Dr. Rodney R. Lafon
May 13, 1950 – May 12, 2014
Dr. Rodney R. Lafon was born in New Orleans on May 13, 1950, to Roy Henry Lafon and Yvonne Dauenhauer Lafon. In his youth, Dr. Lafon worked in his father’s grocery store on White Street and played accordion with a band, Donk’s Honkey Tonks, entertaining people in hospitals, nursing homes and on the streets of the French Quarter where the mothers would pass the hat for tips. When he entered junior high school, his band director put a trumpet in his hands and he instantly fell in love with the instrument that is now synonymous with Dr. Lafon. After graduating from Warren Easton High School in 1968, Dr. Lafon went on to earn his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Loyola University.
He began his career in 1972 as a music teacher at St. Bernard High School, which lasted only a few months before he picked up his trumpet and joined Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders, an international touring band that played with the likes of James Brown, Bobby Rydel, Fabian, Jerry Lee Louis the Drifters and Billy Joe Royal. Touring with the Cochran Band was a dream that had finally come true. Over the next three years, he travelled the world and played at venues in Mexico, Canada, Cuba and assumed the role of road manager for the group. It was during this time when he met and married his wife of 39 years, Joyce Connor Lafon in 1975 and decided it was time to come back home to New Orleans.
He took a position in the St. Charles Parish Public School System as a music teacher and in a 20-year span rose through the ranks as Superintendent. While working his way to the top position in the district, Dr. Lafon earned his Master’s Degree in Education and Administration from Loyola University in 1978 and in 1992 he received his Doctorate in Education from Nova University.
During his 18-year tenure as Superintendent, the school system earned district accreditation recognizing it as a ‘Quality School System’ and maintained its status as one of the top 10 school systems in the state of Louisiana.
As a true leader with a vision for the district’s needs, Dr. Lafon engineered the passage of two bond issues totaling more than $72 million dollars that provided for the construction of state-of- the-art learning facilities for students and staff.
He was a member and served as president for numerous state and national educational organizations. Most notable being the Schlechty Center, the School Leadership Center, American Association of School Administrators Governing Board, Eastern States Consortium, and the Horace Mann League. Honored as the 2001 Louisiana Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Lafon served as a champion for public education with the belief that all students can learn and excellence is worth the cost.
While concentrating on his mission to make St. Charles Parish Public Schools the best in the state and nation, Dr. Lafon continued his passion for playing his horn as back-up for entertainers such as Wayne Newton and Jackie Wilson. In addition, he performed with Luther Kent and Trick Bag, The Wise Guys, and The Jerry Leonard Society Orchestra. As a member of the horn section with Luther Kent and Trick Bag, he played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for more than 30 years.
In 2013, after approximately 40 years of service, Dr. Lafon retired from the St. Charles Parish Public School System and formed Rodney Lafon Orchestra and Productions. He passed away shortly thereafter on May 12, 2014, at the age of 63. It was his dream to build a performing arts center for the students of St. Charles Parish Public Schools. His dream and memory will live on through the Dr. Rodney R. Lafon Performing Arts Center opened in the fall of 2018.