The UL Lafayette Honors Program began in the Fall Semester of 1968; Mathematics Professor Maurice Dossey was the Director. Mr. Dossey had an interesting hobby: he owned Heart D Farm near Youngsville and grew registered Hereford cattle.
The first Charter class for the University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL) Honors Program included: Lynn Comeaux; Fred Dicharry ; James Smith; Ray Bucklin ; Lois Lundberg; Eileen Israel; Mary Lou Bell; and Becky Greig. They held classes composed entirely of honors students. Dave Andrew (later Dean of Sciences) taught Honors Calculus I and II; Ossie Huval taught Honors Calculus III; Milton Rickels taught Honors English (115 and 116); and Amos Simpson and John Robert Moore taught Honors World Civilization and American History, respectively.
Dr. Charles Cain appointed a committee of three: Dr. Duane Blumberg from the Department of Mathematics, Dr. Matt Dakin from the Department of Biology, and Dr. Patricia Rickels from the Department of English. He asked these three to work out a plan to "provide opportunities for intellectual and cultural enrichment for gifted students." They tackled the assignment with gusto and, with no budget, no personnel, no office, and no Honors courses except English 115. Target students were identified by ACT scores and a plan was worked out to gather them together once a week in a meeting called Honors Seminar. The Mathematics Department allowed the Honors Program to designate this seminar on the master schedule as Math 000, cr. 0, Th 11:00, VLW 101. The program started with about fifty students.
Today there are approximately 1,400 students in the Honors Program, over thirty departmental Honors courses in twenty academic departments, and 10 or more interdisciplinary courses in the Honors course list per semester. The Honors Seminar, still a central element in the program, fills Giffin Hall's first floor auditorium on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday at 11:00 AM or 1:00 PM. It now carries one CR/NC credit and requires the reading of the "Honors Book" each semester and submission of a final essay. The original plan of having students lead the discussions in seminar is now fully implemented with students choosing discussion topics in a vote and then leading the discussions.
Much of the development of the Honors Program, including the Honors Departmental course listing, was the work of the first Director, Dr. Ronald J. White, 1975-1981, chemist, mathematician , biologist, and Renaissance man. Under his leadership the Honors Baccalaureate Degree was approved, with the first degrees awarded in 1979. To date, 157 students, representing all colleges in the university, have earned this degree's requirements for which include a GPA of 3.5 or higher and thesis, defended in an oral examination open to all members of the university community.
Thanks again to the kindness of the Department of Mathematics, the Honors Program occupied three rooms in Maxim D. Doucet Hall, offices for the Director and staff until June 2001.
Dr. Patricia Rickels was equally integral in the appointment of funds to help sponsor Judice-Rickels Hall and its reconstruction, not to mention her dedication, drive, and support to continually sponsor Honors students, Honors student activities, and local events on campus. Dr. Patricia Rickels was also a proponent of racial integration on campus, participating in the movement at USL to integrate the school. Her concentration was in folklore studies. Dr. Patricia Rickels, lovingly called "Dr. Pat" by her students, survived her beloved husband, Milton, and remained the director of the program until 2007, when she relinquished her well-lauded 30 years of service as the director to Dr. Julia Frederick. Dr. John Meriwether, a physics professor on campus for over 40 years, also was an important supporter and voice for the program and its move to the new building. Additionally, he personally helped to construct the layout of the current Director's office for the program and ran a multicultural, nature-based course called "Culture of Man" with Dr. Pat for many years. Dr. Pat passed away in 2009 leaving a legacy at the school, and being survived by her good friend and colleague, Dr. Meriwether. Pictured with Dr. Patricia Rickels is Dr. John Meriwether.
Judice-Rickels Hall, located across from Dupre Library, is the current home of the Honors Program. The first floor consists of 2 lounges: Room 201 is known as the "Noisy Lounge", has a kitchen area equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, table with chairs, and toaster oven. In here Honor Students can socialize and feel at home. Room 102 is called the "Quiet Lounge". Here students can read/study peacefully or they can have a study group in the private office. Attached to the "Quiet Lounge" is the "Library" which holds donated books and is an updated SMART classroom used by Honors professors for multiple Honors courses. The Director and office personnel are located on the second floor. Honor students have a Computer Lab which is also located on the 2nd floor, equipped with IMacs, PC's, printers and copiers. Honor students have grouped together to beautify the grounds with colorful bushes and plants for your viewing pleasure. Tables and benches are located in the front and southern side of the building for those who enjoy socializing/studying outdoors.
The Honors Program has a Living and Learning Community (LLC) for Freshmen in our newest dorms. See University Housing for more info.
On the 20th Anniversary of the Honors Program, a visiting SACS consultant commented that "You should be very proud." "Honors Programs," he said, "come and go like will-of the-wisps in the night. Other programs start in a grandiose manner and fizzle out, but you have done the opposite: built slowly, from nothing, a program that will last." He was right. Thanks to continuing support from the President, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and the faculty, the program is strong and thriving.