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Location: Broussard, LA, United States

Jefferson Hennessy is a Webmaster and feature article journalist with a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Jefferson is available for feature and profile story writing assignments. He is willing to travel. Click on the "view my complete profile" link to send Jefferson an email message.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Coming Soon to Acadiana: The World's Only Publicly Accessible Highly Immersive Visualization Environment

The 21st Century is coming to Acadiana in the form of what is known as a Highly Immersive Visualization Environment (HIVE), a 3D virtual reality room that is designed to transform innovative ideas into profitable products.

The Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE), scheduled for completion in February 2006, will house four collaborative visualization data venues - one HIVE, one 174-seat visualization auditorium, and three visualization conference rooms. These four venues will be made available to small business entrepreneurs such as artists, software designers, Information Technology start-up owners, engineers, and manufacturers who will be able to “experience” their imaginative ideas in a 3D virtual reality environment before their ideas are built - saving time and money. Since LITE will be made available for public use, it will be the only visualization center of its kind in the world.

“The purpose of LITE is to help existing companies grow, help innovators create new businesses, and to transform Acadiana from a traditional economy into a knowledge-based economy,” says Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, Director of the Center for Business and Information Technologies (CBIT) at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Research Park.

The Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise is part of Louisiana: Vision 2020, a statewide economic strategy for ensuring statewide prosperity and global competitiveness by the year 2020 by establishing the necessary technological resources in Louisiana for business creation, retention and growth.

Another large part of the Louisiana: Vision 2020 strategy is a major optical networking project for Louisiana’s universities called the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI), an economic development tool and a state-of-the-art optical network that will interconnect eight Louisiana centers of higher education throughout the state. LONI is an economic initiative created by Louisiana universities to improve research capabilities and increase national and worldwide visibility for university research projects. Because of LONI and the National LambdaRail (NLR), a nationwide optical network connecting universities and technology companies across the country, the innovative research projects conducted at the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise can be shared in a “collaborative visualization environment” with scientists and technology experts throughout the U.S. in real time.

The eight university research institutions linked to LONI will be Louisiana Tech University, Southern University, Tulane University, Louisiana State University, LSU Medical Center in New Orleans and Shreveport, the University of New Orleans, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which formed a partnership with the State of Louisiana and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA) to build Acadiana’s one of a kind $20 million Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise.

“LITE is the kind of facility that a university dreams of having,” says Greg Gothreaux, President & CEO of LEDA. “This 3D visualization technology will have a significant economic and academic impact on the future of our community well into the future. With this technology we will have the world’s leading 3D visualization center, and it is the kind of center that will provide cutting edge visualization space for both new and emerging applications.”

Before the idea of building a visualization center was considered by LEDA to be the perfect economic stimulus tool for Acadiana, independent oil & gas company representatives initially petitioned the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and LEDA for technological assistance to help make them competitive with large oil & gas companies by suggesting that a shared resource and visualization center should be constructed.

According to Gothreaux, “The need was presented to us initially by the oil and gas community as a problem that is being faced by small independent companies – geologists and geophysicists – with the fact that they have don’t have access to this technology. Because this is an immerging technology that is applicable to many fields – archaeology, medicine, design of any kind, molecular, architectural – we wanted to develop the idea for economic development applications.”

Over a period of two years LEDA investigated a wide variety of Information Technology research environments located all across the world in search of the best technology and best business practices of three critical elements for their facility; a collaborative visualization data center, a supercomputer, and a research park. After 5000 pages of information were compiled, the best aspects of each element were chosen to create the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise. And LEDA added one unprecedented critical feature to their version of the best visualization research facility it could create; the facility would be made available to the public to help create new businesses and jobs.

“The other visualization centers around the world are locked up, closed to the public, available only to the company and their customers, or in a peer university environment,” counsels Keith Thibodeaux, Chief Information Officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government, and former Chief Technology Officer for LEDA. “None of the other visualization data centers had a job creation or economic development aspect. LEDA is the first economic development agency to pair this visualization technology with a university for the purpose of creating jobs and new businesses.”

Once inside a Highly Immersive Visualization Environment, project designers are able to “experience” the graphic images they have created with a visualization graphics computer as if the images were “real” by wearing a “headset display,” which is a computer that synchronizes each eye to see the graphics in the three dimensions of highth, width and depth. Cyber gloves with “haptic feedback sensors” can be worn on each hand to give the designer the experience of weight and applied force, allowing the designer to “manipulate” the graphics and “feel” the experience of picking up a coffee mug and moving it as if the mug was a real object.

The Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise will use a grid computing environment; in other words, a supercomputer with super high speed data transfer that will transmit a massive amount of data so quickly that huge graphic images generated in the Lafayette-based HIVE will allow fellow project designers in a New York City-based HIVE to “experience and manipulate” the exact same 3D data in a shared “collaborative environment” in real time. The economic and intellectual impact of collaborative visualization technology on the medical industry and engineering design are staggering.

“The economic potential of this visualization technology is incalculable,” says Dr. Kolluru, “and because small business entrepreneurs can participate, we will have the only center like it in the world.”

Allowing small business owners, IT start-up companies, artists, software designers, engineers, and manufacturers to use LITE’s visualization technology means the creation of new technology products, along with venture capitalist opportunities. Eventually Information Technology companies from around the world will choose Acadiana to set up shop when we become recognized as an innovative center for knowledge-based IT companies. And this means new high paying jobs for ULL’s latest graduates, Acadiana residents, and an unprecedented opportunity for any entrepreneur with an innovative idea.

Joseph Henry Fabacher: The Father of Commercial Rice Farming in Acadiana

During a fourteen-year period in Acadia Parish, from 1880 to 1894, Joseph Henry Fabacher was the most dominant force in the rice industry’s transformation from primitive farming methods to large-scale commercial production.

The story of rice farming in south Louisiana begins in the fall of 1871 when Fabacher was a young boy of 12. In that year Fabacher’s father, Franz Joseph Fabacher, relocated his wife and six children from New Orleans to Faquetaique (fa-ka-tay) Prairie near what is now Eunice, LA. According to the few locals who lived near that area in 1871, the prairie land was considered to be completely worthless for farming purposes. But Franz Fabacher and his “German Colony” co-founding partner, Zeno Huber, were not to be deterred.

During the early 1870’s rice farmers grew what they called “Providence rice” for private use in the community. Their rice crop was given this name because a healthy crop depended entirely on the weather - lots of rain and providential good fortune - during the rice-growing season. Their vulnerable dependence on Providence was about to change.

The first innovative change in rice farming was the construction of water reservoirs that were large ponds surrounded by levees. These reservoirs would collect water year-round and the water could be drained into low-lying marsh rice fields when needed. The Fabacher Colonists were the first to build these reservoirs to grow Providence rice for private use.

Then in 1878, Franz Fabacher decided he had seen enough of farming. He sold all of his property and moved back to New Orleans. The elder Fabacher tried to convince his son Joseph to live in New Orleans, but nineteen-year-old Joseph the farmer was just getting started. During the next two years Joseph ran away from New Orleans three times to continue farming, and was eventually allowed by his father to remain at Faquetaique Prairie to farm his 84 acres of land.

The Providence rice crop of 1879 was “a dead failure” according to a local newspaper, the Opelousas Courier. But in 1880, something amazing occurred in the Fabacher Settlement that was described in the St. Landry Democrat newspaper as a small neighborhood no more than 3 or 4 miles wide.

The St. Landry Democrat article describes the astoundingly successful Providence rice crop of 1880 in the Fabacher Colony this way, “So we have here a small neighborhood where they used to produce absolutely nothing for sale, a revenue of $16,000. The rice lands in this neighborhood, the marshes, which were once considered not only worthless but a nuisance, are the most valuable; and it will not be long before they cannot be bought for any reasonable price.” The newspaper also declared that because of that year’s bumper crop, rice is “destined to become one of the greatest industries of southwest Louisiana.”

This was the first large-scale production of Providence rice grown in lowland marshes. But just two years later, in 1882, Fabacher would produce yet another innovative change in rice farming. He would be the first rice farmer to grow what is known as “upland rice,” which is grown on higher land than the low-lying marshes, and his first effort was a success.

Fabacher’s upland rice was grown on dry higher land because high land reservoirs would retain rainwater for a greater period of time. This also required him to relocate his rice fields to higher land. The change in rice field location was another unprecedented innovation.

With the success of this 1882 rice crop, Fabacher purchased 162 acres of land, bringing his total acreage to 246. During his highly successful rice farming years 1883 to 1894 he acquired a total of 627 acres of farmland.

In 1885, Fabacher created yet another rice farming innovation - the deep water well.

By 1893, Fabacher had three deep-water wells, the deepest being 205 feet. These wells were 4 by 4 feet round with a 40-foot wooden ladder leading to the bottom at water level. At the bottom of the well sat a steam engine water pump that could run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week pumping fresh water into high land reservoirs, which drained water down into “up land” rice fields through a complex series of canals. With the addition of steam powered water pumps, the Machine Age had arrived in southwest Louisiana.

When the Midland-Eunice Railroad was completed in 1894, Fabacher built a warehouse next to the railroad tracks and opened his rice storage and shipping business transporting the local farmers rice by railroad to be milled in Eunice and Crowley, and their milled rice was then transported worldwide.

