UL Lafayette President Ray Authement Announced Retirement

UL Lafayette President Ray Authement Announced Retirement - Apr 27, 2007

UL Lafayette President Dr. Ray Authement, the nation’s longest serving public university president, announced his retirement Friday afternoon during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System in Lafayette.

He was named the university’s president in 1974, after serving as acting president for a year.

“ I today announce my intention to relinquish the presidency of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette as soon as the board can arrange a smooth transition from this presidency to the next,” Authement told board members at the end of their regular monthly meeting. The board was meeting at the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise facility in UL Lafayette’s University Research Park. Board committees met on the university’s campus yesterday.

“ I thank you so very much for all you’ve done,” Authement said. “As you can see, we’re making tremendous progress. I can assure you that I will continue to work with all of you to continue this development and movement forward.”

Jimmy Long, chair of the UL System Board, responded that the board, “individually and collectively, is saddened” by the announcement. “I also want to say that we appreciate your statement that you’ll be here for as long as it takes for a smooth transition.”

Dr. Sally Clausen, UL System president, thanked Authement for his service. “You have served as our ‘dean,’ both as a leader for our system office and presidents. You’ve also been a friend – the best friend higher education has had. Thank you for giving us your life.”

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco issued a statement that commended Authement for his service to UL Lafayette and his work to improve higher education throughout Louisiana.

“ Dr. Ray Authement has given visionary leadership and service to the University of Louisiana, to the Lafayette community, and to the tens of thousands of graduates who are leaders across Louisiana and around the world. The university has thrived under his direction, growing from a small regional college to one with internationally acclaimed programs,” she said.

“ Dr. Authement will always be the most beloved member of the Ragin’ Cajun family and I am proud to count him and his wife Barbara among my special friends. I thank them both for a lifetime of service to our people.”

Under Authement’s guidance, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has become a major economic force in Acadiana, while earning a national reputation in the fields of computer science, environmental and biological research, and Francophone studies.

He is responsible for the development of University Research Park, which houses numerous national research centers, the LITE facility and a hotel. Recently, the Carnegie Foundation designated UL Lafayette as a “research university with high research activity.” That puts UL Lafayette in the same category as Clemson, Auburn and Baylor universities.

During Authement’s administration, UL Lafayette became a selective admission institution and the first Doctoral II university in Louisiana.

He was a major force in successful efforts to change the name of the university from the University of Southwestern Louisiana to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Since Authement became the university’s fifth president, Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns have competed in NCAA Division 1, the highest level of collegiate athletic competition. The football team is a member of NCAA Division 1-A.

A $130 million construction boom on campus in the past decade produced the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum; Moody Hall, which houses the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration; a new computer science building; and Legacy Park, an apartment-style student residence on campus. Edith Garland Dupré library was expanded and totally renovated. A 400-plus parking garage and an indoor practice facility for UL Lafayette’s athletic teams are under construction.

Earlier in his presidency, Authement supervised construction of several other buildings, including the 12,800-seat Cajundome and an adjacent convention center.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s gifted assets surpassed $100 million during the Investing in Our Future Centennial campaign under Authement’s direction. UL Lafayette has 18 endowed chairs; each valued at $1 million. It has two endowed chairs funded entirely through private sources. The most recent addition to the university’s funded chairs is an endowed super chair in telecommunications, valued at $2 million.

The university has more than 140 endowed professorships, valued at $100,000 each, through the Board of Regents’ matching program and 29 endowed professorships funded through private sources.

When Louisiana’s oil industry virtually collapsed in the early 1980s, the university, under Authement’s direction, led efforts to diversify the area’s economy. For example, it helped existing businesses operate more efficiently, offered assistance to fledgling companies and showed businesses how to to obtain government contracts.

Since the mid-1980s, Authement established more than a dozen research centers, including the Louisiana Productivity Center and Institute of Cognitive Science.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1950; a master’s degree in 1952 from Louisiana State University and a doctoral degree from LSU in 1956.
 
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