There is no question about it, Joe Aillet’s family loves Louisiana Tech, and this love and this legacy continue to live on through his three great-granddaughters who currently attend the university.
Olivia Landry, Meredith Gilbert and Juliana Pettiette are the first of Aillet’s great-grandchildren to come to Tech.
“My whole family loves it,” Landry, a sophomore art education major, said. “I have been coming to games since I can remember.”
Gilbert, a senior biology major, said being one of Joe Aillet’s great-granddaughters creates a strong feeling of pride.
“From the day you’re born you are surrounded with Tech logos,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every Tech item there is.”
She said her grandparents have a part of the Tech field goal post that was torn down after fans rushed the field after a big win over Colorado State in 1990 that earned the bulldogs a berth in that season’s Independence Bowl.
Like Landry, Gilbert said she has been attending Tech games for as long as she can remember.
“We tailgate every home game,” she said. “It’s a funny feeling to see some of the photos that are hanging up in the family home on banners hanging off the stadium and on trading cards and websites.”
Pettiette, a junior family child studies major, said she did not realize how many people actually knew, or knew of, her great-grandfather until she came to Tech.
“I just kind of figured out how big of a deal it was,” she said. “Now is when I really appreciate it, seeing how many people in the community still recognize him and his name.”
All three great-granddaughters said they do not normally tell people that Joe Aillet is their greatgrandfather.
“If I do tell them, their first reaction is ‘That’s how you say it,’” Gilbert said. “Just FYI, it is ‘eye yay’, you say it like the first two letters are reversed.”
Pettiette said her friends think it is a really big deal when she first tells them who her great-grandfather is.
“They are kind of in shock at first because we don’t publicize it,” she said.
The impact he left on the university and people he interacted with is inspiring, Landry said.
“Over Thanksgiving break, I met a woman who knew him and she told me how much she respected him, and how kind and loving he was,” she said. “I was so incredibly humbled by how highly she spoke of him.”
Gilbert said she admires his humility and it is motivating to her as a student and as an individual.
“I am inspired by who he was and strive to live up to his example,” she said. “I hope that I have that kind of greatness that he had in me.”
It makes her proud that the university chose to honor her great-grandfather in such a significant way, Gilbert added.
“He never raised his voice at his players and he earned their respect, and the nickname Gentleman Joe,” she said. “He was also a man who lived and loved his faith; he was a founding member of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, the only Catholic church in Ruston.”
The virtues that he possessed and the success he achieved throughout his career are valued deeply by his family, Gilbert said.
“He valued education, faith and family,” she said. “He truly cared about people, and that’s a family value that has been passed down through the generations.”
The tradition of attending Tech has also been passed down through generations of the family, Pettiette said.
“There are eight kids in my mom’s family and all of them came to Tech,” she said. “It is exciting to continue the legacy.”
Even with all the Tech passion, Gilbert said she never felt pressure to come here when she was looking at colleges.
“It was really cool to know that I would experience something so many people in my family had experienced,” she said. “Another benefit would be the family gumbo recipe, which is super good.”
Being the great-granddaughter of such a prestigious man makes her feel like she is never really away from home, Gilbert said.
“I used to live across the street from the stadium and I loved seeing his name all the time,” she said. “It makes me feel at home.”
Knowing how amazing her great-grandfather was swells her pride, she said.
“He had good self-discipline, was a constant scholar, had several degrees and had high academic standards for his players to meet,” she said. “He was a really great man.”
She added, his career was his way of life, it was not just a job to him, and it was a passion.
“He saw college athletics as a way to better you as a person and a way to get an education,” she said. “All of this from a man who started life as an orphan.”
Other than constant pride, a regular day in the life of Joe Aillet’s great-granddaughters is similar to any other Tech student, Landry said.
“I wake up, usually late, go to class, do my homework and hang out with my roommates and friends,” she said.
Pettiette said the same thing, but she also said she participates in other organizations on campus.
“I want to continue his legacy,” she said. “I feel a motivation to be involved on campus and in a variety of organizations and to keep his name remembered.”
While Pettiette enjoys her sorority, Gilbert said she became a student recruiter because of the legacy she has inherited.
“I wanted to do something specific for the university and it was an opportunity for me to learn more about Tech’s history,” she said. “I want to pass on the legacy as part of the Aillet family but also as a Tech student.”
She said she loves walking around with prospective students and sharing a campus so dear to her heart with them.
“It makes me feel like I’m doing something for the university,” she said. “Something just like my family before me.”
Email comments to kjk...@latech.edu.