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LSMSA Dedicates the Sharon Turcan Gahagan Art Gallery During 40th Commencement Exercises Held on Saturday, May 18

The Sharon Turcan Gahagan Art Gallery was dedicated during the 40th Commencement Exercises of Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) on May 18, 2024.

The gallery was named in Mrs. Gahagan's honor by LSMSA’s Board of Directors in recognition of her commitment to education, career, family, and LSMSA. In addition, she earned the honorary Louisiana School diploma and was named Board Chair Emeritus during a presentation led by LSMSA Executive Director Dr. Steven Horton. She is the first-ever Board Chair Emeritus in LSMSA history.

"Mrs. Gahagan has served under six Louisiana governors, and has guided six executive directors—including me—through their terms," Horton said. "As part of our 40th Anniversary celebration, it seems appropriate that we honor the contributions of a respected, loving, dedicated, and authentic leader, educator, mentor, and friend."

Gahagan, a native of Baton Rouge, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in speech and hearing therapy from Louisiana State University in 1968 and began her career as a teacher at the Louisiana School for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. In 1970, she and her husband, Henry Cole Gahagan Jr., moved to Natchitoches so that he could begin his legal career. Sharon Gahagan earned her master’s and specialist degrees from Northwestern State University, where she established and directed the Natchitoches/Northwestern Program for the Hearing Impaired.  She later entered a private practice of speech and hearing therapy.

Over the past 50 years, she has contributed to many civic organizations in Natchitoches and across the state. She was a founding member of the Natchitoches ARC, a founding board member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, and a member, president, sustaining member and advisor of the Natchitoches Service League. She was president of the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Society and a member of the board of directors of the Friends of Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) and the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission. For over 40 years, she has chaired the Natchitoches Historic District Commission. Mrs. Gahagan was named a Natchitoches Treasure by the City of Natchitoches in 2014, and she received the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.

In 1989, she was appointed to LSMSA’s Board of Directors by Governor Buddy Roemer, and, in 1997, she was elected chairperson and served in that position until she retired in December 2023.  She served under six Louisiana governors.

She advocated for the completion of LSMSA’s long-term master plan, which included securing the land and funding for the construction of the 50,000-square-foot Center for Performance and Technology (CPT). The CPT, which was completed in 2021, includes a recital hall, black box theatre, cafeteria, café, student support offices, and classroom spaces. The first floor of the CPT also houses the newly dedicated Sharon Turcan Gahagan Art Gallery. She also steered the complete restoration of the original Natchitoches Trade School building, built in 1939, which now serves as LSMSA’s Music and Arts Building (MAB).  The final piece of the LSMSA master plan, the funding and construction of the Living and Learning Commons (LLC)—a 110,000-square-foot residential life center for the school’s student population—was completed in 2021 under her leadership. Over $40 million in state funds were provided by the Louisiana legislature for the completion of these projects during Gahagan’s tenure as chair. Mrs. Gahagan and her husband are blessed with three children, Kristen Gahagan Weber, Henry Cole Gahagan III, and Jensen Gahagan Sessums. They have six grandchildren.

The Sharon Turcan Gahagan Art Gallery is located on the first floor of the CPT, a two-story building located between the LSMSA High School Building and the MAB. The Sharon Turcan Gahagan Art Gallery opens to the public several times each year during public receptions for student artists and visiting arts educators.

LSMSA is a tuition-free, public high school for high-achieving rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a nominal room and board fee to cover housing, meals, and campus activities. The LSMSA Foundation offers assistance for families in need to ensure that no eligible student is denied the school’s 40-year legacy of a premium college-level living/learning experience. For more information about the Louisiana School or to apply for the 2024-25 academic school year, visit www.LSMSA.edu.