The LaBonde family, UNC’s 2010 Family of the Year, pose during Family and Friends Weekend. Pictured are: (back row, l to r) David Soucie, Jill LaBonde-Soucie, Crystalyn Rivera, Rainer Uhlig, Janie (LaBonde) Uhlig, Jack LaBonde Sr., Jack LaBonde Jr., Joseph LaBonde and (front row, l to r) Susie LaBonde, Charlie LaBonde, Jerry LaBonde, Susannah (Johnson) LaBonde, Fay LaBonde, Susan (Seiber) LaBonde, and Laurel Kinlund.
The Labonde family - by 2012 10 members spanning three generations will have earned a total of 14 degrees from the University of Northern Colorado – were honored as 2010 Family of the Year at the university’s annual Family and Friends Weekend Oct. 15-17.
Jack LaBonde Sr., the first generation the family’s UNC grads, received his bachelor’s degree in 1951 and his master’s in 1953. He was a member of the wrestling team as an undergrad and returned in 1966 to be the team’s coach, a position he held until 1980. He was inducted into the UNC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.
His relationship with UNC has continued over the years – he’s still actively involved with Athletics Department events - and served as a model for his children.
"UNC was always talked about in a positive manner," son Jack LaBonde Jr. said while sharing memories of growing up on campus when his father was a coach. "We feel very much at home at UNC - it was always our first option. UNC is big enough to offer everything and small enough to not get lost." The younger LaBonde graduated from UNC in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree.
Jack Jr. and siblings Janie (BA ’69, MA ’76), Jill BS ’82) and Jerry (BA ’79, MA ’81) make up the second generation of LaBondes with UNC degrees. Jack Jr. said that they were lucky to have spent so much time with the UNC community, enabling them to join in the different activities UNC organizes as a family.
Education clearly is important to the family. But their affinity to UNC goes further, according to Jack Jr.’s daughter, Katherine LaBonde, who is studying in Lithuania this semester and will graduate in 2012. She said the primary reason she chose to attend UNC was her desire to study elementary education and UNC’s reputation as one of the best teacher preparation schools around.
For Jack Jr.’s son Joseph, who will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems, UNC was his college of choice before he had made any decisions on his future career paths. Just like his father, Joseph feels that UNC is family- and community-oriented despite having grown in size since his father attended.
"When I was young, the family always got together at my parents’ house after games and they stayed up all hours exchanging stories, which were always fun to listen to," Joseph said while describing what happened when his grandfather Jack Sr. and wife Faye would come back for athletic events.
Joseph added that he considers his grandfather to be an inspiration and a great coach, as well as a great story teller.
Jack Jr. noted that an education wasn’t the only thing some of the LaBondes got from UNC. He met wife, Susan Seiber (BSN ’79, MA ’83), while the two were students and brother Jerry met his wife, Susannah Johnson (BA ’79), on campus.
And the family will add a 14th member who graduated from UNC soon when Joseph and finance Laurel Kinlund (BS ’09) get married, which could be the start of a fourth generation of LaBondes who become part of the UNC family.
- Fiza Johari