The Fabacher family legacy also includes the story of Joseph Henry’s younger brother, Lawrence Fabacher, who is well known in New Orleans as the owner of Fabacher’s Restaurant and the Jackson Brewing Company, which bottled the wildly popular Jax Beer in the early 20th century.

When Joseph Henry Fabacher died in New Orleans at his mother’s home on February 2, 1910, he was the fifty-one year old father of thirteen children. Fabacher’s wife, Dora Ginkle, died six years earlier in 1904. Two years after her death Fabacher married again to Annie Crossen who bore one child. He bequeathed a sizable inheritance to his children and new wife.

Joseph Fabacher’s innovative journey transforming Providence rice from private use to commercial potential, to large-scale commercial “up land” rice production, to shipping and storage merchant for the rice farming community, has easily earned him the title “Father of Commercial Rice Farming in Acadiana.”

Charles Edward Hamilton, M.D: A Beloved Acadiana Pediatrician Named “Uncle Charlie.”

In 1913, when Dr. Charles Hamilton first began making house calls on horse back in Coulee Croche, Louisiana, he was a twenty-three year old man of medicine with a desire for adventure.

Hamilton’s first contract assignment as a doctor came in 1915 when he accepted a job working in a hospital for a British oil company stationed in Tuxpam, Mexico. While in Tuxpam, one terrible afternoon Hamilton and some of his medical associates were captured by Mexican revolutionaries who forced them to stand in a line to be executed by a firing squad. Although Hamilton escaped being shot by running away, he soon found himself aboard an oil tanker that nearly sank during a monstrous hurricane.

After this hair-raising episode, three years later young Dr. Hamilton’s desire for foreign experiences would eventually bring him to the bloody World War I battlefields of France and Belgium.

But before that adventure could begin, back in quiet Coulee Croche (near Cankton), Hamilton lived with his mother, Josephine Gardiner Hamilton, and continued his horse and buggy general practitioner business from 1916 to early 1918. Hamilton’s father, George Carlisle Hamilton, a New Orleans steamboat captain, died many years earlier in 1892 when Charles was just two years old, the youngest of three brothers.

When young Hamilton was old enough to enroll in university level studies, Josephine’s brother, Dr. Charles Gardiner, gladly agreed to be his liberal arts and medical school benefactor. In 1909 Hamilton received his undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts at Jefferson College in Convent, LA, and in 1913 he earned a medical degree in Medical Arts and Sciences from Tulane University Department of Medicine.

On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson declared war against Imperial Germany and agreed to an urgent request by the British to supply American doctors to serve with the British Expeditionary Forces in France. In September of 1917, Hamilton read about the virtues of enlisting with the British in the magazine Journal of American Medical Association and promptly mailed his enlistment papers to the U.S. Army Medical Reserves Corps. He reassured his worried mother and Uncle Charles he didn’t expect the Army would accept him.

His humble doubts proved unfounded when on January 18, 1918, Hamilton received a momentous letter that would alter his life forever. In the letter, the U.S. Army expected him to report for duty within two months to serve as a doctor in the service of the British Expeditionary Forces. Also, he was now to be referred to as 1st Lieutenant, Charles Hamilton, M.C.

During his time of medical service to the British on the front lines of the war, Hamilton would be wounded twice, earn a promotion to the rank of Captain, and receive the British Medal of Victory for his service to the British Expeditionary Forces.

After the war Hamilton returned to practice medicine in Church Point, LA, and eventually found a wonderful wife named Ruth Mouton, whose tireless leadership in the preservation of Cajun and Creole heritage and revival of the French language would eventually earn her the titles Queen of the Acadians and “Tante Ruth” (Aunt Ruth). The couple had three daughters who grew up here in Lafayette.

In 1920, Hamilton formed a medical doctor partnership with two doctors that would be the first chapter of a career-long endeavor to give his patients the benefit of group consultation with his partner doctors at no additional cost. Hamilton’s idea of group consultation at no extra cost was - and continues to be - an innovative improvement in health care.

While attending a clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1922, the general practitioner Hamilton took a fateful course in pediatrics that would inspire his lifelong devotion to children’s health. And at some point during his forty years of pediatric practice delivering hundreds of babies, Hamilton earned his patient’s affection and eventually he became known as “Uncle Charlie.”

By 1945, Hamilton had already relocated his doctor partner practice to Lafayette. His four-doctor organization was now known as the Lafayette Medical Surgical Group located on St. John at the Lafayette Sanitarium. Hamilton was Chief of Staff. By 1968, Hamilton’s group of doctors numbered 46.

