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University honors Authement and wife with award (Photo Gallery Included)

For the past 33 years that Ray Authement has led the university, his wife, Barbara has been at his side, supporting the university and loving it as much as her husband.

And on Friday night, as the Alumni Association honored him for his years of service and contributions to UL with its outstanding alumni award, they recognized her with a rare distinction – the honorary alumni award.

Upon receiving his award, her husband’s first words were for her as he joked that the Herbert Heymman told him he had met the fifth president of the university.

"He said, ‘And it’s Barbara Authement,’" her husband laughed along with the crowd. "She’s helped me through so many crises and helped me when I needed it," he said.

Her honor was the surprise announcement of the evening.

"It’s been a wonderful journey," Barbara Authement told the group gathered for the reception at the Alumni Center. "I’m very honored."

It’s Authement’s final homecoming as UL president. He announced his retirement this past April. His successor is expected to be selected by the system’s search committee in December.

"It’s my final homecoming as president, but I’ll be here many more times in the future," Authement said. "The Alumni Association has been so instrumental in the growth of the university. We bought this house together and developed the center together. The association is close to my heart."

Alumni Association President Martin Audiffred said the honorary alumni award has been given only three times in the past 16 years. The committee voted unanimously to honor both Authements this year, he said.

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

He graduated from USL in 1950 with his bachelor’s degree and returned to teach math at the university.

He grew up in Boudreaux Canal in Terrebonne Parish.

"My dad was so proud of Ray," said his sister Rosalee Tipton of Houma. "He’d say, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if Ray graduated college and came back to teach at Terrebonne High School? But he’s done more than that and we’re so proud of him."

The night was a celebration for Authement’s family – those he gets honestly through blood and the members he’s adopted through the university.

Authement was surrounded by several family members, including his siblings, his four grandchildren, and daughter, Julie Johnson who now lives in Atlanta.

"It’s so nice to come home and see people come together to honor him and the work he’s done for the university," Johnson said.

She said that both of her parents tend to stay out of the spotlight.

Friday night she was honored by the gesture given to both her parents, she said.

"She’s always behind the scenes," she said of her mother. "She loves the university and given as much of her life to the university as he has."

More than the university’s name has changed under Authement’s leadership. UL is now a selective admissions, Doctoral II university with a Research Park that houses national research centers.

"I can’t think of an individual who’s given more extraordinary service to the community or the university than this gentleman," said John Chappuis, UL Foundation president.

Authement has also worked to develop the university’s athletic teams, who now compete in NCAA’s Division I.

The university’s bricks and mortar have grown by $130 billion in just the past 10 years with a new art museum, business college, computer science building, indoor practice facility and a new university-run apartment complex.

The university will also open its first parking garage later this year and renovations to one of its older buildings, Burke-Hawthorne are now underway.

Authement tagged the team that helped the university raise more than $100 million during its Investing in Our Future Centennial campaign. The university’s number of endowments for professorships and its assets continue to grow with community support.

Daily Advertiser, 2007 Outstanding Alumni Photo Gallery