- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - LSU’s Golden Girls are not just 16 coeds who dance at football games.

Since the first one stepped on the field of Tiger Stadium in 1959 as part of the LSU Ballet Corps Dance Line, they’ve been an exceptional group of young women who have gone on to some pretty impressive careers. They are business owners, educators, policy advisers, pharmacists, even a fashion designer.

And 27 of them recently got together for their annual reunion at the home of Kim Dodd. They shared memories with each other and with the 2016-2017 line. They also welcomed graduating team members Elizabeth Babin, of Baton Rouge, who captained last year’s dance team, and Karlee Jones, of Pineville, into the alumnae fold.

“It’s unlike anything else,” said Babin, a biochemistry major who is headed to LSU medical school in New Orleans. “To be a part of Tiger Band and the Golden Girls is so special . I figure I met 31 girls through the four years I was a Golden Girl. It’s something you can only understand if you’ve been in it.”

“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” added Jones, who graduated with a degree in communication disorders and plans to teach. “It taught me how to be a true friend, to be part of something bigger than you . we were part of LSU.”

Glenda Lofton and Shirley Lichtenstein, both of Baton Rouge, were among the first group of Golden Girls who took the field at Tiger Stadium in 1959 and have remained friends throughout the years. In fact, Lichtenstein was in Lofton’s wedding. A third original Golden Girl, Dale Norred, of Houma, also joined the reunion gathering.

The Golden Girls were started by then band director Thomas Tyra. They were called the LSU Ballet Corps Dance Line until 1965.

“I remember the headline in the Morning Advocate, ‘Ballerinas to make debut at LSU,’ ” recalled Lofton. “We stood on the 20-yard line and the stadium announcer introduced us as 16 of the South’s prettiest girls.”

“We were in Life magazine with the football team because LSU had won the National Championship the year before,” added Norred, who did not intend to try out for the ballet corps but ended up there after getting lost on her way to meet a fellow student. “We were also in Sports Illustrated.”

Lichtenstein was first a member of LSU’s majorettes, known as the Tigerettes, but with twirlers on their way out, she auditioned for the newly formed dance line.

“I was one of four Baton Rouge girls that got in,” she recalled. “It was a wonderful experience . it gives you a sense of belonging.”

After graduating, all three of these former Golden Girls became teachers. Lofton got her doctorate in secondary education and, after several years in the classroom, eventually retired from the state Department of Education. Lichtenstein, who taught and retired as a school librarian, has three advanced degrees from LSU. Norred started out in the classroom before she went to work for an oilfield rental company and later for the Terrebonne Consolidated Government.

“Some of my very best friends today are my friends from Golden Girls,” Pamela Matassa told the newest Golden Girls. Matassa majored in mass communications and theater and today works as the marketing manager for GMFS Mortgage Lenders. She also is on the committee that selects the Golden Girls.

A friend got high school twirler and drum major Connie Cambré, of LaPlace, to try out for Golden Girls in 1968. After graduation, she had a 27-year career as an educator.

Fellow Golden Girl Suzanne Minville, of Reserve, found out about tryouts for the line from her cousin, Smokie Bourgeois of Baton Rouge, who was dating a Golden Girl at the time.

“She encouraged me to try out,” says Minville, who not only taught school but, because of her Golden Girl experience, became the choreographer for the St. John the Baptist Sugar Queen Pageant.

Andie Schexnayder, of Destrehan, was the team captain for the Golden Girls in her senior year. Now retired from her career as a financial adviser, she dances with the Pelican Dance Team.

Another captain, Tari Smith Trosclair, is the owner of Tari’s School of Dance in Baton Rouge. Those who don’t make the line often come to her for instruction before trying out again.

Golden Girl Suzanne Perron graduated from LSU with a degree in fashion design and went on to work for fashion icons Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera before returning home to New Orleans and opening her own design business. Even with all those accomplishments, she’s still introduced as a one-time LSU Golden Girl .

“It’s the most amazing thing I did at LSU,” she said.

“We’re an elite group of ladies,” said Bonnie Baker Richardson, of Baton Rouge, a former Allstar Teacher of the Year. “Some thought we were airheads, but we’re all so very intelligent and humble. Being a Golden Girl was a most wonderful, thrilling experience.”

“Being a Golden Girl is who you have been and who you’ll be,” said Dodd, a former team captain who is president of the Golden Girl alumnae and serves as a senior policy advisor for the Louisiana Senate. “It’s what brought you here.”


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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