Spring commencement takes place next week which means graduates from the class of 1968 are returning to campus to celebrate their Golden Reunion.
Fifty years have passed since that class walked across the stage, received their diplomas, and went out in the world with a Ragin’ Cajuns education. While our graduates were out changing the world, the campus made a few changes of its own to enhance the experience of student life. Find out what changes our Golden Reunion attendees usually comment on when they return.
Students living on campus in the 1968 did so in dormitories. Each building was designated for men or women. Graduates of past Golden Reunions often tell stories of their strict curfews and getting locked out of their dorms when failing to inform their counselors that they would be staying out after a football game.
Today, students have the opportunity to live in new residence halls that have three options: suite style, junior suite style, or traditional (female only). Private and shared occupancies are available with the residence halls and include amenities such as microwaves, mini-fridges, private bathrooms, and Wi-Fi.
Legacy Park apartments and family housing is also available to students today.
Students had many different opportunities to get involved at USL in 1968, just like the ones on campus today, however the shape of some organizations has changed in the last 50 years.
Greek Life became more inclusive in 1968 when the first the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc. fraternity joined campus. Alpha Phi Alpha initiated 16 young men with the aim to “benefit its members, the University, the local community and all of mankind.” A year earlier, the first NPHC sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, was chartered at USL.
As of 2018, NPHC at UL Lafayette has grown to eight International Greek letter Sororities and Fraternities: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
The Student Government Association completed projects in 1968 such as initiating a new Student Loan Fund and publishing the SGA minutes in the Vermilion to keep students informed on issues discussed at the meetings.
While SGA minutes are no longer published in the Vermilion, a reporter is now present at each meeting to report on what’s discussed. Another change to SGA is today’s Big Three that is made up of a president, vice president, and treasurer. In 1968, SGA had a Big Four with the additional role of a secretary.
When it comes to student engagement, one of the biggest events of the year is Homecoming. But even a week that is made up of University traditions has seen it’s share of changes from 1968.
What would Homecoming Week be without a queen and her court? The 1968 court included four maids and a queen. Today the court has grown to six maids and a queen.
Two of the biggest events students and alumni looked forward to in 1968 were the Homecoming bonfire and parade. The bonfire is no longer a tradition, but the parade still rolls on the Saturday morning of Homecoming. This allows different organizations around campus a chance to show off their craft.
1968 was a year of “dreams coming true” when plans for a new Athletic plant was proposed after a $3.5 million bill was signed in state legislature for a new athletic complex. This included a 35,000-seat football stadium, baseball field and track.
Those initial plans look a little different than the Athletic complex we know and love today, but Ragin’ Cajuns are prouder than ever with a $115 million Athletic Facilities Master Plan in the works. Fans have experienced renovations to Russo Park, Cajun Field, the Cajun Dome and the Ragin’ Cajuns soccer/track complex. A state of the art Athletic Performance Center was also built for our student athletes.
In 1968, a major milestone was reached with the first female to officially take part in athletics at USL when Judi Ford joined the gymnastics team.
Today, women compete in Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns athletics in basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.
While this is only a fraction of how the University has changed for our students in fifty short years, the Alumni Association is fortunate to welcome back Golden graduates each year and introduce them to new traditions, educate them on what’s been going on since they left, and celebrate their Ragin’ Cajuns heritage.
Photo: Homecoming Courts from 1967 and 2017 are shown side by side.