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UL Lafayette mourns First Lady and ‘greatest cheerleader,’ Gail Savoie

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is mourning the loss of its First Lady.

Gail Heinbach Savoie, the wife of UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie, passed away on Sunday, June 12, 2022, following an extended illness. She was 67 years old.

In a statement to the campus, Dr. Savoie remembered his wife of 44 years as, “a proud ambassador for her alma mater” and its “greatest cheerleader.”

“My family and I are grateful for your thoughts of support at this difficult time,” Savoie said. “Gail loved her University family, and so do we.”

A native of Sulphur, she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now UL Lafayette, in 1977. She taught at St. Ignatius School in Grand Coteau, and at St. Antoine and Woodvale elementary schools in Lafayette. She was also a gifted artist and animal advocate.

While a student at the University, she was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority and was a cheerleader. She retained an enduring connection with her Tri-Delt sisters and to Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics throughout her lifetime.

In a 2008 interview, Savoie recalled the instant connection she felt to the University that she would later serve as First Lady.

“I remember my first time walking on this campus at orientation. I could not believe that people would actually look at you in the face, smile and say, ‘Hi,’ and they didn’t know who the heck you were. I had never experienced that and it was just great. I knew I had found home. I didn’t want to be anywhere else and, to this day, you can walk on this campus and still have that same feeling of acceptance,” Savoie said.

“The hospitality here is just so incredible. I don’t know of another place like it.”

Following her husband’s investiture as president of UL Lafayette in 2008, Savoie became the University’s First Lady. Her spirited and warm personality made her perfectly suited for the role.

As First Lady, she served as a local, state and national ambassador for her alma mater. She was a fixture at University activities and athletic events, and regularly was a judge for the annual Paint the Town Red contest during Homecoming week. Every year, she hosted multiple events at the President’s House for the campus and Lafayette communities. Her favorite was Sneaux Day during the holiday season.

“I really and truly feel honored and blessed to be an ambassador for the University. To have a part in working to support UL Lafayette is exciting to me because the University gave me so much,” Savoie said in 2008.

She was a graduate of Sulphur High School, where she was also a cheerleader. There, at age 16, she met and began dating Joseph “T-Joe” Savoie, who was also a student at Sulphur High. Their courtship continued while both were pursuing degrees at USL. They married on Aug. 12, 1977.

In addition to her husband, Gail Savoie is survived by her children, Blaire Savoie and Adam Savoie; a granddaughter, Addison Marie Saulnier; a brother, Clay Heinbach and his wife, Paula; and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

Funeral arrangements are pending under the direction of Delhomme Funeral Home in Lafayette. The University will share service information on its website and through its social media channels when it becomes available.

In lieu of flowers, the Savoie family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Savoie Family Endowed Scholarship Fund, c/o the UL Lafayette Foundation, P.O. Box 44290, Lafayette, LA 70504.