Former educator Bourgeois died Monday

Tommy Bourgeois Sr.

By JEAN L. KAESS jkaess@daily-review.com

Former principal and coach Tommy Bourgeois Sr., 55, died Monday after an extended battle with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Bourgeois was a teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal and principal during his 32 year career as an educator. His career included 11 years of service at Berwick High School and 12 years at Berwick Junior High School. He also served at Bayou Vista Elementary, J.B. Maitland Elementary and Central Catholic High School during his career.
As a high school teacher and coach, Bourgeois served as a motivator and strategically skillful guide for many baseball, basketball and football teams, including the Berwick High basketball state runner-up team in 1994 and football playoff team in 1996.
Two men from the 1996 team — Cody Adams, a lineman, and Aaron Ribardi, a quarterback — began a drive in 2013 to name the circle drive in front of Berwick Junior High in Bourgeois’ honor.
“He always pushed us so hard and made sure that whenever we failed, he picked us up,” Adams said during the dedication ceremony in July.
Bourgeois himself issued a written statement on the occasion: “I don’t think anyone ever expects this kind of recognition at the end of their career. If you are truly teaching for the right reasons, you hope you get one or two students to come back and thank you for helping them academically or socially as your reward. Words cannot express how humbled I am from the outpouring of love and support I have received from students past and present, colleagues, parents, and the community of Berwick as a whole.”
Berwick Junior High Acting Principal Teresa Bagwell said the school community is mourning the passing of its “beloved principal, Mr. Tommy Bourgeois … No other group of students and teachers were more loved, cared for, and guided to succeed than those under Mr. Bourgeois’ leadership. To some, being a principal is just a job, but to Mr. Bourgeois it was a calling to lead hundreds of students on a path of choosing to do ‘the right thing, with the right attitude’.”
Bagwell said it is her hope that current and former students and faculty will honor Bourgeois’ memory by “living a life that is considerate of others, courageous in the face of adversity, and one in which they always strive to be better today than yesterday.”
St. Mary Schools Superintendent Donald Aguillard said via email this morning that the St. Mary Parish School System is saddened by Bourgeois’ death.
“I have had the pleasure of working closely with Mr. Bourgeois for the past 10 years. I am humbled by the strong love exhibited by Mr. Bourgeois for the children attending Berwick Junior High. Tommy never stopped thinking about additional ways to challenge his students to achieve greater success. Incrementally, BJHS has been on a trajectory to become an ‘A’ rated school under the careful watch and instructional leadership of Mr. Bourgeois. Tommy continued working each day as the BJHS principal long after others might have chosen to remain away on medical leave. I know that he felt his determination and personal battle with a terrible disease was an important lesson for BJHS students. Berwick Junior High owes an enormous debt of gratitude for the good deeds performed by Mr. Thomas Bourgeois during his tenure as principal.”

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