One of the most heartwarming parts of watching a Southeastern football game in Strawberry Stadium is hearing, “that’s another lion.. FIRST DOWN.” Our current announcer, Mr. Paul Girard, comes to the fans live from the John A. Chauvin Press Box.
The renovated press box was officially dedicated to the late John A. Chauvin on May 17, 2014 honoring his long and passionate dedication to the radio broadcast of Southeastern football.
“When Southeastern decided to renovate some of Strawberry Stadium, including the press box and Victory Club, I got the idea. I contacted the school to see what would be involved in naming it after Dad,” said Nanette Guerin, daughter of Chauvin and dedicated SLU alumna. Guerin said that Chauvin had broadcasted more games in Strawberry Stadium than anyone else and was the first one to do it all. She thought that naming the press box after him would honor his decades of hard work. “Daddy would haul all of his broadcasting equipment up the slim and rickety, wooden steps to the make shift press box at the top. Sometimes he had the help of a kid or two or four, but he did it every weekend, often more than once for Hammond High games as well.”
When Guerin sought out the information, she was disheartened to learn that the naming fee would be about $500,000. She waved the idea before mentioning it to anyone else. A few months later she got a call from the Vice President of University Advancement, Wendy Lauderdale when she and Dr. John Crain were on their way to an awards reception for Robin Roberts. Roberts is a long-time family friend of the Chauvins because she worked for them during her time at Southeastern. Roberts heard the pitch about naming the press box for Mr. Chauvin and made a large and generous contribution. Lauderdale asked if the Chauvins could raise the rest of the $100,000. Guerin said they would figure it out, and after speaking with her six brothers and sisters, they surprised their mother, Frances, with the news.
“I really had no idea about any of the business for a long time,” said Mrs. Chauvin. “I remember when they told me, and they showed me a mock up picture of the stadium with his name across the top.”
Mrs. Chauvin said that broadcasting the Southeastern games was so important to John for many reasons. The Chauvins owned the local radio stations, WFPR and WHMD, from when they moved to Hammond in 1958 until 1996 when they sold them and retired. She said, “John went to the school, and asked to start broadcasting the games on our station, mainly because no one else was. He’d been announcing games for so long he was happy to do it.” Their son and current radio personality Johnny-in-the-Morning said that his father knew the importance of the relationships between the community, citizens and businesses and their hometown school. “He started out doing it for free and just got sponsors from businesses in the beginning. He just wanted the community to hear the games,” said Johnny.
Over the years he spent in Strawberry Stadium, Chauvin got to witness a lot of history. Johnny said that his dad, along with colorman Foots McCrory watched NFL star Terry Bradshaw play against the Lions when he was at LA Tech. They also announced many seasons of Brad Davis’s career at Hammond High. Davis would lead the Tornados to a record state championship before going on to play for LSU and the Atlanta Falcons.
“John was so dedicated to the games that he missed the birth of our fourth child, Steven, in 1960.” Mrs. Chauvin said, “I was in the delivery room and the doctors were actually listening to him because Southeastern was in the middle of a big game up in Ruston.”
Johnny said that he knew the press box dedication would eventually be successful when Robin Roberts got on board, considering her love for Mr. Chauvin. “Robin rode her bicycle down to our station one afternoon looking for a job and experience. She wanted to be a journalist so we set her up with an overnight DJ spot until she eventually started news and sports segments. John helped her with the sports though she didn’t need much, being an athlete for Southeastern,” Mrs. Chauvin recalled. Guerin said that her dad always let Southeastern students use the station to promote their clubs or have short segments for their organizations, as well.
Coming up with that final $100,000 took longer and was more work than the family originally thought they could tackle. “The seven siblings and our families did a lot but we opened it up to the public as well. Many family friends and community members put up donations, but toward the end we hit a wall and still had a little ways to go. Then I found out that someone had anonymously donated the rest of the goal, and SLU told us we were on track for the 2014 football season,” Guerin said.
In May of 2014, Robin Roberts was receiving an honorary doctorate from the Southeastern and was to speak at commencement. The morning before, she met the Chauvins on the field and announced that the new press box would be named the John A. Chauvin Press Box.
The Chauvin family took the field once again on September 9, 2014, before kickoff of the first home football game to officially dedicate it. “I remember when I was a cheerleader for Southeastern and I could look up and wave at Daddy, and now his name is right where he should be,” said Guerin. Johnny’s daughter, Chloe, had a similar opportunity – dancing in the stadium as a Lionette last year. He said, “The press box is a commemoration of his love and hard work every weekend for football and for Southeastern. It’s a legacy he left for the community and now we will always have the press box as a physical representation of it.”