The President’s Home
The New First Family of Louisiana Tech University, Kathy and Les Guice, Open Their Home to BayouLife Magazine
article by Marlen Waters | photography by Martin G. Meyers
Nestled in the trees just a stone’s throw from Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston is the Louisiana Tech University President’s home. Completed in 1973 at a cost of $137,000, the 5,000 square foot house has recently become the home of new Tech President Dr. Les Guice and his wife, Kathy May Guice. After the retirement of President Dan Reneau, Dr. Guice became the University’s fourteenth president a year ago and life changed for the couple.
One of the first things for the new First Lady to do was to supervise the remodeling of the President’s home. The third family to live in the house, Kathy wanted an easy, relaxed feel, but was conscious of the fact that it belongs to the taxpayers and is a university building to be shared.
Most of the repairs and changes were suggested by Connie Howard, owner of Woodvale Interiors in Ruston. She holds three degrees from Tech and designed the interior of the Ruston Southern Living House at Squire Creek several years ago. “Les and I depended on Connie and her staff for guidance,” said Kathy. Mrs. Howard stated, “While the house is the official residence of the Louisiana Tech President, it is very much a family home. Kathy wanted a warm, inviting place where friends and family, as well as official visitors would feel welcome and relaxed. Many of the furnishings came from her former home.”
The extensive renovations began last August and continued until mid-December. The couple in the meantime had to live in basically two rooms upstairs in the Ropp Center, the university’s faculty center. Upstairs in the Ropp are three bedrooms that are reserved for visiting VIP’s and a conference room. The Guices were in one of the bedrooms and the conference room that had a small kitchenette. Fortunately, a fabulous lunch is served each day downstairs for the faculty, but evenings and weekends they were on their own. “If you couldn’t microwave it, you didn’t eat it,” said Kathy. President Guice even blogged about it! A clothes rack was brought in from the university bookstore to serve as a closet. And President Guice used the conference room as his study. The Guices moved into their new home just in time for Christmas, even though all the renovations were not complete. It was important to them to be in their new home to share it with family and friends for the Christmas season.
The yard, maintained by Tech’s own Buildings and Grounds crew, is landscaped with many trees, azaleas and extensive plantings. The home has water features complete with koi on two levels of the outside brick entries. Behind the home, Building and Grounds cleared underbrush in the woods, giving a view of a lake and a park below. “You couldn’t see the lake before. It opens up the view,” said Kathy. Several of the home’s collection of bulldog statues (Tech’s mascot) greet visitors under the spacious covered entryway. The exquisite leaded glass door opens into the foyer, which features a newly updated floor of cream tile bordered by dark marble.
Stepping away from the foyer, the split level living room and dining room comes into view. One can see that this home was beautifully designed to entertain large groups easily. A college president entertains a variety of campus guests from around the country and the world…college supporters, community members, students and alumni. This will be the couple’s first football season in their new home, and they plan to have smaller, more intimate gatherings this fall. They are looking forward to one of the traditions at Tech football games when Tech’s marching band and cheerleaders come to the home and lead a pep rally for the President and his guests and then march down the driveway and into the stadium revving up tailgaters and fans for the big game.
The Guices’ dining room table from their former home was set with the official Tech china by Mikasa, a simple but elegant service of white with a gold band. Framed in a shadow box on the wall is a set of flatware presented to Les by a student from India. The buffet and credenza also came from the Guices’ former home in north Ruston. On the wall above the credenza is a colorful photograph by photographer William Carr purchased from a Las Vegas gallery while the couple was on vacation.
A beehive-style fireplace, apparently inspired by the brick ovens of the Southwest, was discovered in the upper level living room. Part of the house’s original design, for many years it was hidden by a flat facade. “We were thrilled to find it and wanted it restored. We were told that the bricks came from the original A.E. Phillips Laboratory School on campus,” stated Kathy. Gold couches facing each other at an angle, a game table and four chairs complete the upper living room. A lot of the home’s original furniture and draperies were recovered and repurposed in an effort to be cost conscious. The beautiful rich wood floor that runs throughout the entire house was donated by a Tech benefactor. Removing some of the sheet rock in this area revealed some of the original rich wood paneling which the couple had restored giving this area a warm feel.
New colors throughout the home include Tech’s royal blue and deep red, along with gold and neutrals. The lower living room is adorned with these colors and rich woods.The grand piano is the star of this room. Donated to the University, this is the piano on which John Graham wrote the Tech Alma Mater in 1903. If you want to sit a while and enjoy the fabulous view of the wooded yard, there is a beautiful red leather chair and ottoman, sofas and an antique coffee table. One visitor commented, “With this view, you feel like you are in a tree house!” On the wall is an abstract floral painting donated by area artist, M. Douglas Walton. Mr. Walton was one of Les’ architecture professors at Tech. The Guices intend to add art by Tech students and other Louisiana artists to accessorize the house. On the floor are custom made floor treatments. Because of the high traffic of the President’s home, instead of the usual floor coverings, Mrs. Howard of Woodvale Interiors had beautiful rugs made from carpet.
