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University History: General
Most of the content below was derived from the Centennial Celebration site (no longer active) that was created to celebrate the University's first 100 years.
1898-1921: Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute (SLII)
1921-1960: Southwestern Louisiana Institute (SLI)
1960-1999: University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL)
1999-present: University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette)
Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute (SLII)
  UL Lafayette was originally named the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute (SLII), according to the 1898 legislative act that created the school. State Senator Robert Martin, for whom UL Lafayette's administrative building is named, authored this legislation. Several towns competed to be the site of the new school; Lafayette was chosen by virtue of a donation of 25 acres of land by the Girard family. The town also put up $8,000 and offered a ten-year property tax to supplement state appropriations.  By 1899, the Board of Trustees was established. In 1900 construction began and Dr. Edwin Stephens was named president. Classes began in 1901 with 100 students.

Stephens, then 27 years old, was among the youngest presidents in the nation, and yet he had a vision for the campus from his first year. He planted a grove of live oaks, the Twentieth Century Oaks, in the first year of the century. Today many of those trees loom over Johnston Street and University Avenue. Stephens later founded the national Live Oak Society, an association whose members were the trees themselves with dues of 25 acorns a year. UL Lafayette remained an industrial institute until 1921. During those years, the campus extended its academic offerings to teacher training by adding a laboratory school in 1909. When railways became a force in the area, training began in railroad service. Courses in agriculture, stenography, accounting, mechanics, and many liberal arts disciplines were added. Among UL Lafayette's early milestones were the formation of the UL Lafayette Alumni Association in 1904 and publication of the first issue of the Vermilion, the student paper, that same academic year. One very early graduate, Jefferson Caffery, would eventually become a legend within the U.S. diplomatic corps. Caffery became known as the "Dean of U.S. Diplomats" and served as ambassador to France, Brazil, and Egypt during the middle decades of the 20th century. Another alumnus distinguished himself in sports. After setting many school records, Keener Cagle played for Army and won the award that would later be known as the Heisman Trophy.
Southwestern Louisiana Institute (SLI)
  By 1921, the school had outgrown its industrial role. The Constitutional Convention that year dropped the "Industrial" from the name and allowed Southwestern Louisiana Institute to grant bachelor's degrees. By this time, SLI had doubled to 50 acres and included many new classroom and dormitory buildings.

As early as 1922, UL Lafayette offered extension courses in surrounding parishes. In 1925, the school was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and a student government association was formed.

After serving for 38 years, Dr. Stephens retired in 1938. By this time enrollment exceeded 2,000 students, and the campus had grown with the addition of the 171-acre Whittington farm and the acquisition of 37 acres east of campus, where women's dormitories were eventually constructed.

UL Lafayette's second president, Mr. Lether Frazar, served only three years but is remembered for overseeing the construction of 12 new buildings, which greatly expanded the scope of the school's academic offerings.

Mr. Joel Lafayette Fletcher, who had served as dean of agriculture, became president in 1941, and he soon faced a major crisis. With the onset of U.S. involvement in World War II, enrollment plummeted and major layoffs of faculty seemed imminent. But Fletcher and his academic vice president, Dr. Joseph Riehl, went to Washington, DC and persuaded the Navy to locate its V-12 and V-5 officer training programs at SLI. This maneuver not only saved faculty jobs and academic programs; it gave UL Lafayette a phenomenal football team, as All-Americans from many colleges transferred here. SLI won the first Oil Bowl in 1943 with these players.

During the early 1940s, UL Lafayette organized a College of Engineering. When World War II ended, the school purchased 108 units of veterans housing, buildings that became known as "Vet Village" and served as married student housing for the next 30 years. The postwar years dramatically accelerated the pace of life in south Louisiana. The oil business was growing rapidly, Lafayette was becoming a medical and financial center, and several important social movements were gaining momentum.

UL Lafayette organized a College of Nursing and a College of Business Administration in 1951 and 1952, respectively. Then, in 1954, SLI became the first college in Louisiana to integrate its student body. The first African American students were admitted without incident, and today UL Lafayette has honored its first African American graduate, Christiana Smith, by naming an alumni chapter after her. Another important social milestone accomplished in 1954 was the acquisition of La Maison Acadienne Francaise. It is a stately structure at the corner of Johnston and St. Mary streets, and it is a center devoted to south Louisiana's French culture. By 1956, UL Lafayette had received approval for beginning graduate programs, and that was the beginning of the end of the college years. Four years later UL Lafayette became a university.
University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL)
  In 1960, the state legislature approved renaming Southwest Louisiana Institute to the University of Southwestern Louisiana. At this time UL Lafayette was composed of a graduate school and six colleges: agriculture, business administration, education, engineering, liberal arts, and nursing. Enrollment was approaching 5,000.

