‘I guess I’m president?’

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May 27, 2014 8:45 AM

Becky Desporte

Cowen and Desporte
Becky Desporte helps Tulane President Scott Cowen prepare to leave office on June 30. She has served as his executive secretary since his first day on campus 16 years ago. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Editor’s Note: In this series of articles, colleagues and friends of Tulane University President Scott Cowen write a remembrance of their work with him. Becky Desporte has served a executive secretary to the president since his first day on campus.

I still have the handwritten fax message that Scott sent the morning of July 1, 1998, with the subject line “I guess I’m president?” That day was the beginning of my 16-year journey with Scott as his executive secretary and one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

My best memories begin the first day he was in the president’s office when he walked around the suite in his socks, knowing that gesture would put his new staff at ease.

One of my favorites is the little known fact that for many years Scott hand-signed 2,000 diplomas for commencement. I had to nag him during this annual ritual because he truly believed the registrar’s office gave us an early deadline just to trick him.

Another memory was when the team lived in Houston in a high-rise apartment building following Hurricane Katrina, and I had my two Yorkies, Milo and Lola, with me.

On more occasions than I care to remember, the elevator doors would open on our floor and there would stand Scott and Gibson, his beloved, well-behaved golden retriever. Since the elevator became their new territory, my dogs would go berserk barking and snarling as they tried to protect me. Scott still loves to jokingly remind me, and others, that I owned the worst-behaved Katrina evacuee dogs of anyone in the building.

My favorite of Scott’s playful moments in the office was when he received a remote-controlled truck as a gift, and he crashed it into the closed door where Yvette Jones (executive vice president for university relations and development) was holding a meeting. Of course before disrupting them, we checked to see who was in that meeting, and the group’s reaction turned out to be really funny.

Finally, if you were to ask Scott about me, he would tell you that no one in the world makes a better cup of tea! These 16 years have been an amazing adventure, and I know there will be occasions in the future when I’ll smile for no apparent reason as I reflect on the “Scott and me” years at Tulane.