A total of 1,786 degrees were awarded during the UL Lafayette’s 161st Commencement ceremonies Friday at the Cajundome and Convention Center.
Adela Jardell Leger hadn’t been on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus in 54 years.
She graduated from the University in 1963 with a biology degree, and left within days to begin a career in Houston.
The return to campus this week was a gift from her friend and neighbor Ianeta Tofili Guidry, who graduated Friday with a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies from UL Lafayette. Leger was in the audience.
Guidry is a native of American Samoa, a U.S. territory in the South Pacific Ocean. Leger grew up near Crowley. They live across the street from each other in a subdivision in rural Acadia Parish.
Guidry’s family members in American Samoa and Hawaii couldn’t make the ceremony. Leger would have been nowhere else.
“This is my acquired daughter,” Leger laughed, patting Guidry’s arm. “She’s got two little girls who come over. They’ve become my acquired granddaughters.”
The girls are 9 and 11.
On Tuesday, three days before Commencement, with her two daughters in school, Guidry and Leger came to Lafayette for a campus tour.
They headed immediately to a section of the covered arcade that surrounds the University’s Quadrangle. There, on the Walk of Honor, was a brick with Leger’s name inscribed.
“It was my little gift to tell her thank you for always encouraging me. She saw it immediately. It was like the sun was shining on it,” Guidry laughed.
“She went down memory lane on Tuesday. She really did. She was in awe.”
The pair walked across campus, and Leger pointed out spots that had changed in the last 50 years. She remembered watching the construction of Edith Garland Dupré Library from a window in Billeaud Hall.
She was gratified to see the Southwestern sign still adorns Earl K. Long Gym.
And she plans to return to campus soon. “I have some more bricks to find,” Leger said.
Photo: Adela Jardell Leger and UL Lafayette graduate Ianeta Tofili Guidry (Credit: University of Louisiana at Lafayette)