Raymond 'Coach' Blanco, Kathleen Blanco's husband and UL legend, dies
Raymond Blanco, the husband of the late former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and a University of Louisiana at Lafayette legend, died Saturday. He was 87.
Blanco, who was known by all as "Coach," worked at the university 46 years before retiring in 2009, leaving a legacy of loyalty to the school and students. He joined the university as an assistant football coach, but later served as dean of students and finally vice president for student affairs.
But he would also forever be connected with his wife Kathleen, Louisiana's only woman governor. She served from 2004-2008 and died in 2019 after a long battle with cancer.
They were married 54 years and had six children.
"Coach" helped navigate his wife's political career, and his astuteness in the arena led to his own induction into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame in 2019.
Shortly before she died, Kathleen Blanco told USA Today Network that her husband "was always my biggest cheerleader."
"We had a lot of fun together," she said.
Blanco actually hired current UL President Joseph Savoie in 1978 as an assistant dean of student personnel.
Savoie provided the following statement about "Coach" Saturday.
"Coach Blanco once said that students were among his best friends – and our students never had a better friend, or fiercer advocate, than Raymond Blanco. His devotion to their success and his belief in social justice created a legacy that remains deeply rooted in our University’s culture.
"Those of us who worked for and with 'Coach' heard him say many times that it was a moral obligation to listen to students and to respond to their concerns with fairness and kindness.
"While there are hundreds of stories about his larger-than-life exuberance and escapades, there are just as many tales of quiet mentorship and guidance. In dorm rooms and locker rooms, in his living room and kitchen, he sat with students and simply listened.
"He treated them as if they were his own, and offered counsel grounded in a definite sense of right and wrong. He connected with students as individuals who deserved attention and respect. He listened with his ears and heard them with his heart."
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said "Coach" made a lasting impression on him.
"The son of immigrants and a devout Catholic, Coach believed in social justice and educational opportunities for all, passions he shared with his late wife Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco," Edwards said in a statement. "He was Louisiana’s first, and so far only, 'First Gentleman,' but he’d be the first to tell you that he won’t be the last.
"A legend in his own right, 'Coach' led countless teams to victory before moving to an administrative role at his beloved University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His love for this state and devotion to his wife and family were effervescent. I will forever cherish his quick wit and sage counsel – as well as his recipe for the perfect Old Fashioned."
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1