Administration: Former UL President Ray Authement to be honored
William Potter, The Advertiser, Sept. 12, 2019
Photos of Dr. Ray Authement President of UL. (Photo: Photos from UL Archives)
Ray Authement, who served as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette president for 34 years, will receive a lifetime achievement award on Sept. 18 for his service to UL and Lafayette.
The Louisiana CLI (critical limb ischemia) and Limb Salvage Club, a group dedicated to educating medical professionals, is honoring Authement during one of its community service and education events.
Authement, 90, is being honored for his dedication to UL as the longest-serving public university president, said David Allie, the club's founder and a friend of Authement.
"I knew him as a mathematician, as a computer guy. I'm talking 25 years ago, he was doing things and trying to do things that other universities didn't," Allie said. "I'm just appreciative of everything that guy did. If we can have something to do with recognizing him, that's something we want to do."
Ray Authement, Jamal Khattak, Sarina Yusofe and Barbara Authement (Photo: Kris Wartelle)
When Authement took over at UL — then the University of Southwestern Louisiana — in 1973, he had a clear vision for the university's future, said Julie Johnson, Authement's daughter.
"He had a dream for what the university could be, and that dream is why it is what it is today," she said.
For decades, Authement and his wife, Barbara, were the faces of UL. Johnson recalls that her mother was well-known for her dedication to wearing red at any university event.
"She was the social aspect of him," Johnson said. "Always in red. And she pointed out when other people didn't. It was the uniform of our home."
Ray Authement and his wife Barbara Authement in 2007 at the UL Alumni Center. (Photo: Amanda Hovey, Special to The Advertiser)
Authement, who was named president emeritus by UL after his retirement in 2008, was the driver behind an era of growth and change for the university. Under his leadership, the university became recognized nationally for computer science and environmental and biological research.
While Authement was at the helm, UL became the first Louisiana university: to acquire the Multiplexed Information and Computing Service (second nationally to MIT); install a fiber optic backbone; earn a Doctoral II research designation; establish an intensive care lab for nursing students; and obtain an atom smasher, among other accomplishments.
UL was also the first university in the country to build a birthing lab with computerized patient simulators for the nursing program and establish a center to promote bilingualism.
Among Authement's most well-known — and most noticeable — contributions are the decision to change the university's name from the University of Southwestern Louisiana to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the construction of the Cajundome.
Louisiana Lafayette's president Dr. Ray Authement received an award from the athletic department Thursday Jan. 31, 2008 during the Ul Middle Tennessee basketball game at the Cajundome in Lafayette, La. (Photo: Brad Kemp, DAILY ADVERTISER)
"It was a regional school. He came in ... and he had a vision to, not only make us a region and a state, but a nationally known institution," said Philippe Prouet, Authement's grandson. "It really kind of put us on the map. In doing that, we became nationally known in many different things."
Authement retired immediately after Prouet's graduation from UL in 2008.
A large part of Authement's legacy at UL was his focus on research. During his tenure, the Carnegie Foundation named UL a “research university with high research activity.” He also was responsible for developing the University Research Park.
When the oil and gas industry collapsed in the 1980s, Authement was also part of the efforts to diversify the local economy, according to a UL press release.
"There was a time when I was in school that everybody was leaving," Johnson said. "The economy was bad. Oil prices were falling. He really focused on how to diversify the economy and let the university be a producer of jobs."
Former UL President Ray Authement would teach Linear Algebra during his time at UL. (Photo: Claudia B. Laws, The Advertiser)
Johnson also graduated from UL under Authement.
As a father and grandfather, Prouet and Johnson said, one of the most impressive things about Authement was his ability to "take a penny and turn it into a dime."
"He had this propensity to save money and to invest," Johnson said. "It made me mad as a child."
The event to honor Authement will be Sept. 18 beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Atchafalaya Grand Ballroom of UL's Student Union. People interested in attending can RSVP at limbsalvageclub.com.
"The man's a legend," Allie said. "He was ahead of his time."