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Cars line up around UL to honor Ray Authement in drive-by memorial at UL + Tribute Video

, Lafayette Daily Advertiser, April 10, 2020

Memorial for Ray Authement for public to offer drive-by tributes. Friday, April 10, 2020.

Memorial for Ray Authement for public to offer drive-by tributes. Friday, April 10, 2020. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)

Dozens of cars lined E. University Avenue on Friday morning, as people drove by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's administration building to honor Ray Authement, the legendary former university president who died Sunday.

The university created a tribute to Authement, who led UL as the longest-serving university president in U.S. history, in front of Martin Hall. Mourners drove through the circle driveway to pay respects to the respected and loved educator.

In front of the building was a table clad in a white cloth with baskets for small tokens of remembrance, words for the family. The university's flag flew at half-mast and music played softly as a police officer ferried notes from cars to the table.

It was an unusual memorial limited by restrictions imposed to stifle the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 755 people in the state and infected more than 19,250 people.

Memorial for Ray Authement for public to offer drive-by tributes. Friday, April 10, 2020.

Memorial for Ray Authement for public to offer drive-by tributes. Friday, April 10, 2020. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)

"He guided our growth from a strong regional university to one recognized nationally and globally for its research and scholarship," said UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie in a letter honoring Authement. "During Dr. Authement’s presidency, we became the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a significant center of learning, an engine of economic growth, and a place that prioritizes student success and academic excellence."

A tribute visited posted by UL chronicles Authement's journey at the university — from hitchhiking to campus to becoming the longest-serving head of a public university.

Click here (then scroll down) for the Dr. Ray Authement tribute video by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

“Dr. Authement was a farsighted and responsible steward of the University’s gifted and pledged assets who believed that the economic and social health of this community was in direct proportion to the wellbeing of the University," said Joe Giglio Jr., the chairman of the UL Lafayette Foundation Board of Trustees in a UL release.

Authement grew up in Boudreaux Canal, a town near Cocodrie. In 1947, he attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now UL, and hitchhiked to get to the campus for the first time. He was a first generation college student, and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1950.

Memorial for Ray Authement for public to offer drive-by tributes. Friday, April 10, 2020.

Memorial for Ray Authement for public to offer drive-by tributes. Friday, April 10, 2020. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)

He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from Louisiana State University, in 1952 and 1956, respectively. He taught at LSU and McNeese State University before coming back to Southwestern as an associate professor of mathematics in 1957. 

He became a professor two years later. He taught until 1966, when he was promoted to academic vice president. At that point, the university had become the University of Southwestern Louisiana. In 1970, Authement was named vice president.

 

Authement became the acting president in 1973 when his predecessor, Clyde L. Rougeau, took a leave of absence. Rougeau retired in 1974, and Authement became president. 

Authement led UL from 1973 to 2008. During his time at UL, he helped the university become 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.

 Authement retired in 2008 and was succeeded by Savoie, though Authement continued teaching mathematics. In 2009, Authement was named President Emeritus of the university. 

Memorial for Ray Authement for public to offer drive-by tributes. Friday, April 10, 2020.

Memorial for Ray Authement for public to offer drive-by tributes. Friday, April 10, 2020. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)

“He was a teacher at heart, and he never forgot that," said Richard Zuschlag, chairman and CEO of Acadian Ambulance Service in a UL release. "I remember stories of him, as UL (Lafayette) president, filling in for professors who were ill and teaching their classes while they recovered."

Authement made a lasting impression on UL, with the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences bearing his name. 

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.

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.

Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.

Click here for Dr. Authement speaking at the 2004 Athletic Network Annual Meeting.

John and I were honored when an earlier appointment with Dr. Authement had to be postponed and we were given an appointment in the morning of his last official day as president. We used a computer in his outer office, as the one in his had been disconnected. With John at the keyboard, he and I discussed many postings available on the Athletic Network and John would bring them up.

It was his usual and customary practice in the early years of the Athletic Network to have an update report presented live to the University Council. He pointed out the fact that UL was the only university to have such a website.

In September, 2006, www.athleticnetwork.net filled for RaginCajuns.com while it was being updated. When our paths crossed over the next few months, he would smile and remark about his back-up plan to keep athletic information flowing during the make-over of RaginCajuns.com
On April 10, 2007, RaginCajuns.com was activated again, as the remake was completed.
Please click here for that story.

For years he always attended the Athletic Network annual meetings. He approved the Athletic Network idea on May 2, 2002 and John began populating the website that day. The AN website was activated at a press conference at Cajun Field on August 28, 2002. Click here for that photo gallery.

Dr. Authement not only approved the Athletic Network concept, he provided encouragement and support over the years. His was the first name placed on our data base to receive the newsletter and he was pleased with the information and photos posted. Periodically, he emailed positive comments about historical athletic news.

Click here for the Genesis of the Athletic Network.

Click here for Dr. Authement's Athletic Network Profile.