Five years earlier, in 1963, Lafayette Sanitarium was relocated to the Oil Center and renamed Lafayette General Hospital. In 1971, Hamilton’s organization of doctors at Lafayette General incorporated and renamed their affiliation Hamilton Medical Group, in honor of Dr. Hamilton.

When Hamilton died in May of 1978, at the age 88, he had many admirers.

One admirer, Dr. Zerben Bienvenue, a fellow Lafayette doctor in partnership, recalls Hamilton as being “very much a gentleman. Very thoughtful, and an avid reader.” Bienvenue also recalls Hamilton as being a huge fan of prizefighting and baseball.

In 1984, Dr. Jerome Romagosa published an essay in which he characterized his dear friend Hamilton in this way: “He was not only a well-trained physician, but he was a cultured and scholarly gentleman of the old school.”

And in 1978, Hamilton’s friend Dr. J.J. Burdin said, “No one ever contributed more to medicine in Southwest Louisiana than Dr. Hamilton.”

Throughout his long life Dr. Charles Hamilton was said to have displayed the same familiar admirable traits that were forged in him during the Great War: he was the well-informed citizen, the concerned physician, the warm host, and the loyal friend.

Tom Cox: E-commerce Visionary and CEO of

In 1995, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduate in Political Science named Tom Cox, recognized the future economic potential for small businesses in a vast new digital frontier called the Internet, and after conducting extensive research on the business of “selling used golf balls” he was certain he had found a terrific niche product to market in cyberspace.

Four years later, in 1999, Cox’s online business generated over $1 million in sales. And this year, Cox’s online golf ball business is expected to generate $6 million in sales.

But the transition from only selling used golf balls to his current business that sells “personalized” new golf balls, monogrammed clothing and golf equipment, required a few years of business model adjustments, mixed with Cox’s determined entrepreneurial foresight.

Back in 1996, Cox’s belief in the potential for success online selling used golf balls wasn’t as obvious to his current business partners.

Business partner and Vice President of Operations for, Chuck Nuzum, says, “At first I thought this golf ball business was a wild thing to do. Tom is the idea guy. We would never have gotten into this business if not for Tom.”

The story of begins during the time that Cox was an employee of Lafayette’s Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club from 1987 to 1998, where he became familiar with the sport of golfing and it’s commercial potential. In 1996, while working with a website consulting company that was hired to create Le Triomphe’s website, Cox says he had a brainstorm of an idea.

Cox’s brainstorm was to “marry two ideas.”

His first idea was to enlist the help of scuba divers who recover lost golf balls at the bottom of golf course ponds and lakes throughout the south and have the divers sort, grade and ship the golf balls to Cox’s online customers.

His second idea was to build a website, using the online address, and he would manage and pay for all aspects of the site maintenance, marketing and advertising. According to Cox, “That’s how got started.”

Before Cox could launch his online venture he had to convince a bank to loan him $9500 to buy the domain name Having accomplished that task, not long after his business venture was launched he realized he had a significant problem that needed to be resolved. Cox explains, “We learned very quickly that you don’t want the divers to be your best connection to your customers. Guys that spend a lot of time underwater – and I’m not knocking diving as an occupation - but the guys who dive in the lakes didn’t care a whole lot about fast turn around on orders, satisfying customers, quality control, and shipping an order out on the same day it’s placed.”

In 1996, Cox’s brand new business venture generated only $17,000 in sales - minus the domain name purchase. But in 1997, increased it’s annual sales a bit to $75,000.

Not only did the divers slow things down, but also the used golf ball market became practically obsolete overnight when international companies introduced inexpensive “new” golf balls to the huge United States golfing market. Cox knew he had to reassess his initial business model if he wanted his business to survive.

The solution that Cox settled on was to go into the “personalized” – or laser imprinted - golf ball business. This meant the purchase of lasers that would burn images on golf balls, and the purchase of warehouse space to house a large collection of new inexpensive golf balls. Cox’s business now offers a full selection of golf equipment, including clubs, shoes, bags, apparel, putters, hats, and of course, golf balls.

For the past six years, Tom Cox has been very active in civic service to the business community as an appointed member of the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Cox is the current Chair of the Commission.

Appointed by the Governor of Louisiana to the Commission, Cox’s states his main objective as Commission Chair this way, “I’m trying to champion entrepreneurship in workforce training and development.”

According to Chris Weaver, Executive Director of the Workforce Commission, Cox is “a very busy entrepreneur holding down an important state appointment.”

Six years ago the Workforce Commission was in search of an Information Technology business owner to join the group, and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority nominated Cox for the appointment. Weaver says, “Tom is universally liked and respected.”

Recently Cox relocated his rapidly growing golf balls business to Arnould Boulevard where Cox’s small online business idea he named has become known in the golfing community as “the largest selection of golf balls available in the world.”