John St. Julien, a prominent voice in public education and the campaign to bring city-owned fiber to local homes, businesses and schools, died Sunday at a local hospital following a sudden, monthlong battle with a rare pulmonary infection. He was 63.
John, who earned a Ph.D. in education from LSU in 1994, and his wife of 28 years, Layne Darby St. Julien, were a powerful advocacy group unto themselves, organizing and agitating with great effectiveness on behalf of various causes tied to public education.
A major entry point in his local activism was the campaign to make LUS Fiber a reality. His commitment and vision about fiber centered on his passion to ensure high speed Internet access was available to low-income and minority students. Long after its successful adoption and implementation, John maintained a well read blog, LafayetteProFiber.com, through which he addressed with wit — sometimes in mind-numbing detail — issues, myths and misinformation about the new service.
John went on to participate in national and international conferences concerning Internet access, social issues surrounding it, and eventually consulted informally with other citizen activists in various states as they endeavored to create municipally owned fiber systems in their own communities.
A mentor to many, a damn good cook, avid camper and hiker, and a lifelong fan of science fiction, John was devoted to his wife, two grown children, six grandchildren and a loving web of extended family and friends. He adored local culture, wherever he found it. With Layne, John saw to it the St. Julien back yard became an annual, seemingly unending source of citrus and figs for friends and family.
The family anticipates the creation in the very near future of an annual scholarship in John’s name in UL’s College of Education. Plans for a memorial service will be announced soon.