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Legislature honors Authement; see photos

State lawmakers laud longtime UL president

Those in the House of Representatives and the Senate chamber floor and balconies rose to their feet Wednesday afternoon to recognize UL President Ray Authement with a standing ovation for nearly 35 years of leadership.

After they sat down, Authement left the representatives and senators with a challenge.


"Continue to support education," he said. "It’s making a difference in Louisiana."

Authement was recognized by each legislative body separately Wednesday afternoon with resolutions that honored his leadership, which has been credited with helping Lafayette in its recovery after the oil bust in the 1980s and shaping UL as a research institution now recognized by the Carengie Foundation as on par with Clemson and Auburn.

"Dr. Authement has been a champion for the university, the community and the state," said state Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette. "He’s led the university through some challenging times and he’s leaving the university in the best financial position probably in its history."

Authement attended the university as an undergraduate and returned to teach math there. After working in administration, he was appointed its president in 1974.

Currently, he is the nation’s longest serving public university president. Another Louisiana man and Authement’s colleague and friend, Norman Francis, is the longest serving university president in the nation. Francis is now in his 40th year as president of Xavier University in New Orleans.

While Lafayette is known for its ties to the oil and gas industry, Authement led the university to focus on unique areas of research. One of those areas was computer science. Today, Lafayette is recognized as a technology hub of the South and boasts 3-D cube visualization technology of the LITE Center and most recently a national disaster management research center. Both centers are located in the university’s research park, which didn’t exist prior to Authement’s presidency.

Authement’s service doesn’t end with his retirement, noted Elsie Burkhalter, chair of the University of Louisiana System’s board of supervisors.

Burkhalter selected Authement to lead the advisory committee for the system’s search for a new system president because of his expertise and his own leadership experience.

"He’s given his life to this job," Burkhalter said. "Honoring him today shows how much Louisiana appreciates his commitment. He’s recognized nationally and we need to continue to call upon him for his expert advice."

Authement plans to continue to work for the university as a fundraiser.

Although in the final weeks of his presidency, he is no lame duck. After posing on the Capitol steps with about 150 people from Acadiana, Authement discussed business.

"There are three bills that we’re particularly interested in," he said. "All are related to tuition."

Two of the bills are related to tuition increase policies for higher education, while a third would allow UL to raise its tuition to the level of Louisiana Tech and UNO, which like UL are the state’s only pubic Doctoral II institutions. LSU is the state’s only public Doctoral I institution.

The UL-specific tuition bill is a sort of insurance in case legislators don’t approve the tuition increase policies, but also to "call attention to legislators" about low is UL’s tuition in comparison to its in-state peers, Authement said.

"We’re getting $9 million less (in tuition) than we would have if we were at the level of Louisiana Tech or UNO," he said. "It’s needed."

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