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Dr. Steven Conrad and Walter Imahara are the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s 2020 Outstanding Alumni.
The Outstanding Alumni Award is the highest honor UL Lafayette gives to a former student. It recognizes professional and personal achievements that have brought honor and distinction to the University. Graduates and former students who attended no less than 10 years ago are eligible to receive this award.
Conrad, a physician, is credited with innovations that have improved care for critically ill patients. Imahara was UL Lafayette’s first Asian-American graduate and one of the most decorated athletes in University history.
The honorees “have done extraordinary things, both during and since their days on campus,” said John Claude Arceneaux, the Alumni Association’s interim executive director. “Both are deserving of this recognition and are exceptional ambassadors of the University.”
Conrad and Imahara received their awards during a reception held May 15 at the UL Lafayette Alumni Center. The Outstanding Alumni event usually coincides with Homecoming activities; the 2020 recognition was postponed in response to COVID-19.
Conrad graduated from the University in 1974 with bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry. He is a 1978 graduate of LSU School of Medicine. While in medical school, he also earned a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Louisiana Tech University. Later, he received a master’s degree in medical informatics and a doctorate in biomedical engineering, both from Case Western Reserve University.
He completed a fellowship in critical care medicine at the Mayo Clinic and joined the faculty of the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport in 1986.
He was the first formally trained intensivist, a specialist in the care of critically ill patients, in Shreveport. He established the Critical Care Medicine service at LSU Health Sciences Center as well as a fellowship training program in Critical Care Medicine, the first of its kind in Louisiana.
Conrad is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Ike Muslow Eminent Scholars Endowed Chair in Healthcare Informatics, the Pioneer Award from the Louisiana Society for Respiratory Care, Lifetime Senior membership in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Master Fellow of Critical Care Medicine from the American College of Critical Care Medicine.
Imahara earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture in 1960. He was the first Asian-American graduate in University history.
Imahara began weightlifting while a student at Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now UL Lafayette. He was a member of the team that captured the National Collegiate Weightlifting Championship in 1957. It was the first national championship in any sport in University history.
As a weightlifter at SLI, in the U.S. Army, and after his discharge, Imahara amassed nearly 200 regional, national and international titles between 1957 and 2005.
He is a six-time U.S. Senior National Weightlifting Champion, a world-record holder in Masters weightlifting and was a gold medalist at the 1967 Pan American Games. Imahara was chairman of both the USA Masters Weightlifting Federation and the International Weightlifting Federation Masters Committee.
He is the founding owner of Imahara’s Nursery and Landscape Co. in Baton Rouge and was president of the National Landscape Association, the Southern Nursery Association and the Louisiana Association of Nurserymen.
Imahara published his memoirs, “I Am an American: Japanese American, Asian Cajun,” in 2019. The book recalls his time at SLI and details Imahara and his family’s experiences while interned in a relocation camp during World War II.
Photo caption: Walter Imahara, second from left, and Dr. Steven Conrad, second from right, are the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s 2020 Outstanding Alumni. The honorees are joined by John Claude Arceneaux, left, interim executive director of the UL Lafayette Alumni Association, and Dr. Joseph Savoie, University president, during a May 15 reception at the Alumni Center. (Photo credit: Rachel Rafati / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)