Annette Douthat, second row from bottom at right, participated in Ralston Purina’s Danforth Fellow Program in 1968. It was there she met her husband, John, which set her on a path for international experiences and philanthropy. Photo provided by John Douthat
International experiences enriched the lives of John and Annette Douthat. The couple lived abroad early in their marriage, traveled extensively with their business and spent years hosting international college students.
When Annette passed away earlier this year, John wanted to honor her legacy by adding two new funds to the two the couple had already established in the LSU College of Agriculture and LSU College of Music and Dramatic Arts.
The Annette and John Douthat International Agriculture Internship and the Annette and John Douthat CMDA Study Abroad Fund were set up to help students travel abroad for internships or academics. The John and Annette Douthat AgCenter Global Network Fund will support program and activities of the AgCenter Global Network. The John and Annette Douthat Diversity Travel Fund will help students who are demographically underrepresented in their department or school participate in study abroad programs.
This is just a small part of their philanthropy to Annette’s alma mater, which dates back to 1977, when they donated $1,000 raised as part of a Stretch and Sew fashion show to what was then home economics at LSU.
“She was always very giving,” Barbara Douthat said of her mother.
The couple also gave to Alpha Gamma Rho, John’s agriculture fraternity, among other causes. The couple owned AllBrands, a sewing retail store in Baton Rouge, and they’ve given away thousands of sewing machines to Louisiana’s 4-H program and to 4-H programs across the U.S. and its territories.
“We’re just giving back what we received over the years,” John said.
Annette grew up on a farm along Bayou Plaquemine. She was a 1969 graduate of the LSU College of Agriculture. She met John while traveling as a Danforth Fellow, which was part of a leadership program with Ralston Purina.
Through John’s work with Ralston Purina, the couple spent a year living in Thailand and another in South Korea.
In an interview from 2016, Annette said, “International travel changes your perception of everything. It improves human relations and teaches you about different cultures, religions and food.”
John said he sees international experiences as a path to leadership.
“You learn to work with people who are different than you, and you get a wider view of the world,” he said.
The couple began housing foreign students when a customer from the island nation of Mauritius bought a sewing machine from them and wrote to them about her son studying in the U.S. The student lived with them for five years and is now an attorney for the United Nations in New York City.
“His life is much different than what it might have been if he had never had the opportunity to study here,” Barbara said.
Most of the students that have lived with them have come from Asia to the U.S. to study music at LSU.
“In some ways, we’ve benefited from it more than they did,” John said.
The Douthats said singing was the joy of Annette’s life. She sang with the Baton Rouge Chorus of Sweet Adelines, the Baton Rouge Symphony Chorus and the University United Methodist Church Choir, where she was a church member. She also served on the founding board of Opéra Louisiane and the LSU Opera Board and played clarinet and saxophone in her high school band. Supporting students in the College of Music and Dramatic Art came naturally to them.
The goal in their giving is putting international opportunities within reach for students.
“Every student should have international experience before they leave college because if they don’t have it then, they might never get it,” John said.