Photography by Jeannie Frey Rhodes.

In Character: Virginia Grenier

CONSIDERING, she has a heart for international students at LSU and wants them to feel at home and connected in a culture far from their norm. She’s been the executive director of the International Hospitality Foundation in Baton Rouge for more than 30 years, and she helps pair local families with these students for friendship, fellowship and resources.

CONSIDERING, through this nonprofit, she facilitates an orientation and tour of Baton Rouge for new students, arranges special social events, and helps students set up households through its Loan Closet. “It is fascinating to meet all these students. Now, with the ease of the Internet, they can stay in touch with me. They let me know how they are doing with their careers and family.”

CONSIDERING, she has been on the governing board for the LSU’s International Cultural Center since it was founded, and she was a founding member and past chair of the Baton Rouge Mayor’s International Relations Commission. She was instrumental in establishing the International Heritage Festival in Baton Rouge.

CONSIDERING, she was a foreign language major at LSU and she lived at the French House on campus with a Guatemalan roommate. She spent a summer with her in Guatemala and fell in love with the exposure to another culture. “I insisted that my daughter study abroad, and I sent her to Italy. She ended up staying for 30 years.”

CONSIDERING, she has always been involved in the Baton Rouge community. She was board president of the Friends of LSU Libraries, president of the docent group at Pennington Biomedical Research Center and she was involved with the Rural Life Museum. She was the board president of WRKF radio. “I was so thrilled to have public radio when it finally came, so I quickly joined in volunteering.”

CONSIDERING, she received the Hugh M. Jenkins Award for Excellence in Community Programming from the National Association of Foreign Student Affairs in 2009, and and received the John W. Barton Sr. Excellence in Nonprofit Management Award from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation five years ago.

CONSIDERING, she loves the parties, performance events, and ethnic and national celebrations the students put on themselves. And the welcome party at the beginning of each semester with a Cajun band and jambalaya is always a hit. “The students feel very connected to Baton Rouge. They find it rich in tradition, like their cultures, and they find the people very warm.”

CONSIDERING, she remains dedicated to continuing the legacy and supporting the students. She just hopes more families will consider becoming Friendship Hosts to new international students on campus. “We have 1,700 international students living in our community. The majority of them are graduate students who do research and help with the teaching at LSU. The really do make a big contribution to Baton Rouge. I want to make sure that their experience is a good one.”