Tocqueville Gala 2017: An Iconic Celebration

Click here to watch Mr. Leonard's powerful and inspiring acceptance speech. 

Where do I even begin?

United Way of Southeast Louisiana's Alexis de Tocqueville Society welcomed more than 400 guests for its annual gala on October 12th - an old-Hollywood-style celebration of philanthropy and volunteerism - and recognized not one, but two extraordinary individuals for their service to the community. View the photo gallery here

Thank you to all those who joined us for this star-studded event. The annual gathering of our Tocqueville members and their guests is special to me as it illustrates the tremendous charitable nature of our supporters in Southeast Louisiana and the power of their collective philanthropy.

Most importantly, I must thank J. Wayne Leonard, the distinguished recipient of the 2017 Tocqueville Society Award and former Entergy Corporation Chairman and CEO, and Entergy Corporation for their million dollar gifts to United Way.

Rarely do I find myself at a loss for words, but I was rendered speechless over and over last night. I had hardly regained my bearings after former President Bill Clinton's surprise message to Mr. Leonard played before the real showstoppers! To stand on stage with a man like Mr. Leonard, hear his words, experience his incredible generosity, and then witness Entergy's extraordinary support of his vision was an experience I won't soon forget.

Mr. Leonard now sits at the sixth seat of our Million-Dollar Roundtable, comprised of individuals who've chosen to contribute at the highest level of personal giving to our community. And thanks to the leadership of current Chairman and CEO Leo Denault, Entergy has once again demonstrated its trademark commitment to its people, United Way, and our region.

Much of Mr. Leonard's passion in life mirrors United Way's mission to eradicate poverty, and two million dollars toward our collective goal of ending poverty in Southeast Louisiana will have an immeasurable impact for countless individuals and families in our community.

I'm pleased to tell you that United Way will commemorate Mr. Leonard's work around poverty with the dedication of our new, one-stop financial literacy center, the J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center. Opening late 2017, it will offer financial capability services designed to move low-income individuals and families out of poverty and into financial stability. For years to come, Mr. Leonard's legacy will positively impact the people of Southeast Louisiana.

As the longest-serving head of Entergy, Mr. Leonard facilitated more than $50 million in charitable donations to moving people out of poverty and improving early-childhood education. He chose to lift up the most vulnerable in our community from his position for more than 14 years. Through the J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center, he will continue to lift them up and help them achieve prosperity for years to come.

And if all that fanfare wasn't enough, for the first time, United Way recognized a lifetime achievement award recipient, bestowing the honor on C. Allen Favrot, the founder of UWSELA's Tocqueville Society.

Mr. Allen has served in nearly every role on every imaginable United Way committee since holding his first leadership position in 1961, and set the mark as 1981 Campaign Chair leading the first annual effort to break the $10M threshold. There is no singular person more worthy of this inaugural award. And with more than 65 years of volunteer service to our United Way, there may never be another individual as equally deserving of this remarkable honor.

With two extraordinary honorees and two surprise million dollar gifts, this gala will be remembered as one of the finest in our history.

To Mr. Leonard and Mr. Favrot, Entergy, and all those who support United Way, we thank you for confirming that our mission to eradicating poverty is not one we are working toward alone.

We will carry on our work modeled after these two visionary leaders, and we hope that you’ll continue to join us in our fight to build brighter futures for all.
In order to live better, we must LIVE UNITED.


Michael Williamson
President and CEO
United Way of Southeast Louisiana