Alumnus lives out Marquette values through New Orleans restoration efforts

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KatrinaBe the difference.

It’s all over Marquette — from banners to plaques to the Web site — but do students actually apply the slogan to their lives and make an impact?

Marquette alumnus Rhaoul Guillaume is living proof that some do.

To explain how he made a difference, Guillaume shared his experiences in a speech Wednesday at the Alumni Memorial Union.

A 1971 engineering graduate, Guillaume is now president of an engineering and consulting firm in Louisiana called GOTECH, Inc. that has made tremendous strides toward restoring New Orleans in the aftermath of several devastating hurricanes.

“Being the difference … I really took that to heart and applied it to my business,” Guillaume said.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with 175 mile-per-hour winds on Aug. 29, 2005, it was reported that the economy took a hit of an estimated $183 billion and 1,836 fatalities were sustained, according to Guillaume.

“Everyone was afraid of what was next,” Guillaume said.

What followed in the first few years after Katrina set the rebuilding process back substantially.

In 2005, Hurricane Rita added another seven fatalities and $11.2 billion in damage, Guillaume said.

Only three years later, Hurricane Gustav hit the region, followed closely by Hurricane Ike.

“There were no animals, no pets, nothing,” Guillaume said. “It was like a war zone.”

Since Katrina, GOTECH has undertaken many projects to clean up and rebuild the city’s infrastructure, public schools, airports, levee systems and numerous other sites.

“We helped remove 34 million cubic yards of debris and hired local people who needed the money to help out,” Guillaume said. “It gives me a reason to be proud of my profession.”

One of the projects GOTECH is currently involved in is the $803 million I-10 Twin Span Bridge Project that will connect New Orleans with neighboring city Slidell over Lake Pontchartrain.

“I was fascinated with bridges,” Guillaume said. “I loved to solve puzzles, and I loved math.”

Guillaume said that is partly why he decided to pursue a degree in engineering at Marquette after completing a three-year pre-engineering program at Xavier University of Louisiana.

“At Marquette, I was blessed with good friends, teachers and opportunities,” Guillaume said. “I thank God for my Marquette education.”

In 1968, Guillaume pledged to become a member of the Sigma Phi fraternity, where he became a part of the group he described as the “magnificent seven” — his lifelong friends.

“I can’t thank them enough,” Guillaume said. “They had faith in me.”

After graduating, Guillaume worked as a resident engineer at the Louisiana Superdome where he said he gained invaluable experience. He went on to found GOTECH in 1981.

Bruce Dyson, engineering coordinator at GOTECH for the last 17 years, said Guillaume is well-respected and has integrity and a sense of humor that projects onto the workplace.

“He’s a great boss. It’s the best place I’ve ever worked,” Dyson said. “He really has made a difference through his career.”