Mike & Me

by Dr. Bobby Soileau

Ten years ago we were preparing for the Ag Leadership international trip for Class IX to China. Dr. Mike Futrell was directing the program and he made a great decision. He invited Jim Monroe and Mike Danna of Louisiana Farm Bureau to document the trip.

That was my first international trip with our program, and it was obvious they needed to be a part of our future trips. The photographs and videos produced for each trip since then have been great for the class and the program. They not only documented a trip of a lifetime, they another communications training for our class members. Everyone from the class was interviewed and written about by Mike. He had an amazing work ethic.

If you didn’t know Mike, he loved to travel – especially international travel. Mike was a graduate of Class VIII which went to South America for their international study tour in 2004. He documented that experience while Dr. Futrell would send e-mail updates to family and friends.

Times have changed with technology and internet service overseas. Mike took our trip experience to another level when he began writing his daily blog during our 2010 trip to Brazil. He always wanted to do something extra for every trip.

I’m about to lead my fourth international trip as director of our program when we take Class XIV to South Africa. It will be the first trip without my good friend Mike Danna. When Mike finally succumbed to cancer many of our alumni wanted to do something for him. We thought it would be good to reflect on our experiences with Mike throughout our trip to South Africa.

It was almost a year ago when Mike was informed he had cancer again. This was his third cancer diagnosis in as many years. I had just landed in South Africa to conduct an investigative trip for Class XIV when I heard about Mike’s situation.

A few days later he called me. I was thankful I was in my hotel room because it was an emotional 30-minute conversation. We shared our thoughts and at the end he told me, “just know when you take your class to South Africa next year, I will be with you the entire time.”

A part of Mike will always be with me. He loved our program, and he loved telling stories about our class members and their experiences. We will honor Mike’s memory by doing the same. We will also share more of our experiences with Mike.

I dearly miss my friend Mike Danna, but my memories with him will last a lifetime. 

Dr. Bobby Soileau is the Director of the LSU Ag Leadership Program.