(New Orleans) - UL alumnus and renowned Blue Dog painter George Rodrigue has been selected as only the sixth person from the New Orleans area to receive the National Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

Officials with the Southeast Louisiana Council (SELA) of the Boy Scouts made the official announcement at a news conference April 12th at Rodrigue's landmark Blue Dog sculpture on the Veterans Boulevard neutral ground near Severn Avenue.

Rodrigue, 67, is known the world over for his iconic Blue Dog paintings, but the New Iberia born artist has also painted thousands of works depicting life in the heart of Cajun Country, including several involving the University of Louisiana, her history and alumni.  One series of paintings were commissioned for the Flora Levy Lectures at UL, and can be viewed here.

The prestigious award will be presented at a special Distinguished Golden Eagle Award Dinner event at the New Orleans Sheraton Hotel on Thursday, May 12, 2011. At today's news conference, Plaquemines Parish President Bill Nungesser was named honorary chairman of the Rodrigue event, which is expected to attract hundreds of civic and business leaders as well as Blue Dog fans and Scouts from across the state.

"The Distinguished Eagle Scout Award is the National Eagle Scout Association's highest recognition," said Don Ellis, Scout Executive / CEO of the SELA Council. "Only about one in every thousand eagle scouts in the country qualifies for this highest distinction in the Boy Scout organization."

The Distinguished Eagle Scout Award was established in 1969 and is given 25 or more years after the honoree received his Eagle Scout award. It recognizes success in the individual's career as well as a strong record of volunteer leadership.

"This honor is only bestowed upon 12 men each year in the entire country chosen from over 300 councils across the nation, and we are proud this year, the award will be presented to one of our own," said Steve Hemperley, Chairman of the Board of Directors for SELA Council of the BSA.

Rodrigue established the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts in 2009 to advocate the importance of the visual arts in the development of our youth. GRFA encourages the use of art within all curriculums and supports a variety of art educational programs. "I was overly elated as well as humbled when they called me and explained that I had received this very distinguished honor," said Rodrigue.

Rodrigue joined the Boy Scouts at the age of 11 in his home town of New Iberia, attaining his Eagle status when he was 16 years old. Unfortunately, a case of the mumps forced the young Rodrigue to miss his Eagle ceremony in 1960.

"The Scouts became a role model for me and a strong influence in my life when I needed it. Boy Scouts served as a moral compass," Rodrigue said. "I remember it was during my scouting days that I first began to paint, even though it was monster paintings."

In 2004, George painted an American bald eagle, incorporating the Blue Dog as a neckerchief slide to commemorate the Eagle Scout. That original masterpiece is now on exhibit at the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas alongside Norman Rockwell's Boy Scout paintings.

Other prominent New Orleanians who have been honored with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in the past include former Saints Coach Jim Mora, businessman Frank Stewart, Jr. and retired National Guard Major General Ansel Stroud.

For details on the May 12th National Distinguished Eagle Scout Award Dinner event at the New Orleans Sheraton, call the SELA Council of the BSA at 504.889.0388 or visit their website here.

For more information, call Steve Schulkens at 504.401.6990, or by email.

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