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University's former presidents honored with portraits

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During its first 108 years, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette had just five presidents.

To put that in perspective, Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette’s sixth and current president, noted Thursday that the average tenure of a university president in the United States today is seven years.

Having had only five presidents in over 100 years gave UL Lafayette “tremendous stability,” Savoie said Thursday during an unveiling of portraits of the former presidents at the University’s Edith Garland Dupré Library.

The portraits – of Dr. Edwin L. Stephens (1900-1938), Lether E. Frazar (1938-1940), Dr. Joel L. Fletcher (1941-1965), Dr. Clyde L. Rougeou (1966-1974), and Dr. Ray P. Authement (1974-2008) – hang in the main corridor of the first floor of the library.

“Each of these leaders rose to the challenges of their day and positioned the University for continued success. As the current steward of the University, I remind myself often that I stand on the shoulders of giants and I try to emulate their example,” said Savoie, who became UL Lafayette president in 2008.

“Thanks to them, the University grew from what was not much more than a big high school when it opened, to a nationally-recognized research and teaching institution.”

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Foundation commissioned the project.

Artist Janine Collins painted the portraits. A Lafayette resident raised in New Orleans, Collins began painting portraits after attending an unveiling at Tulane Medical School of a portrait featuring her father, Dr. Jason Collins, a physician, said Julie Bolton Falgout, president and CEO of the Foundation.

“Janine has invested much time and energy crafting each portrait, reflecting the era in which each president served, and including something of significance to the subject in every portrait, including the names of family members that are hidden throughout each piece,” Bolton Falgout said.

Collins is also the artist who painted a portrait of Edith Garland Dupré that hangs near the library’s main entrance. The library’s namesake was a professor and head of the English Department. In 1901, Dupré joined the brand new Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute’s faculty of eight professors.

Collins’ latest work pleased Dr. Ray Authement, president emeritus and the only living former president. Authement, who was among many invited guests at the event that included family members of several of the former presidents, said: “This is the first time I’ve seen it, and I think it’s a fine piece of work. I’m humbled.”

Photo: John Blohm, left, vice president for University Advancement, and Thomas Chance, UL Lafayette Foundation board of trustees member, present a portrait of Lether Frazar, the University's second president. Portraits of the University's five former presidents were unveiled Thursday during a ceremony at Edith Garland Dupré Library. Credit: Doug Dugas/UL Lafayette