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William N. LaForge: An Icon of Service and Leadership

William N. LaForge An Icon of Service and Leadership
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William N. LaForge is a well-known American academic, lawyer, and public servant who has had a profound impact on governmental relations and higher education. LaForge was born in Durham, North Carolina, on April 18, 1950. His life story is marked by an unyielding dedication to serving his community and country, as well as a dogged pursuit of excellence. Throughout his varied career in law, government, lobbying, and university administration, LaForge has made a significant impact on policy formation, academic advancement, and the promotion of integrity and leadership values.

LaForge’s postgraduate studies in International Law at the University of Cambridge in 1981 demonstrate that his scholarly interests stretched beyond American borders. His academic achievements and contributions to the legal profession were recognized in 2007 when Stetson University College of Law awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.), demonstrating his passion for knowledge and commitment to cross-cultural engagement.

His early professional life was characterized by a wide variety of activities, including working as an assistant prosecutor in Mississippi’s Washington County Court, practicing law, and representing players in the Women’s Pro Basketball League. His shift to legislative affairs in Washington, D.C., where he worked as Congressman David Bowen’s (D-MS) legislative assistant and later took on positions in the U.S. Senate, such as chief counsel for the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, & Related Agencies, cemented his career path towards public service.

From 1983 until 1990, he served as Senator Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) chief of staff and chief legislative counsel. During this critical time in his career, he helped shape legislative agendas and gave elected leaders strategic advice. After moving to the private sector, LaForge took on executive roles at well-known legal firms. He was general counsel and senior vice president of Paul Werth Associates, Inc. and as a shareholder at Winstead Law Firm, where he specialized in government relations and legislative advocacy.

He served as Delta State University’s ninth president from 2013 until 2022, demonstrating the breadth of his influence on higher education. Delta State University saw notable achievements in academic programs, infrastructure development, and community participation under his creative leadership. LaForge’s efforts to improve faculty development, increase research opportunities, and promote an innovative and inclusive culture demonstrated his dedication to student success and institutional greatness.

LaForge continued to be actively involved in education in addition to his administrative responsibilities. He was an adjunct professor at George Mason University, George Washington University, and Georgetown University. His role as the faculty director of The Bryce Harlow Institute on Government and Business Affairs underscored his dedication to preparing the next generation of leaders in public policy and governance.

He served as the National President of the Federal Bar Association from 2006 to 2007, demonstrating his services to the legal profession beyond his stellar career. His advocacy work and leadership were crucial in furthering the objectives of the legal community and the values of equality and justice. LaForge showed a strong dedication to preserving the rule of law and safeguarding the rights of people and communities while holding a license to practice law in Mississippi and Washington, D.C. He has received various distinctions and recognitions during his illustrious career, such as the Pi Kappa Alpha Loyalty Award and the Delta State University Alumnus of the Year award. Peers and colleagues alike have acknowledged his commitment to service and excellence, solidifying his reputation as a forward-thinking leader and change agent. 

William N. LaForge’s illustrious career, characterized by unwavering dedication and versatile leadership, stands as a paragon of public service and academic administration. His journey from law to the intricate corridors of power in Washington and finally to the helm of Delta State University underscores a legacy of profound influence and steadfast commitment to societal progress. His ability to navigate complex legislative environments and his drive to enhance educational paradigms highlight his extraordinary ability to merge principle with practice. 

Despite facing challenges, LaForge’s resilience and ethical stance have continually propelled him toward fostering environments that prioritize integrity and inclusivity. As we reflect on his extensive contributions, it becomes evident that William N. LaForge not only shaped the institutions he was part of but also left an indelible mark on the lives of those he led and served, epitomizing the essence of true leadership and dedication.

Published by: Martin De Juan


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