Vitascope Hall


On July 26, 1896, the first movie theater in the United States opened at 623 Canal Street in New Orleans.  Admission to the 400-seat theater—basically a showroom fitted with a projector and filled with chairs—was 10 cents. For an additional dime, patrons were afforded a glimpse behind the curtain to see the innovative Edison Vitascope projector that converted still black and white photos into moving images up to a minute long.

Now, over a century later, Vitascope Hall has finally received an historic marker that commemorates the location where American theatre-goers got their first glimpses of the technology that added motion to pictures.

The marker project was the vision of film historians Ed and Sue Poole, who were assisted in their efforts by Hollywood veteran and author Linda Thurman. The marker was funded by New Orleans philanthropists Sandra and Russ Herman.

A preliminary unveiling of the marker took place on October 14, 2019, two days prior to the opening of New Orleans Film Festival. However, the permanent installation was unexpectedly delayed when it was determined that additional engineering studies were needed to ensure the integrity of the installation and the infrastructure beneath.

Recognizing the significance of this part of history, Louisiana-based engineer Paul Flower of Woodward Design and Build offered to orchestrate the design and installation of the marker on a pro bono basis. The installation was completed at the corner of Canal St. and Exchange Place on June 15, 2020.

To learn more about The Vitascope Hall, click here.

Sandra Thompson Herman


When a career includes the design and direction of a Louisiana state department, a bid for Secretary of State, founding and running a successful oil industry trucking company and serving three terms as executive director of a multi-million dollar government project, it is certainly a testament of endurance and accomplishment. When that career was launched in the 1970s by a female in male-dominated industries, it is unprecedented. For Sandra Thompson Herman, that nearly four-decade journey has been extensively documented in writings, photographs and additional materials, a collection that now holds a place amidst historic documents in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Edith Garland Dupré Library.

That journey, which began in the 1970s, included the design of Louisiana’s Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in 1975, which the young visionary led from 1976 through 1978. In 1979, she became the first woman to run for Louisiana’s secretary of state, defeated by a narrow margin. In 1980, the adventurous businesswoman embraced the state’s oil boom, launching a trucking company to serve the industry. Over the next 15 years, she grew the business from a small fleet of three trucks to 12, serving parishes throughout south Louisiana. She returned to state government in 1996, serving three terms as executive director of the Atchafalaya Basin Program–two under Governor Mike Foster and a third under Governor Kathleen Blanco. For all of these accomplishments to have been achieved by a female in male dominated industries was unprecedented.

“This donation celebrates a trailblazer who paved the way for the future of women in government,” said Governor John Bel Edwards in a statement issued prior to the ceremony. “It’s quite fitting that these papers will be housed in conjunction with the university’s Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center. Hopefully it will inspire young women to seek a career in public service.”

The donation ceremony took place in the university’s Alumni Center. It included remarks from the university’s President Dr. E. Joseph Savoie, Department of Communications Associate Professor Dr. Dedria Givens-Carroll, the library’s Head of Special Collections Zachary Stein and several of Herman’s former colleagues and employees.

The donation ceremony was followed by a presentation to the university of a $25,000 Sandra Thompson Herman Endowed Scholarship in Communications by Mrs. Herman and her husband, Russ. The first scholarship will be awarded to in May of 2020 to a scholar who is passionate about policy, service, and leadership. 

Kim Bergeron


In 2019, New Orleans Saints fans struggled with roller coasters of emotion when the infamous referee “no call” led to the Saints being eliminated as Super Bowl Championship contenders. The Saints Nation took to social media to express outrage and pleas with the City of New Orleans to host a parade in honor of the Saints’ tremendous season, despite its untimely ending. Moreover, they wanted the event held on Super Bowl Sunday in protest of the call and what followed.

Recognizing that the logistics and costs of a parade in these circumstances made it an unlikely possibility, Club of New Orleans member Kim Bergeron proposed, and ultimately was approved, to present an alternative option. With just five days from permit to promotion and execution, the resulting “Blackout & Gold Second Line” made headline news around the world and brought much-needed catharsis to more than 30,000 Saints fans who participated, plus many more who watched and commented on the live stream from throughout the U.S. and countries around the world. “Cheated, Not Defeated” was the theme and fans showed the world that the true marks of champions are not how they fall but how they rise. See the story and worldwide media coverage here: