New Orleans Athletics announces ‘EmpowHer Privateers’ with Gayle Benson as Keynote Speaker for August 27 event

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Gayle Benson

NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans Athletics will launch its EmpowHer Privateers initiative this Fall to support female student-athletes with a focus on leadership development through scholarships, mentorship, and educational experiences. New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner/Chairman Gayle Benson will be the keynote speaker at an inaugural brunch event intended to garner support and awareness for the new mission of Privateer Athletics.

The event is being held on Friday, August 27 at 11:30 a.m. at the InterContinental New Orleans Hotel and will be presented by The Cheek Law Firm, one of the largest female-owned law firms in Louisiana.

Mrs. Benson is an accomplished businesswoman and philanthropist with strong ties to the New Orleans community. The Saints and Pelicans have contributed millions to various non-profits and causes in the Greater New Orleans area. Most recently, Mrs. Benson contributed $1 million to COVID-19 relief efforts and created a relief fund for arena workers. She also serves as the Owner of three local automotive dealerships, Best Chevrolet, Cadillac of New Orleans and Mercedes-Benz of New Orleans, the Faubourg Brewing Company and the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.

Tom & Gayle Benson are inaugural members of the UNO Hall of Distinction, an honor bestowed upon strong commitment to the city of New Orleans and the university.

“As a former athlete and as the current owner of one of the largest female-owned law firms in the State of Louisiana, I am all-too-familiar with some of the struggles and obstacles that women encounter,” said Lindsey Cheek, Founding Attorney of The Cheek Law Firm. “It is my absolute honor and pleasure to have been given this opportunity to support the EmpowHer Privateers mission of encouraging and supporting female student-athletes. I know that the New Orleans community will join us in celebrating and supporting this effort to provide additional resources to these incredible female student-athletes. This initiative can and will help ensure their future academic and athletic excellence and success.”

EmpowHer Privateers is an initiative that excites me to no end,” said Tim Duncan, Vice President of Athletics and Recreation at the University of New Orleans. “Our Athletics staff and outstanding volunteer committee have developed a masterful plan to literally EmpowHer our talented and well-deserved female student-athletes. The August brunch event will publicly kick off the initiative and its reach will be felt year-around through each of its three critical phases: fully funding female student-athlete scholarships, establishing intentional mentorships to positively impact leadership skills, and creating dynamic educational experiences as they travel throughout our country and abroad.”

“To have Mrs. Benson speak at the inaugural EmpowHer Privateers brunch is simply incredible,” added Duncan. “As the iconic leader of the most passionate fan base in professional sports, the Saints and Pelicans, we are very fortunate to have her take an active role in promoting our women’s sports programs, coaches and student-athletes. I would like to publicly thank Mrs. Benson and The Cheek Law Firm for supporting our Privateer teams and look forward to their support August 27 and beyond!”

“As a former student-athlete, I know firsthand how important sports can be to a young person’s development in all facets of their lives,” said Dr. Stacy Nicklow. “In particular, female athletes will benefit from more opportunities for developing leadership skills, more access to mentoring with community leaders, and more cultural experiences to supplement their regular coursework. The EmpowHer Privateers initiative is a positive step in helping our female student-athletes reach their full potential as professionals and leaders.”

EmpowHer Privateers Committee members include Dr. Stacy Nicklow, Committee Chair and wife of University President, Dr. John Nicklow; Kim Boyle, Partner, Phelps Dunbar and Board Member, Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation; Jamila Brown, Founder, Investor, FHL Investments; Rana Cabeceiras, Privateer Baseball Student-Athlete Parent; Lindsey Cheek, Founding Attorney, Cheek Law Firm; Dr. Michelle Douglas ‘90, Founding CEO, Hynes Charter School; Jennifer Hyde ‘04, Financial Advisor, Northwestern Mutual; Dr. Kathy Keene ‘98, Deputy Commissioner, Sun Belt Conference; Rachel Massey, AVP for External Engagement and University Events; Cyndi Nguyen, Council Member District E, City of New Orleans; Julie Stokes ‘92, Former State Representative and President & CEO, Flame Consulting; and Pearlina Thomas, CAO, Capital Area Transit.

The mission of New Orleans Athletics is to produce leaders who Achieve Academic Excellence, Win Championships and Serve the University and the Greater New Orleans community with pride and humility. Its values include integrity, accountability, teamwork, transparency, grit, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. The department is led by Tim Duncan, University Vice President of Athletics and Recreation.

For more information on EmpowHer Privateers or New Orleans Athletics, contact Kelvin Queliz, Assistant Athletic Director, at or (504) 280-6284 or visit:

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