Renovations in the kitchen include a large new island, granite countertops, new appliances and a gas cooktop. “Les is a master gumbo chef and needed the gas stove,” said Kathy. The old electric cooktop was incorporated into an outdoor cooking area. The appliances are covered in discreet panels that match the kitchen cabinets. Over the kitchen sink, the window treatments of blue and yellow fabric feature a print of a bulldog in a chef’s hat. “We just couldn’t resist this fabric when we saw it. It seemed to be just made for this house,” stated Kathy. Several bulldog statues including a whimsical bulldog cookie jar are present…just enough to make you smile. A separate breakfast nook just off the kitchen looks out onto a small brick enclosed garden.
The couple’s own collection of Thomasville furniture adorns the master bedroom and one of the guest rooms. Heavy and massive, the gorgeous bed with beautiful neutral bed linens accented with gold and burgundy creates a restful retreat for the busy couple. Two of the bedrooms have access to the beautiful terrace and a relaxing view of the tree-filled yard and woods. All the bathrooms received an update. Neutral colors, new tilework and new granite countertops freshened up the look.
The living areas open up to the wonderful terrace. When Les was a young Tech architectural graduate, working for Wells & Parker of Monroe, he designed the dramatic and popular terrace which cantilevers over the expansive lawn in back. It is rounded with a wrought iron rail and has a raised stage area. Kathy found the original drawings in a drawer. At the time of course, Les didn’t know he would someday live in the house. A set of old Tech stadium seats add a nostalgic touch.
Howard found the Guices easy to work with. “And they were conscious of spending public funds,” added Howard. “Many items were redone and repurposed.” Corre Stegall, Vice President for University Advancement stated, “It is hard to give a figure for public funds expended for the project. Howard’s work was her gift to the university, while private monies provided the bulk of the expenditures. The electrical and structural repairs, landscape work and replacement of some appliances were done as part of the maintenance of university property by Tech’s Buildings and Grounds department.”
Originally from Bastrop and West Monroe/El Dorado, respectively, Les and Kathy met at Tech. They actually met in a freshman English class, but it wasn’t until one of Kathy’s Zeta Tau Alpha sorority sisters was interested in Les’ architecture studio mate in the old Hale Hall that they really got to know each other. Her friend talked Kathy into coming with her, she met Les and the rest is history. They met in 1972 and married in November of 1975, two quarters before they both graduated from Tech. Kathy graduated in Education and was a special education teacher and assessment administrator in the Lincoln Parish School System for 30 years. Les first graduated with a degree in architecture and received his master’s degree from Tech in Civil Engineering. Then in 1986, he received his doctorate from Texas A&M in Civil Engineering. He worked his way up from assistant professor at Tech (1978) to Dean of Engineering and Science (1999), later becoming Vice President of Research and Development (2004).
Kathy beams when she talks about her family. Les and Kathy are parents to three grown sons, who all went to Tech, of course. Chad and Kyle both graduated in Chemical Engineering. Chad is an intellectual properties lawyer for Exxon/Mobil and lives with his wife, Shannon in Houston. Kyle has his PhD in Chemical Engineering and works in research for Exxon/Mobil. He, too, lives in Houston with wife, Ginger. Youngest son Bret graduated from Tech in History and after a stint working at the Louisiana Tech Athletics Ticket Office, he was hired by the Gator Bowl Association in Jacksonville, Florida. He and his wife Christy have one son Christopher, the Guice’s only grandchild…“for the moment anyway” said Grandmother Kathy. Kathy’s mother is also a frequent visitor to the home. She recently moved to Ruston to be closer to Kathy and Les.
Kathy is busy working with Ryan Richard, former Director of Alumni Relations and newly appointed Coordinator of Programs and Development in planning the many fall events that the Guices will host, as well as planning a reunion of her sorority at Louisiana Tech, Zeta Tau Alpha, for Homecoming on November 1. She is moving into her job as First Lady humbly and with grace.
Proud of her husband’s and Tech’s accomplishments, Kathy bubbled with excitement about the future at Tech. “The University is really growing. They have plans for enrollment to be at 15,000 by the year 2020. There is so much to offer a student here.” At present LA Tech has over 11,000 students from 44 states and 65 countries. Louisiana Tech University is a four-year selective admissions research university awarding bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.