Early master's degree programs were in education, French, mathematics, science, engineering, English, geography, history, Spanish, and home economics. In 1961, UL Lafayette acquired its first digital computer, and three years later it began a master's program in computer science. Dr. Clyde Rougeou, who like Mr. Fletcher had served as dean of agriculture, succeeded Fletcher as President in 1966. In 1969, UL Lafayette initiated its first doctoral degree in computer science. Other doctoral offerings begun that year were in mathematics, biology, history, microbiology, statistics, and English.

Under Rougeou's tenure UL Lafayette expanded its library, constructed Cajun Field, the present Student Union building, as well as major classroom buildings: Maxim Doucet Hall, Wharton Hall, and H.L. Griffin Hall. With an oil boom well under way, UL Lafayette's enrollment grew rapidly, and by 1974 was approaching 12,000.

Dr. Ray Authement, a former mathematics professor and academic vice president, succeeded Rougeou in 1974. Under his administration, UL Lafayette has become a nationally competitive research institution, and its grant-funded research budget has grown from a few thousand dollars in the mid-seventies to over $20 million in 1998.

UL Lafayette dramatically expanded its research capabilities. It formed the Center for Advanced Computer Studies in 1984, as an umbrella organization for graduate studies in computer science and computer engineering. UL Lafayette acquired the New Iberia Research Center, one of the nation's largest primate centers, in 1984. When a slump in the oil business created an economic depression in the 1980s, UL Lafayette formed the Louisiana Productivity Center to bring advanced manufacturing technology to the area. UL Lafayette has also launched an Apparel Computer-lntegrated Manufacturing Center, a research facility for integrating computer technology in the nation's clothing manufacturing industry.

Tremendous growth in population and industry have placed great stress on Louisiana's wetlands, and the state continues to lose about 30 square miles of coastal marshes each year. In the 1990s UL Lafayette formed the research park, and its first client was the National Wetlands Research Center, which now works in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Service. This federal facility brought dozens of research scientists to Lafayette to research solutions for coastal environmental problems.

A second major facility, an office of the National Marine Fisheries Service Facility, was recently completed in the UL Lafayette Research Park. It will focus on fisheries management in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

UL Lafayette formed the Center for Louisiana Studies in 1973 to focus on research and preservation of the unique French-based culture of south Louisiana. This center has published more than 125 books on Louisiana, and its researchers have been active in documenting the history, folklore, music, genealogy, architecture, politics, language and cuisine that make south Louisiana such a remarkable place. UL Lafayette's Blackham Coliseum was the site for the first Cajun music festival. In 1994, the university initiated one of only three doctoral program in Francophone studies in the world, which provides an international forum for the study of French culture.

The athletic program also experienced tremendous growth under Authement's leadership. In 1974, all of UL Lafayette's athletic programs were elevated to Division 1.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette)
  For a while in the 1980s, UL Lafayette literally made a name for itself, The University of Louisiana. A subsequent act of the Louisiana Legislature nullified that name change, but Authment persisted. On September 10, 1999, his perseverance was rewarded when he walked onto a stage before an audience of alumni, visiting dignitaries, administrators, faculty, and students in the Cajundome. There, before several thousand people, with the blessing of the State of Louisiana, he signed an order that changed the university's name to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. This monumental achievement occurs as part of UL Lafayette's Centennial Celebration.

Another aspect of the Celebration worth noting is the Investing in Our Future Campaign. In 1997, Authment and a group of supporters launched the Campaign to increase the university's privately-held assets to $75 million with the majority of funds to be used for endowed chairs, professorships, and scholarships. The Campaign reached its goals early and exceeded them.

UL Lafayette has exceeded 17,000 in enrollment with students from 75 countries. It offers 115 undergraduate degree and 28 masters degree programs. Its alumni number more than 79,000.

Document last revised Friday, August 20, 2004 3:07 PM

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