This year marks the 125th anniversary of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s founding.
On July 14, 1898, then-governor Murphy J. Foster (whom Foster Hall is named after) signed a bill to establish the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute, which would later be renamed to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Though other towns rallied to be selected as the home for the institute, Lafayette was ultimately chosen in 1900. Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute’s first classes began the next year, offering degrees in fields such as agriculture, stenography and mechanics. Peak enrollment at the time was 125 students, and the first graduating class was made up of just 18 students.
The university only continued to grow since then, and went on to meet several historic milestones. Among these was becoming the first all-white, state-funded college in the South to integrate, admitting 76 Black students following a federal lawsuit that ruled admission could not be denied on the basis of race. This landmark event was memorialized earlier this year through the unveiling of a new marker on the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail on UL Lafayette’s campus.
Most recently, in 2021, UL Lafayette earned the R1 designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. R1 is the highest classification for a research university, and this achievement places UL Lafayette in the top 3% of research universities in the country. This designation came as a testament to the work done by the university’s researchers, including the testing of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19.
Since its founding, nearly 130,000 people have gotten their degree from UL Lafayette. The student body has grown to over 18,000 students, and the university offers over 240 majors, minors and concentrations, along with 50 graduate programs and 18 online programs.
The commemoration of this year’s milestone kicked off on the university’s founding day, July 14, with an ice cream social under the Century Oaks, where members of the university community gathered for ice cream, refreshments and music.
This year’s anniversary theme is “Service. Vision. Leadership. Louisiana.” Events throughout the year celebrating the university’s 125th anniversary will center on this theme.
“They are at the core of the work we have done and that we will continue to do, and that’s why we chose them as the theme for our year-long birthday observance,” the university’s website reads.
In commemoration of this anniversary, the university has launched louisiana.edu/125. There, visitors can find a timeline highlighting key moments throughout the university’s history, as well as a calendar that will be updated throughout the year with future events.
Members of the university community are also encouraged to share their favorite memories and experiences with the university over social media through the hashtag #louisiana125.
In an email to the university, University President Joseph Savoie wrote on the impact of that bill signed 125 years ago.
“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,” Savoie said.