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University History: Presidents
 
Most of the content below was derived from the Centennial Celebration site (no longer active) that was created to celebrate the University's first 100 years.
 
 
Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens
 
  When Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens was named the first president of Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute, (now UL Lafayette), on January 3, 1900, the school had no campus, no faculty, and no students. Stephens, who was 27 years old at the time, used his leadership skills to literally build the university from the ground up.

Stephens graduated from LSU in 1889. He then went to New York University where he earned a master's degree in pedagogy in 1897 and a Ph.D. in 1899.

Stephens also studied at Cook County Normal School in Chicago and at Harvard University. And he taught physics, chemistry, and Latin in high school and college before serving as president of SLII for 38 years.

SLII began as a vocational educational institution and by 1932 was accredited as a College of Teacher Education, with degrees ranging from art to biology to physical education. Stephens was known among his colleagues as an inspiring leader for awakening educational aspirations in students. But, his lasting contribution to the university is exemplified by a special feature on UL Lafayette's campus, a feature that grows and becomes more majestic each year. In January 1901, Stephens organized the effort to transplant young oak trees to the land that now parallels St. Mary Boulevard on campus. He also had oaks planted on other parts of campus, 18 trees that, in the year 2001, will be 100 years old and have been called "Century Oaks."

An oak tree located south of Cypress Lake was designated to honor Stephens for his efforts as president, environmentalist, and visionary.

During his administration, the first Martin Hall, the President's House, DeClouet Hall, Foster Hall, McNaspy Stadium, and O.K. Allen Hall were constructed. Stephens also initiated the Alumni Association, The Vermilion newspaper, and L'Acadien yearbook. SLII became Southwestern Louisiana Institute in 1921.

Joel Fletcher, UL Lafayette's third president, described Stephens as "a faithful friend of faculty and students, an eminent scholar, and aggressive fighter for educational progress." Stephens retired as president emeritus in May 1938. He died in New Orleans on November 5, 1938.
 
Mr. Lether Edward Frazar
 
  Mr. Lether Edward Frazar became president of SLI (now UL Lafayette) in 1938 and took over the building of the university process, adding to the foundation that Edwin Stephens began. Although Frazar served as president for only two and a half years, he supervised the construction of many of the buildings and halls that still stand on campus and form the physical personality of the university.

Among the buildings that Frazar had constructed include Mouton Hall, Broussard Hall, Burke Hall, Stephens Hall, Evangeline Hall, the Stephens Memorial Library, and McNaspy Stadium Dormitory.

But Frazar, who was only 34 years old when he became president, also had plans for the internal workings of the buildings he helped construct. He created the Colleges of Agriculture and Engineering and added the Departments of Music, Commerce, and Publicity. Shortly after becoming president, Frazar's goal was "to build SLI into the greatest college in the south."

Adding to the appeal of the university away from the classroom, he also created the marching band and the SLI Alumni News, a predecessor of Alumni Accents.

He also developed the university's first intercollegiate athletic program. Born in DeRidder, Louisiana, in 1904, Frazar graduated from SLI in history in 1928; he also earned an M.A. from LSU in 1932, and was a graduate student at Columbia University from 1941-42.

After leaving SLI in 1941, Frazar served as a Louisiana state representative, as an Office of Price Administration staff member in Washington, D.C., and as dean of McNeese State College.

Before his death on May 15, 1960, Frazar served as lieutenant governor of Louisiana in the Earl K. Long administration.
 
Mr. Joel Lafayette Fletcher
 
  Known for a capacity to remember the names and faces of students, Mr. Joel Lafayette Fletcher, the third president of SLI, worked to keep a one-to-one relationship between the administration and students.

Fletcher was president of the university for 25 years, from 1941-66, and was known for never permitting a student to resign from college without a personal interview to discover why the student wanted to leave school and to seek a solution to the student's problem.

Perhaps, Fletcher's biggest accomplishment was one that affected all students. In 1960 Fletcher successfully led the effort to change the school's name from SLI to USL, thus gaining university status.

Fletcher grew up in Ruston, Louisiana. He graduated from Louisiana Industrial Institute (Louisiana Tech) with an associate degree in agriculture in 1914. His rural upbringing and interest in dairy and pasture work led him to assist in informing farmers of new techniques and ideas to improve agricultural practices.

