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Scouts honor leader – UL president receives Distinguished Citizen Award

Bruce Brown • bbrown@theadvertiser.com • May 8, 2008  

Ray Authement absorbed some good-natured ribbing from friends on Wednesday as the recipient of the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Evangeline Area Council, Boy Scouts of Americ
But Authement, retiring this year after 34 years as president of UL, took it in stride.

"This is a lesson to the young people in the audience," Authement said. "If you stay somewhere long enough, people will celebrate your leaving."

As Authement spoke, he could look out through windows of the Convention Center at the Cajundome next door, both buildings among the numerous reminders of his years at UL.

"He has changed Acadiana forever," said Rusty Cloutier, who served as emcee and is himself a former winner of the Distinguished Citizen Award.

The luncheon, which raised some $76,000 for the Evangeline Area Council, focused on Authement’s service to the community while at UL as teacher and administrator.

"It’s been a labor of love," Authement said. "I’ve loved every day I served the university. I’d like to go back to teaching. There are so many former students, not so young now, who have thanked me for leading them in this direction.

"I will always remember the young people who’ve learned about life, about serving their families, their church and their community."

He recited a poem learned during his youth as a Boy Scout in Bourg, along the Boudreaux Canal, where parents trapped or fished and where "kids needed a lot of skills to learn what life had to offer."

The poem spoke of leaving safe harbor, and of wanting to get out where the great ships float, words Authement used to inspire his ambition for UL.

"The drive of the faculty and students has led us," he said. "We’re floating big time, and we finally have sufficient funds to go a bit deeper."

Authement also recalled his days in scouting, eventually reaching the rank of Life Scout and serving as a counselor at Camp Salmen in Slidell at a young age.

"I was in charge of a cabin with 12 boys from the New Orleans area, who went to a feeder school for Holy Cross," he said. "They were not well behaved, and I had to put them on curfew, make them stay in camp.

"Two years later, I was a tailback for Terrebonne High School, playing Holy Cross. I looked across the line and saw three of those same boys. They delivered a punishment for me trying to be a bigger guy than I really was."

Years later, that same drive helped Authement take UL to unprecedented success.

Click here Dr. Authement Photo Gallery by Daily Advertiser: