, Reese enjoys coming home and cooking with her husband, Judge Kern Reese. “My family comes first and we support each other in all the things that we do.”
Yet, when each new day dawns, Reese springs back into action. “I still work for and believe in the equity and the parity for minorities and we have made wonderful strides, but there is still so much work that has to be done.”
City of New Orleans, Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Service as an Influential Woman
Data News, Trailblazer Award
National Association of Social Workers – New Orleans Chapter, Dorothy Schenthal Leadership Award
New Orleans Council for Community and Justice, Weiss Award
New Orleans Medical Association Excellence in Health Care, Humanitarian and Community Service Award
Louisiana Health Care, Social Worker of the Year
Susan G. Komen Foundation, Cameo Award for Distinguished Leadership and Outstanding Service
YWCA, Role Model
Past and Present Organizations
African American Women of Purpose and Power
Crescent City Chapter of Links
French Market Corporation, board member
Human Relations Commission – City of New Orleans
International Women’s Forum
Jack and Jill of America, former president
Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors
Parkway Partners, board member
Sugar Bowl Committee
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, former president
Tulane University School of Social Work, alumni board member
Upper Pontalba Restoration Corporation, board chair
Urban League of Greater New Orleans, board chair
Dr. Scott Cowen
“What I love the best about New Orleans is the resilience and character of the people,” says Dr. Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University. “It is the only city in the country that can lay claim to its own music, food, language, architecture and pace of life.”
A native of Metuchen, N.J., Cowen made the move to New Orleans in 1998 to accept the position of president of Tulane University. During his tenure, Newsweek has twice named Tulane as one of the “Hottest School in America”, and TIME magazine has named Cowen one of the nation’s “Top 10 Best College Presidents.” All those recognitions are great, but Cowen says his proudest accomplishment is helping Tulane rebuild and reimagine itself after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and the role it plays in rebuilding New Orleans.
Pre-Katrina, Tulane had a long tradition of service to the New Orleans community. However, after Katrina, community engagement became a core mission of the university. Tulane became the first and only major research university in the country to require their students to complete a public service curriculum through which they apply the knowledge and skills they learn in the classroom to helping New Orleans recover.
“The hardworking students, faculty and staff at Tulane inspire me every day by their commitment to our community,” Cowen says. “They are my heroes.”
Currently, Cowen is working on a university-wide effort called Tulane Empowers, where academics and action are being united to engage with the community at large with the goal of helping the community by empowering others to help build a better world. The knowledge, passion and resources of Tulane’s students, faculty and staff are used to address problems related to inadequate education, poverty, lack of opportunity, access to medical care and many other societal ills. Cowen also focuses his efforts in helping to improve the New Orleans Kindergarten through 12th grade educational system through the Bring New Orleans Back Commission and the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives.
Although working and serving the community are activities Cowen likes to do best, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Marjorie Cowen, his four adult children and four grandchildren. In his spare time, Cowen also likes to read and fish.
Gambit, New Orleanian of the Year
CityBusiness, 30 “Driving Forces” in New Orleans in the last 30 years
TIME magazine, one of the nation’s Top 10 Best College Presidents
Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award
The Times-Picayune, Loving Cup
Honorary degrees from: Brown University, Yeshiva University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Notre Dame and Case Western Reserve University
Past and Present Organizations
Bring New Orleans Back Commission
New Orleans Redevelopment Authority
Southeast Regional Airport Authority
New Orleans Public Belt Railroad
Fleur-de-lis Ambassadors Program
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Council on Education
White House Council for Community Solutions
Association of American Universities, chair
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Council of Higher Education Accreditation
University of Notre Dame, board member
National Merit Scholarship Corporation
The shipping business is in Greg Rusovich’s blood, and pulsing through those same veins is his constant love for the city of New Orleans. Born and raised in the Big Easy, Rusovich is involved in numerous civic endeavors and dedicates his civic efforts toward post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans recovery and reform issues.
“After Katrina, I had a choice to put up or shut up,” he says. “[New Orleans] was either going to live or die, and I chose to do my part in helping the community that I love rebuild and reform.”
Currently, Rusovich is diligently working on increasing economic development through Greater New Orleans Inc., bringing a daily newspaper to New Orleans, reforming and enhancing the criminal justice system and expanding trade in the region, especially the Port of New Orleans.
Through Rusovich’s association with the Metropolitan Crime Commission, the New Orleans Crime Coalition and the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, he assisted with improving and developing a better criminal justice system that’s prosecuting and convicting more violent offenders.
