Dear students and faculty and staff members,
Friday is the anniversary of one of the most consequential moments in the history of our region and the state of Louisiana.
On July 14, 1898 – 125 years ago – Gov. Murphy J. Foster signed a bill, authored by state Sen. Robert Martin, to establish Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The governor’s pen set in motion a century and a quarter of progress and growth – both for the institution itself and for the region and state it’s served since its creation.
That’s worth celebrating – and you’re invited to join us as we do just that.
On Friday, we’ll commemorate this milestone – and kick off a yearlong observance of our 125th birthday – at the Founding Day Ice Cream Social from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It will take place, appropriately, under the Century Oaks near Girard Hall. There, we’ll gather to enjoy ice cream, refreshments and music beneath the shade of the live oak trees planted by our first president, Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens, in the institution’s earliest days. You can RSVP here.
The campus’ live oaks have come to represent the University’s strength, its permanence and deep roots in the community and state. I can’t think of a better setting in which to celebrate the service, vision and leadership the University has provided Louisiana and the region for 125 years.
Our anniversary is an opportunity to commemorate more than a moment in history, however. It’s a chance to celebrate the enduring connection we have to an institution that has given each of us – and this community – so much for so long. Throughout the year, alumni, students, employees, friends and the public are encouraged to share their own memories and birthday wishes on social media by using #louisiana125.
Posts will be featured at louisiana.edu/125, a commemorative website that will serve as a clearinghouse of anniversary information. There, you’ll find a calendar of events, a timeline of milestones, archival photographs, videos and links to University publications. The site will be updated regularly, so visit often.
Friday’s ice cream social and kickoff celebrate our legislative founding in 1898, but it would be another 18 months before Lafayette was selected as SLII’s permanent home. Scott, New Iberia and other area towns also vied for the institution, but Lafayette was chosen after a campaign of public support resulted in the donation of 25 acres of land, $8,000 in cash and the levy of a parish-wide property tax that would generate about $8,000 annually for 10 years.
In calling for the tax’s passage, a Lafayette newspaper reminded its readers “not to think of the Industrial School as a temporary thing, for it is not. It is an institution for all time.”
Our 125th year is an opportunity that reminds us – and reminds the community that we call home – that we are still an institution for all time.
I look forward to seeing you on Friday as the party begins.
Dr. Joseph Savoie