He also earned a B.S. in agriculture from LSU in 1918, and an M.S. from Iowa State in 1926. Fletcher was appointed to the UL Lafayette faculty in 1920 and became dean of the College of Agriculture before serving as president.

During the Depression, he utilized the National Youth Administration and the Works Projects Administration to provide employment for students who did not have money for college. Students helped to produce cheese, butter, milk, and vegetables on the SLI farm and worked in offices on campus or in the laundry to earn money for tuition.

Fletcher served higher education for a total of 45 years. In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him to the Federal Reserve Board for the Louisiana region.

Fletcher died on April 25, 1972.

In an address to the student body during his presidency, Fletcher encouraged all students to strive for an education. "You are welcome here . . . share with us your minds, for we shall be together the inheritors of a sweet land."
 
Dr. Clyde Lee Rougeou
 
  "Character is the aim of true education. And science, history, and literature are but means used to accomplish this desired end," said Dr. Clyde Lee Rougeou, the fourth president of UL Lafayette, in an address to students, faculty, and staff during his administration. Serving as university president from 1966-74, Rougeou used his leadership to guide the university through a critical period of rapidly rising enrollment and curtailed budgets.

He earned a B.S. degree from SLI in 1935. He then completed an M.S. from Texas A&M in 1937 and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1949. He began teaching at SLI in 1937 and eventually rose from instructor to the head of the Department of Animal Husbandry.

Rougeou also served as a board member of Lafayette's Home Savings & Loan, now Home Bank.

During his eight years as president, enrollment at UL Lafayette increased from 8,400 to more than 12,000 students. And through his guidance and effort, the university expanded academically. In 1968, UL Lafayette became a doctoral-granting institution. It also added graduate programs in English, history, microbiology, mathematics, statistics, education, and computer science. Rougeou coordinated more than $34 million in building projects on campus. Construction included Angelle Hall, Maxim Doucet Hall, Wharton Hall, the Student Union, Cajun Field, the Athletic Complex, and the two upper floors of Dupré Library. He was named Outstanding UL Lafayette Alumnus from the College of Agriculture in 1966.

Rougeou died in Lafayette on December 31, 1980.

"Universities provide tradition: tradition can be life sustaining if it represents the thoughtful preservation of principle," Rougeou said.

" It is our part to see that our university is unique and providing experiences that have enriched all of us, is made stronger as the years go on, and that our knowledge, talents, skills, ideals, and loyalty are mobilized to strengthen and enrich the structure of American society."
 
Dr. Ray P. Authement
 
  When Dr. Ray Authement became UL Lafayette's fifth president, he was determined that the university would make a name for itself. He has succeeded, in large part because of his talent for making accurate predictions. He capitalizes on UL Lafayette's strengths, while developing programs that have the potential to earn regional and national acclaim.

Authement's list of accomplishments is extensive. But it is even more impressive when placed in an economic context. Under his direction, UL Lafayette has made steady progress, despite a riches-to-rags economy in the early 1980s caused by the virtual collapse of the oil industry in Acadiana and Louisiana.

A native of Chauvin, Louisiana, Authement earned a degree in physics and mathematics from Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now UL Lafayette) and a master's and Ph.D. from LSU. In addition to teaching at UL Lafayette, he taught for a year at McNeese State College in Lake Charles and served as a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina.

Authement was named an academic vice president in 1966, vice president in 1970 and acting president in 1973 when UL Lafayette President Clyde Rougeou announced he was taking a one-year leave of absence. He became president on June 30, 1974. Early on, Authement mapped out a plan for UL Lafayette.

"I knew at the time I became president that things were changing in higher education and a university needed a well-defined program that could move it into a position of excellence," he said.

So, UL Lafayette developed a Ph.D. program in computer science, along with doctoral programs in math, English and history. Under his guidance, UL Lafayette has become the state's second largest university and earned the distinction of being the first public university in the state to earn a Doctoral II ranking.

In recent years, Authement has been instrumental in the expansion and development of the New Iberia Research Center and creation of University Research Park.

During the economic downturn of the 1980s, Authement took an active role in developing the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and the Enterprise Center of Louisiana, a business incubator. At the same time, he wrestled with crippling state budget cuts, managing to move the university forward despite financial setbacks.

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 Authement 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, Authement 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.
 
Dr. E. Joseph Savoie
 
   
 

Document last revised Tuesday, July 1, 2008 5:08 PM

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