Introduction

Ten years ago, I wrote an account of Hibernia Bank’s recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita at the request of the company’s CEO, Herb Boydstun.  We wanted to document the extraordinary effort by employees of Louisiana’s oldest and largest bank after those disasters.  Also, because Hibernia was about to merge with Capital One, the story might serve as a final chapter in the company’s 135-year history.

I had thought it would be relatively simple to describe the rescue of this fine old company.  Instead, I was overwhelmed by the accounts of personal hardship — and remarkable accomplishments  — of Hibernia people.  I still am today.

After this was completed in 2006, I put it away for a number of reasons, but on this 10th anniversary of those terrible events, it seemed appropriate to bring it out.

The story is largely as it was first written.  I have eliminated some references and condensed portions I felt were too long.  I have not attempted to update the personal accounts, which I think are the best part.  I am grateful to the many people who spoke to me and offered their photographs.  To the extent I have fallen short in telling their stories — and in any inaccuracies — I alone am responsible.

I will always be indebted to Charlotte Miller, my assistant (now deceased), who researched many facts; also to Bobbie Fazende, my former assistant, and Carmel Peyton and Mary Huber, for transcribing many interviews; and to Jim Lestelle, head of corporate communications, and Cathy Chessin, chief legal counsel, for making suggestions on earlier drafts.  I am grateful to Steven Thorpe, of Hibernia’s corporate communications department, who took the “cover photo” of the Hibernia Tower I used at the top of this website.

My sole aim here is to honor the wonderful “Hibernians” who sacrificed so much to save their company a decade ago.

Russell S. Hoadley
Retired Chief Public Affairs Officer, Hibernia Corporation

July 2015

22 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. Really nice Intro. I’m looking forward to reading!!

    Been waiting for this a long time. A tenth anniversary will put it all in even better perspective.

    • Thanks, Sheri. I’m up to chapter 10, with about that many more to go. Will have hundreds of pictures before it’s finished.

    • Ted, One way to “browse” is to use the search feature to look up individual names. Thanks for your post.

  2. Russ, I remember reading the first draft of this. To this date, it still brings tears to my eyes to think back on this and the people that shared this experience. I am fortunate to continue to work with many of them here at Iberiabank, and will be sure to pass this along to as many as I can. Thank you, beyond what I could ever express, for putting this into words and pictures!!

    • Chris, thanks a lot for your very kind words. Even though it took me 10 years to finally “get it out there,” it was not easy. For a long time I did not want to work on it because it affected me so much. I was grateful to find a way to do it on the web so everyone could see it.

    • Skip, it’s really nice to hear from you. Yes, I have found it difficult too … part of the reason it took me so long to get it out. I am mighty proud of what you and others did in those dark days. Hope all is well with you.

  3. Thank you for sharing again a story of what employees will do to save a company. I learned more about people during the event that will be with me for the rest of my life. No one can imagine what took place in the hearts of these employees during some of the darkest moments of their lives. Truly the best of the best.

    • Ben, Thank you for your kind words. I will always believe that our last days as Hibernia were also our best. You and so many others made it our “finest hour.” I’m so glad you wrote. I wanted so much to hear from my old colleagues. I was privileged to be able to tell this story.

  4. Russ, thanks so much for the time and effort you put into compiling this record. What great people we worked with through a very tough time. I hope you are doing well.

    • Greg, it’s terrific to hear from you and from Ben. I was hoping we might reconnect. As you read this account, if you see anything I need to correct, please don’t hesitate to let me know. You two did so much to steer our troubled ship during those dark days. I will always be grateful for your service.

  5. Russ, I’m so glad you are able to get this out. Hard to believe it has been 10 years. Still miss the people at Hibernia! Those were some very long days after the storm, but everyone came together beautifully to do what was needed for our employees, our customers and our shareholders.

    anne

    • Anne, you and so many others did so much. I wish I’d found a way to get this out sooner. But I am glad now that it is available for everyone. If you see anything I need to correct, don’t hesitate to tell me. Best wishes, Russ

  6. This is a brilliant narrative of a proud and venerable company’s survival in one of the worst natural disasters to strike the North American continent. Since Russ Hoadley’s part as a key participant in the salvage and reconstruction of Hibernia Bank in the weeks and months following Hurricane Katrina, his author’s credentials for this significant and fascinating book are impeccable.
    The poignant antidotes of company employees who sacrifice comfort and safety for the sake of their company’s preservation rival tales of military heroism. However, the book is about a company, a large bank with approximately 6,500 employees and five billion dollars in assets struck to its knees by a mighty force of nature. As Hoadley so ably describes, Hibernia’s subsequent remarkable corporate recovery is measured, not so much in terms of executive officer brilliance, but by courageous and often intuitive responses at the grass root level from highly dedicated individuals throughout the corporate hierarchy.
    A Beacon of Hope should be required reading for all disaster preparedness officials, both corporate and governmental. Hoadley’s description of the synergistic effects of contingencies and exigencies in such a catastrophe is textbook material for risk managers.
    Congratulations Russ Hoadley on your authorship of a superb book. Hardback publication is a requirement.

    • Charles, old friend, thank you very much for your kind words. I am speechless (a condition, as you know, that rarely afflicts me). This story was far too long incubating, but I am gratified now by the response to it. Many of my old colleagues (who encountered and rose to the challenges described) have told me how much they appreciate it finally being published.

  7. Russ – I remember so much of this as if it was yesterday. As the HR merger team lead for Capital One, my time with the Hibernia team pre and post the Katrina disaster remains one of the most emotional, trying, and rewarding memories of my life. Thank you for honoring and reporting all that happened so we can continue to learn and prepare for the future. All the best to you and the Hibernia team that faced and overcame such difficult challenges.

    • Albert, thanks for writing. Glad you discovered the website and you find it satisfying. I’ve had quite a few nice comments from former Hibernia people. The site has had about 2,000 visits now and something like 100,000 hits, so I feel I am beginning to fulfill the promise I made to my colleagues that I would eventually “get this out.” Hope you are doing well.

    • Peter … Thank you, and yes, doing very well. I’ve been surprised and pleased about how many people have seen the story and commented on it. Good wishes to you. — Russ

  8. Russ, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your efforts to document such a difficult period of time. Your efforts show what we can only tell. Katrina revealed the things in Hibernians that made it such a great bank before the storm. It was a privilege to have been a part Hibernia. Beautiful tribute…well done. Miss you and hope you are doing well.

    • Peggy, What a pleasure it is to hear from you! Thank you for your kind comments. I enjoyed doing this book, even though it took me 10 years to finally get it published on the web. A number of our former colleagues have read it now and they have said very nice things about it. What an experience it was for us all! I too miss all of my Hibernia friends. I am well and enjoying retirement both here in New Orleans and in Tampa, FL. Best wishes, Russ

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