UL Lafayette’s College of Liberal Arts today bears little physical resemblance to that of 1921. The size of its faculty, the diversity of its student body, and the subjects it addresses at its 100th anniversary are a far cry from the small band of instructors and students who followed a traditional set of courses at its beginnings a hundred years ago. In some ways, though, little has changed: certain characteristics have remained essential elements of its being, and certain values have continued to serve as the foundation of its vision and mission.
An illustrated book, Celebrating a Century of Liberal Arts at UL Lafayette, produced as part of the anniversary festivities, chronicles both the changing and the ongoing forces that have guided the College through good times and troubled ones. It traces the history of the College from its beginnings in 1921 when it was the only college on campus, through the depression, two world wars, the local oil boom, integration, growing enrollment, student unrest, changing social norms, and more, always noting that as it faced such pressures it held steady to the commitment of its founders to give students a solid preparation for life by teaching them how to solve problems, understand human complexity, and, perhaps the most important skill in this changing world, how to think and learn.
The book is organized chronologically, each chapter noting the challenges and achievements that occurred during the administration of each dean. It traces the community involvement of the College, its ever-expanding fields of study, its growing graduate programs, its social activism, and more. Such developments were not realized easily, and the problems that stood in the way of achieving them are also explored.
The University has a rich photographic history, and Celebrating a Century of the Liberal Arts at UL Lafayette will feature many glimpses into its past. Photographs depicting social life on campus, the festivals, clubs, honor societies, and other events will tell stories that the text omits.
At this centennial anniversary the words of Dean Edith Garland Dupré, the first dean of UL Lafayette’s faculty, continue to resonate as forcefully as they did nearly a hundred years ago: in her essay “Life-long Learning:” “Surely,” she wrote, “that possession [learning] has a real value which forms a habit of mind that lasts through life and brings with it freedom, calmness, moderation, and wisdom.” Despite changing majors and mores, her words remain as firmly in place in the College of Liberal Arts as they did in 1921.
Some things have changed.
Some never will.