On April 3, 2023, the ESA community honored our founding headmaster, The Rev. Charles Rodney Smith, with a tribute by alumni and current and former faculty during chapel time in the Bishop Henton Chapel on the Cade Campus.
Current Headmaster Dr. Paul Baker
“The work of Fr. Smith and ESA’s founding Board of Trustees and faculty formed a legacy that continues to influence ESA to this day. ESA maintains its emphasis on academic excellence, spiritual growth, and a community of trust grounded in an Honor Code. Our current mission - to instill in every student the habits of scholarship and honor - is a reflection of the values the school embraced in 1979. We thank Fr. Smith and his colleagues for laying the groundwork for this institution, which has become a valuable asset in the Acadiana community and an incentive for families and businesses considering a move to our region.”
Fr. Smith served as ESA’s headmaster from 1979 through 1981, the school’s first two years. He steered the community through the 1979-1980 school year, when ESA was housed in the basement of the First Baptist Church in Lafayette. During that year, he oversaw preparations to move the school to the oak-lined campus nestled amid cane fields in Cade. The nearly 100-acre Cade property was donated to the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana by the Smedes-Jardine family for the purpose of creating an Episcopal school with a challenging academic program and a commitment to community service. ESA remains the only diocesan school in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana.
Originally established to serve students in sixth through twelfth grades, ESA opened in August of 1979 with eleven teachers and 87 students in grades six through nine, with plans to expand by one grade each of the next three years. Fr. Smith and the founding Board of Trustees emphasized three main pillars in creating the foundation for ESA: an exceptional academic program, an institution drawing on the history and traditions of the Christian church, and a solid athletic program with intramural and varsity teams. Over the years, the program grew to include ESA Lower School, with PK3 through fifth grades, which opened on the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church grounds in 2004, and moved to its current location, the former home of the LAFCO Boats Company, in 2010.
Fr. Smith attended The Episcopal Seminary of the South in Sewanee, TN, and was ordained to the priesthood. He served as assistant headmaster at both St. Andrews Episcopal School in Jackson, MS, and Trinity Episcopal School in New Orleans, before moving to Lafayette to serve as Headmaster of Ascension Day School, which was an elementary and middle school at the time. In his role as head of Ascension, Fr. Smith recognized the need for an upper school rooted in the traditions of Episcopal education.
Bill Lasseigne, '85
“Rod envisioned a challenging curriculum and a faculty who cared deeply about each child and about helping students find and develop their talents. Rod provided me and my ESA classmates an academic context and a thoughtful process to understand religion, and through his actions brought the value of a spiritual foundation to life. He created a sense of wanting me to be the best person I could be – for myself and those around me.”