Dr. Edwin Stephens
Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens was 27 when he was named the first president of the Southwest Louisiana Industrial Institute (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) on January 23, 1900. SLI, which was established by the Louisiana Legislature in 1898, had no campus, no faculty, and no students. So he started building it from scratch.
In January 1901, Stephens planted oak saplings on campus. Many have flourished, a few remain – at the intersection of University Avenue and Johnston Street – and are known as Century Oaks.
When SLII first started offering courses, it was a vocational education institution. In 1921 it became a four-year college and dropped “Industrial” from its name. In 1932 it was accredited as a Teacher Training College, with degrees ranging from art to biology to physical education.
Stephens was known among his colleagues as an inspirational leader who encouraged teachers and students. During his administration, he established the Alumni Association and oversaw the construction of several buildings, including DeClouet, Foster, and OK Allen Halls and the original administration building, known as the Main Building. Baseball, football and track and field teams were created, as was The Vermilion newspaper and the L’Acadien yearbook.
Stephens retired as president in May 1938 and died in New Orleans less than seven months later.
Lether Edward Frazar
Lether Edward Frazar succeeded Stephens in 1938. Although he only served two and a half years, he oversaw the construction of many campus buildings, such as the President’s House, Mouton Hall, Broussard Hall, Burke Hall , Hamilton Hall, Earl K. Long Gym, and Stephens Memorial Library. He also helped the University grow through the purchase of additional land, primarily the old Whittington Estate.
Frazar, who was 34 when he became the school’s second president, expanded the College of Agriculture and College of Engineering, and added the music, business, and publicity departments.
He also created the marching band and the school’s first intercollegiate athletic program.
Frazar resigned from the SLI in 1940. He later served as state representative, dean of McNeese State College, and lieutenant governor of Louisiana during the Earl K. Long administration. He died in 1960.
Dr Joel Lafayette Fletcher Jr.
Dr. Joel Lafayette Fletcher Jr., who became the University’s third president in 1941, was known for his personal interest in student welfare.
Any student who was considering resigning from SLI should speak to Fletcher first so that the president could determine if anything could be done to allow them to stay in school.
As dean of the College of Agriculture, he had taken advantage of the National Youth Administration and Works Projects Administration to provide jobs for poor students who needed money to attend SLI. Some of these students grew vegetables on the school farm. Others worked in campus offices. Many worked at the dairy, where they made cheese and butter.
He was president of the SLI during World War II. After the war, he helped veterans return to school to complete their education.
Under his administration, the University formally integrated in 1954 and was the first school in the Deep South to do so. The following year, Fletcher oversaw the creation of the SLI Foundation.
In 1960, SLI was granted university status, which allowed it to change its name to University of Southwestern Louisiana.
During Fletcher’s presidency, FG Mouton Hall, Montgomery Hall, Madison Hall, Olivier Hall, Griffin Hall, and Coronna Hall were built.
Fletcher retired in 1965 after 25 years of service. He died in 1972.
Dr. Clyde L. Rougeou
Dr. Clyde L. Rougeou began teaching at SLI during Stephens’ presidency. He headed the livestock department before being named the institution’s fourth president.
From 1966 to 1974, Rougeou guided the University through a critical period of rapid growth and shrinking budgets. During his tenure, enrollment grew from 8,400 to over 12,000, an increase of 43%.
To accommodate the larger student population, Rougeou coordinated $34 million in construction projects. Maxim Doucet Hall, Wharton Hall, the Student Union, Cajun Field, the sports complex, and the upper two floors of the Dupré Library were built during his presidency.
The University has also grown academically, adding graduate programs in English, History, Microbiology, Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, and Education. In 1968, USL began awarding doctorates.
Rougeau died in 1980.
Dr. Ray P. Authement
The University’s fifth President, Dr. Ray P. Authement, began leading the institution in 1973 when his predecessor, Dr. Clyde L. Rougeou, took a one-year leave. When Rougeou retired, Authement became president. He served for 34 years, earning the distinction of being the longest serving president of a public university in the United States.
Throughout his career, Authement had an affinity for students who were the first in their families to attend college. He grew up in Boudreaux Canal, a small fishing community in southern Louisiana. Although neither of his parents was past grade 7, they valued education and encouraged their son to excel. Authement entered SLI in 1947 on a small scholarship. He majored in physics and began his teaching career as a senior as a lab instructor.
After earning master’s and doctorate degrees in mathematics, he taught at Louisiana State University and McNeese State University before returning to SLI as an associate professor of mathematics in 1957. Two years later he was appointed professor . He continued to teach until 1966, when he was promoted to Vice President Academic. By then, SLI had become USL. In 1970, he was promoted to vice-president, a position he held until the departure of Rougeau.
During his tenure, he oversaw the evolution of the University from a regional institution to one worthy of national and international attention. For nearly four decades, the University:
- changed its name to University of Louisiana at Lafayette;
- implemented academic admission standards;
- became the first Doctoral II institution in Louisiana;
- competed in NCAA Division I, the highest level of collegiate competition;
- helped diversify the economy by creating 17 research centres;
- increase in donated assets from approximately $500,000 to over $150 million; and
- constructed more than 30 buildings and facilities, and renovated or expanded more than 25 others.
Authement retired in 2008. He died in 2020. He died in 2020.
Dr. E. Joseph Savoie
Dr. E. Joseph Savoie returned to his alma mater as the sixth president in July 2008. He previously served as Louisiana State Commissioner of Higher Education, where he participated in several major post-secondary education reforms , in particular the restructuring of higher education. governance, creation of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, and initiatives in teacher training and school reform.
Under his leadership, financial support for public postsecondary education more than doubled, and Louisiana’s colleges and universities became more committed to addressing Louisiana’s economic and social challenges.
Prior to his appointment as Commissioner of Higher Education, he held numerous positions on the UL Lafayette campus, including Vice President for Academic Advancement, Executive Director of the Alumni Association, Program Director for the Union Program Council, Student Government Advisor and Adjunct Assistant Professor. . He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from UL Lafayette and earned a doctorate in education in educational leadership and administration from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York.
Under his leadership, the University has affirmed its commitment to its core mission of education and is developing a plan for future growth. She developed a strategic plan to foster academic success by improving retention rates and increasing the number of graduates.
Shortly after his appointment, Savoie launched a comprehensive review of academic offerings that led to the creation of new degree programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees.
With the construction of new halls of residence, the University has increased its student housing capacity by 37% and created learning and living environments, where students with similar interests live and study together. Additionally, students, faculty, staff, and community members helped create a master plan for the campus that addresses issues such as facilities, transportation, and housing.