Southeastern Louisiana University - History

History

What began as a junior college supported by local taxes developed into a major university as Southeastern has grown to meet the evolving needs of southeast Louisiana and the Florida parishes.

On July 7, 1925, the voters overwhelmingly approved a bond issue that created Hammond Junior College. Operated under the auspices of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, Sims opened the doors on September 13, 1925, with a faculty of three women and two men and 40 students. The two-year coeducational institution offered basic undergraduate work in arts and sciences that culminated in a teaching certificate.

Rapidly increasing enrollments quickly forced the college out of its two rooms in Hammond High School. In 1927, voters supported the purchase of the Hunter Leake estate on Hammond’s north end. In 1928, Hammond Junior College became Southeastern Louisiana College, formally adopted into the state educational system under the control of the State Board of Education. The purchase of 60 acres (240,000 m2) adjoining the original 15-acre (61,000 m2) plot provided the space to develop a suitable campus. In 1934, a state bond issue provided for the construction of McGehee Hall and a gymnasium.

McGehee Hall, Southeastern Louisiana State University
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Location: Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana
Coordinates: 30°30′41″N 90°28′2″W / 30.51139°N 90.46722°W / 30.51139; -90.46722Coordinates: 30°30′41″N 90°28′2″W / 30.51139°N 90.46722°W / 30.51139; -90.46722
Area: 0.7 acres (0.28 ha)
Built: 1934
Architectural style: Colonial Revival, Other, Neo-Georgian
Governing body: State
NRHP Reference#: 85000094
Added to NRHP: January 18, 1985

Lucius McGehee Hall was built in 1935. As of 2009 it is the oldest building constructed by the University. McGehee Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1937, the State Board of Education authorized curricula for four-year programs in liberal arts, teacher education, business administration, music, social sciences, and physical education. The first baccalaureate degrees were conferred in May 1939.

Voter approval of Act 388 in 1938, an amendment to the 1920 Louisiana Constitution, granted Southeastern Louisiana College the same legal status as other four-year colleges. The amendment did not, however, require the state to fund Southeastern at the level of other institutions of higher education, despite strong local support.

On January 18, 1946, the State Board made available funds to purchase seven city blocks east and west of the campus, and 275 acres (1.11 km2) of land north and northwest of the campus, increasing Southeastern’s total area to approximately 365 acres (1.48 km2).

On March 3, 1946, Southeastern was formally approved and accepted into full membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), as a four-year degree-granting institution.

After World War II, returning G.I.s caused exponential growth of the college, necessitating construction of classrooms, a student union, a cafeteria, a health center, dormitories, apartments for married students, and many surplus temporary buildings donated by the federal government. In 1948, the U.S. Navy contributed two steel barracks for use as dormitories including McNeely Hall (which was demolished in 2007).

In 1960, the State Board authorized Southeastern to offer master’s degrees through the newly-formed Division of Graduate Studies. Southeastern began awarding the Education Specialist degree in 1967. The War Memorial Student Union, constructed in the mid-1960s, is the only student union building in the United States dedicated to alumni who died in World War II. Governor John J. McKeithen on June 16, 1970, signed into law the legislative act turning Southeastern Louisiana College into Southeastern Louisiana University. Early 1970s also saw the construction of D Vickers, the Athletics Building, and the C.E. Cate Teacher Education Building.

After years of planning and fundraising, the Southeastern Louisiana University Center was constructed. An 8000-seat (more if the floor level is used) arena, the University Center hosts all home basketball games and a variety of civic, cultural, and big-name entertainment events.

In October 1986, a group of faculty members launched Fanfare, a festival celebrating the arts, humanities and sciences. Since then, Fanfare has become an acclaimed month-long event, drawing nationally and internationally recognized artists and providing recognition for those closer to home. In addition to providing entertainment for Lake Pontchartrain's Northshore Area, Fanfare has an educational-outreach program that works closely with local schools. In October 2005, Fanfare proudly celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Southeastern’s enrollment, continually increasing since its inception, reached an important milestone in 1997, registering over 15 thousand students for the fall semester. Pervasive professional accreditations, such as accreditation of the College of Business by AACSB, and excellent egress from/to I-55 and I-12 figure significantly in the increase. Since 1925 Southeastern has conferred over 50 thousand degrees as of 2009.

As Southeastern celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2000, the fall semester marked an exciting change as Southeastern implemented screened admissions standards for the first time. Also during the 2000–2001 academic year, the Village, Fayard Hall, and the Claude B. Pennington, Jr., Student Activity Center were completed.

In May 2001, Southeastern received full approval from the Board of Regents for its first new graduate degree program in more than a decade, an MS in Integrated Science and Technology. Since then, Southeastern received approval for seven additional programs: MA in Organizational Communications, MS in Applied Sociology, BS in Athletic Training, BS in Health Education & Promotion, BS in Health Studies, BS in Occupational Health, Safety & Environment, and Master of Arts in Teaching.

In Fall 2003, Southeastern hit a record enrollment of 15,662 students. Fall 2003 also saw the return of football to Strawberry Stadium, after an 18-year hiatus. The Lions completed the season 5–7.

In Fall 2004, Southeastern began implementing portions of the Board of Regents Master Plan admissions criteria, a full year ahead of schedule and before any other schools in the state.

In Fall 2005, Southeastern began its first year under the full Board of Regents Master Plan admissions criterion. In the same semester Southeastern, which was virtually undamaged by Hurricane Katrina, absorbed some two thousand students whom the storm had displaced from institutions in New Orleans. North of the War Memorial Student Union is a large fountain constructed and dedicated in 2007 to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita; as of 2009 it is the only such memorial fountain in existence.

John Alario (R – Jefferson Parish), dean of the Louisiana State Senate, is a graduate of Southeastern. Another Southeastern alumnus is State Representative Donald Ray Kennard, who began representing parts of East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes starting in 1976. Kennard is also a former president of the Southeastern Alumni Association. See also Southeastern Louisiana University alumni.

Southeastern has a demonstrated record of service, offering its University Center for commencement exercises of high schools throughout the Northshore Region and actively encouraging area high school students to continue on to the university level.

Southeastern owns the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts in Hammond's Historic District. The Columbia Theatre, first opened in 1928, was acquired by the University in the 1990s and renovated for $5.6 million. The large foyer is dedicated to State Senator John Hainkel, who was instrumental in obtaining the funding for the renovation.

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