Cavell replacing LeJeune as EDW athletic director
Wed. January 29, 2014 at 10:16 a.m. | By Chris Singleton/Staff Writer
Mary Cavell (left) will take over the athletic director's role at E.D. White Catholic from Preston LeJeune (right) starting next school year. (Photo by Chris Singleton/Staff )
Mary Cavell remembers her first few years as E.D. White Catholic's volleyball coach.
When she took over the volleyball program in 1991, she faced the challenge of building a team that rarely experienced success.
It took some time for it to get going, but when times were difficult in the beginning, Cavell said she turned to longtime E.D. White athletic director and football coach Preston LeJeune for guidance.
"He just said, ‘Mary, it's going to come. Just continue to show the girls how much you love what you're doing, and it's going to fall into place,'" Cavell said. "I'll always remember those words."
Cavell's program eventually fell into place like LeJeune predicted. In over two decades, she has guided the Lady Cardinals to nine state volleyball championship match appearances with one state title in 2008. E.D. White has finished as state runner-up in each of the last two seasons.
Cavell is now preparing to take over a role held for the last 22 years by her mentor LeJeune.
E.D. White announced on Jan. 17 that LeJeune will step down as athletic director at the end of the current school year. He will retain his role as advancement director.
Cavell will officially become the new athletic director for the 2014-15 school year.
Cavell, a mathematics teacher and coach at E.D. White for the last 30 years, said she has worked under two athletic directors in her time at E.D. White in LeJeune and former E.D. White cross country/track and field coach Eddie Cole, and she credits both for molding her into the coach and teacher she is today.
"Preston was just such an inspiration to me, and also a great mentor," Cavell said. "Both of them (LeJeune and Cole) were outstanding role models as individuals. They were athletic directors who guided you, but gave you the freedom to do what you wanted to do within your sport. I want to be able to carry that on."
LeJeune, who has spent the last 35 years working in athletics at E.D. White including 23 years as head football coach, said he decided it was time to move on. He thanked E.D. White administrators, teachers, athletes, coaches, parents and Cardinal Club members for their support of the athletic program through the years.
"I've seen a million ball games. Now I can say when I go to a ball game, it is because I want to go, not because I have to supervise it," he said. "It's been good. I've enjoyed everything I've done. I think it's just a time in my life where I've had enough of it and just want to move on."
LeJeune said he is happy to pass the athletic director torch on to Cavell, who has held various coaching roles at E.D. White including head volleyball and tennis coach. She has also coached soccer, basketball and track coach. Cavell has also served on Louisiana High School Athletic Association executive board and state volleyball committees.
"I think Mary is going to do an excellent job," LeJeune said. "She has served on several committees with the LHSAA, which I've never done. I think she's going to do fine. I think it's going to be a good move for the athletic department. I'm going to give her all the support I can give her. She knows I'm a phone call away if she has any questions concerning eligibility or whatever. Anything I could help her with."
E.D. White president David Boudreaux said LeJeune has been a valuable part of the school's athletic program.
As head football coach, LeJeune's teams had a 69 percent winning percentage. He coached four undefeated teams, won 11 district championships and beat archrival Vandebilt Catholic High in Houma 17 out of 23 times.
LeJeune's 1981 team was a state finalist, losing 21-17 to state and national power John Curtis Christian of River Ridge in the finals in the first high school championship game played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
LeJeune was named athletic director in 1992. He oversaw construction of E.D. White's new turf field at its football stadium last year, and helped make improvements to the softball field and baseball park, locker rooms and coaches offices.
A new school gym LeJeune helped build in 2009 was named in his honor last year, and Boudreaux said it will ensure that his legacy will forever live on in E.D. White lore.
"He's a man of great character and dedication," Boudreaux said. "He has inspired a lot of young people during his tenure here. Many of the football players that he coached 20-30 years ago come by to share their great experiences they had. As an athletic director, he has done a great job of upgrading our facilities. He has done a wonderful job in helping every young person in this program, but he has also assisted as an athletic director in making sure all of our programs have the things they need to be successful."
Boudreaux said he believes Cavell will continue to lead E.D. White's athletic program in the right direction.
"Mary has some big shoes to fill, but we believe it is going to be a seamless transition," Boudreaux said. "She understands the philosophy of E.D. White athletics. She treats young people and parents in the community with dignity and respect, so I think she'll be able to build on what Preston has done for the last 22 years."
Cavell said she has decided to give up her role as a teacher and tennis coach and will focus solely on being athletic director and volleyball coach next school year. She believes her experience coaching different sports at E.D. White, as well as working with the LHSAA, will help her as athletic director.
Cavell said it was a tough decision to give up her teaching duties, but after a few days of thought and prayer, she felt it was time to serve E.D. White in a new role.
"I asked the good Lord, I love what I'm doing, but if this is where You want me to be of service to this school, then so I'll do it," she said. "It's very humbling and exciting. There is a lot to do and learn, but I'm willing to learn. The opportunities here at E.D. White have been wonderful for me. I'm very grateful that they feel confident in my abilities to be able to take over an athletic department that has had success and be able to help it continue to grow and improve as well."