When an eighth-grader in Louisiana tried to locate an official state flag to bring to a hunter-safety training session, he quickly realized that there were multiple versions flying on flagpoles all around the state. There was some consistency—most featured a white pelican with its young in a nest, with the state motto, “Union Justice Confidence,” inscribed below—but there were many discrepancies from one design to the next. The student, David Joseph Louviere, eventually persuaded legislators to pass a bill in 2006 that outlined requirements for an official state flag.
The task of creating the new flag fell to Glen Duncan ’80, communications director for Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge and an expert in marketing and branding. Duncan volunteered for the project thinking it would be a straightforward task. “Most images show the pelican spilling its own blood to feed its young, which is a perfect symbol— especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina—of our state making sacrifices for the sake of its citizens,” he says. He recruited Curtis Vann, an accomplished wildlife artist and former governor of the southeastern district of the American Advertising Federation, to join him, and together, the two persuaded then Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, whose office was responsible for carrying out the law, to hand over the reins.
What Duncan thought might take a few months turned into more than a year of research into ornithology (the particulars of pelicans); PMS colors, fonts, and typefaces; the history of legislation related to the state’s seal, which informs the flag design; religious symbolism in the flag’s imagery; punctuation (or lack thereof) in the state motto; and modern flag reproduction standards so that manufacturers would be able to produce a new design easily and consistently.
In the summer of 2010, Duncan and Vann presented their research findings to Dardenne, including the report they’d written, “A Modern History of the Louisiana Pelican Flag; or a tale of the surprisingly difficult quest for the ‘official’ state flag.” They also included an assortment of style samples with various design options. Dardenne solicited additional feedback from his legal advisers, staff members, and the state archivist. That fall, Duncan and Vann got the green light to finalize the artwork and digital files so that all state flags manufactured in the future will be uniform. (The law does not mandate that existing flags be replaced; therefore, the new official flag will be implemented over time, as older flags wear out.) The new flag was unveiled at the swearing-in of Dardenne as lieutenant governor this past November.
Earlier in his career, Duncan worked as an exploration geologist for Amoco; earned a master’s in journalism and became an environmental reporter; and launched a public-relations and video production corporation, creating projects for clients such as the Discovery Channel and the History Channel. He is currently the president of the Southern Public Relations Federation, a 1,300-member network of public-relations professionals from Alabama, North Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Duncan occasionally travels around the state talking to various history and civic groups about what he learned about Louisiana history in the process of designing a new state flag. He says he is constantly on the lookout for the official flag. “I recently spoke to a Rotary group and right across the street was one of the new flags,” he says. “I also use it as an opportunity to encourage people to get involved in their community and become ‘citizen volunteers.’ You never know what will happen when you offer to help someone.”
Glen Duncan '80
Making It Official
October 1, 2011