Rusovich says he wants to make New Orleans a better and safer place to live and work, but social factors also play an important part in making that happen.
“Jump in and make a difference because there’s still work to be done,” he says.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in political science from Tulane University, Rusovich joined Transoceanic Shipping Company in 1981. There he devised and implemented the company’s strategy in launching 25 international offices. The Transoceanic group drew the interest of some of the globe’s largest logistics firms, and the company was acquired by Agility, previously PWC of Kuwait, in 2005. Rusovich now serves as the chief executive officer of Transoceanic Trading and Development Company, a firm dedicated to connecting U.S. companies with global partners and buyers.
Throughout his many professional successes, Rusovich says he gains the most satisfaction from his loving family. “I take most pride in being a father and husband,” he says.
When time permits, Rusovich enjoys vacationing in Longboat Key, Fla., with his wife, Suzanne, their two sons, Colin and Nicholas, and their dog, Apache, and cat, Choctaw. An avid football and basketball fan, Rusovich keeps his mind and body strong by going to the gym daily.
Junior Achievement, Hall of Fame
Family Services, Ten Outstanding Persons
Propeller Club, Maritime Man of the Year
CityBusiness, Driving Forces Award
Crimestoppers, George Loker Community Service Award
Honorary Life Member Award Recipient, World Trade Club of Greater New Orleans
Ernst & Young, Entrepreneur of the Year Award
Young Leadership Council, Role Model Award
Past and Present Organizations
New Orleans Convention Visitors Bureau, chair-elect
Greater New Orleans, Inc., chair-elect and executive committee member; co-chair of International Trade Sector
Regional Business Council Coalition
Port of New Orleans, board of commissioners member
New Orleans Business Council, executive committee member and immediate past chair
New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, board and executive committee member
Metairie Park Country Day School, trustee
Metropolitan Convention Visitors Bureau, board member
Metropolitan Crime Commission, chairman
New Orleans Crime Coalition, past chairman and executive committee member
Young Leadership Council, past president
Anative of New Orleans, Betsy Nalty says she was inspired by her parents and her late husband to lead a life of volunteerism and community activism.
“They encouraged me to make a difference by instilling in me the value of sharing and having concern for the well being of others,” Nalty says.
After receiving an education at the Louise S. McGehee School in 1960, Nalty would later return to become the honorary centennial chair of the school’s 100th anniversary celebration. The mission of The Louise S. McGehee School is to provide a rigorous college preparatory education to girls in an inclusive environment that fosters self-esteem, encourages high personal standards, addresses individual student needs and emphasizes active student participation in learning. She is also a lifetime member of the school’s board of directors, a role that she balances with her many other civic commitments. Currently, Nalty is assisting with the development of educational programs for the Ethics Review Board of New Orleans.
“What makes me most proud is the feeling of having done a job to the best of my ability with the hope of leaving whatever the task, greater than it was when I became involved,” she says.
But Nalty cannot do it alone. She calls on others in the community to stand up and get involved by reaching out and making a difference.
“Look around yourself and see what’s there or what’s not there,” she says. “Seek out opportunities because there is great reward and satisfaction in volunteerism.”
Even with all her civic accomplishments, Nalty says that she’s most proud of raising her four children Donald, Morgan, Helen and Elizabeth. When she has free time, Nalty enjoys spending time with her nine grandchildren, listening to classical music, taking long walks, going to pilates class and visiting with friends.
“I’m just plain ole Betsy Nalty,” she humbly says.
Young Leadership Council, Role Model
Garden Club of America Zone IX, Creative Leadership Award
Junior League of New Orleans, Sustainer Award
Institute for Higher Understanding, Ten Outstanding Persons
St. Elizabeth’s Guild, Beautiful Activist
Past and Present Organizations
Edward G. Schlieder Education Foundation, president
Ethics Review Board City of New Orleans, vice chair
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, executive committee member
Ogden Museum of Southern Art, executive committee member
Greater New Orleans Foundation, executive committee member
Louisiana Endowment For the Humanities, executive committee member
Louisiana State University Health Science Department of Psychiatry Advisory Board, member
Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, board and executive committee member
Hermann Grima/Gallier Historic Houses, board member
Louise S. McGehee School, chair and board member
Junior League of New Orleans, former president
New Orleans Town Gardeners, former president
Garden Club of America, chair