Click to watch LSU 150: The Year Ahead. "These are challenging times, but it's exactly at these times that we rise to the challenge." - Chancellor Mike Martin.
LSU 150: The Year Ahead Event Kicks Off University's Sesquicentennial Celebration
LSU officially cut the ribbon – and the cake – to kick off its 150th, or sesquicentennial, celebration Jan. 19.
LSU students, administrators, faculty, staff and alumni gathered in front of the Memorial Tower at midday to reflect, celebrate and commit to LSU as part of the university's sesquicentennial celebration.
Titled LSU 150: The Year Ahead, the event featured speakers who reflected LSU's past, present and future, while also highlighting LSU's rich history, its current honors and what the future holds for Louisiana's flagship university.
Those in attendance also heard traditional LSU songs performed by the LSU Bengal Brass Band, under the direction of conductor Rob Dowie.
The kickoff also coincided with the beginning of the spring 2010 semester, when new and returning students began classes.
Members of the LSU community were treated to pieces of commemorative birthday cake following the LSU 150: A Year Ahead celebration.
Because no proper birthday celebration is complete without a birthday cake, Chancellor Michael Martin also joined with sesquicentennial event sponsors to cut a commemorative cake at the end of the event, with pieces of cake served at stations including the Memorial Tower, in the quadrangle and in front of the LSU Student Union immediately following the event.
LSU sesquicentennial events held throughout the year are made possible thanks to generous donations to the university by the following sponsors: Campus Federal Credit Union, Baton Rouge Coca Cola Bottling Company, AT&T, Raising Cane's, Entergy, ExxonMobil and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
During the event, Martin recognized these sponsors for their dedication and efforts to LSU throughout the years.
"One of the things I've learned in my 18 months here is that there are very generous organizations and individuals in this community," Martin said. "The good news for us is that they always answer the call. They continue to help us make these events happen."
During his introductory remarks, Martin asked the LSU community to remember those who paved the way for the university's current successes, while also committing to the future and recognizing that the history of the university is what led it to where it is today.
"Over time, we've continued to evolve. Over time, we've continued to meet difficult challenges, and we shall do it again," Martin said. "It will not necessarily be comfortable, but it is in our blood and in our marrow and in the mission that we have adopted as a great Land Grant flagship university."
In a time where many are focused on the future of the university amid budget concerns, Martin noted that the university has survived many difficult periods throughout its lifetime.
"In the last 150 years, this fine institution has weathered some very big storms," Martin said. "It doesn't take difficult math to understand that we were created during the Civil War and survived three major depressions - 1873, 1893 and 1929 and the current one. We've made it through two major world wars, several other conflicts, reconstruction, a civil rights movement and numerous budget changes. Yet we are still here, yet we are still a great university and yet we will persevere because we have reflected, we have committed, and we will celebrate that. These are challenging times, but it's exactly at these times that we will rise to the challenge.
"While there are those that will argue that this is not a good day to celebrate as we face difficult challenges, I believe it's exactly the day to celebrate, to reflect, to recognize what must be done and then to celebrate the fact that we will succeed."
Reflecting on a tradition of excellence
LSU Student Government President Stuart Watkins echoed Martin's comments, adding that the LSU community should celebrate the people who drive the university forward, including students, faculty and alumni.
"As a student, I celebrate our many professors and instructors," Watkins said. "It is they who are the true leaders and visionaries of this great university. Always steadfast and willing, they challenge minds both young and old to think beyond the textbook. Because of them, we have made the U.S. News & World Report's top tier two years in a row. Since 2003, we have more Truman Scholarship winners than Columbia, Cornell, MIT and Princeton, just to name a few. None of this would have been possible without their guidance and leadership."
Watkins also noted that many LSU alumni have gone on to achieve great accomplishments, including National Space Hall of Fame member and Mercury space module designer Maxime Faget and Dr. Larry Arthur, who is the associate director of AIDS vaccine programs at the National Cancer Institute.
"Our alumni have won Academy Awards, recorded Platinum-selling records and have designed for the stars," Watkins said. "Our graduates have gone on to write New York Times best-sellers, restore some of Washington, D.C.'s most prominent landmarks, get a president elected and have even been elected to numerous political offices themselves. We celebrate the alumni that have gone before us and written their pages in the history books. We celebrate the highest-ranking woman in U.S. Air Force history, who received her diploma in 1973. We celebrate the U.S. Marine Corps general who led the 3rd Marine Division during the Battle of Iwo Jima, who received his degree in 1917. And we celebrate the students of today and tomorrow, whose futures are yet to be written."
Watkins said he feels the pride and love students have for LSU is something that has kept the university going for 150 years and will help to keep the university alive well into the future.
"No matter where you go in life and no matter what happens, remember that no one will ever be able to remove that spirit," Watkins said. "The students here have had it for 150 years and will have it for 150 more."
Celebrating a journey
Former Congressman W. Henson Moore III, current chair of the Forever LSU National Cabinet, said that LSU's growth over 150 years was likely unimaginable when it was founded as the Louisiana State Seminary for Learning in Pineville.
"Stop and think for a minute that in January 1867, 19 young men and five faculty members met in Pineville, and that was the start of LSU," Moore said. "For them, they are but a memory. But LSU has been, in fact, forever. It's lived beyond them. They couldn't recognize what we are celebrating today as being something even possible or imaginable back in that day and time."
Moore said that he was a student during the university's centennial celebration in 1960, and that being involved with the university during its 150th anniversary is a special feeling for him. He also said that his granddaughter will enroll at LSU next year.
"For the Moore family, LSU has been forever," he said. "It goes on beyond our lifetimes. That's the whole point we're celebrating. This institution really is forever. It has been here for a long time, and it's going to be here for a long time further. As long as there is a Louisiana, as long as there is the United States, there's going to be an LSU. It will be here forever."
In order for that to happen, Moore said, the LSU community needs to commit to maintain the university's flagship status.
"We're seeing funding problems today, and they're not going away," Moore said. "I think we're going to be living with these for a long time. I think that basically we've got to do something that we've never really done in the past 150 years, and that's have an awakening that if we're going to stay a flagship university, if we're going to stay a top-tier ranked university, we're going to have to individually commit and begin to build a culture of giving back, no matter what the amount. That's going to be the difference in us having the funding we need to not eliminate professors or scholarships or to not have the facilities we need. It's not going to come by way of state money. I think it's going to come by way of us giving back to this university and seeing to it that it will celebrate its bicentennial and even beyond that, making sure LSU truly is forever."
Committing to the future
Perry J. Franklin, president of Franklin Industries and current president of the A.P. Tureau Sr. LSU Black Alumni Chapter.
As a Baton Rouge native and LSU alumni, speaker Perry J. Franklin Sr. said that 2010 should be a year that the LSU community reflects on what the university means to them and to celebrate that meaning but also to recommit to ensuring the university's future.
"We just need to take a moment to turn off the Blackberrys and iPhones and just reflect on what has happened on this sacred place and what can happen in the next 150 years," said Franklin, president of Franklin Industries and current president of the A.P. Tureau Sr. LSU Black Alumni Chapter.
Franklin said his love for LSU came from his time on campus as a child, experiences selling peanuts at Tiger Stadium at age 12, learning that his mother dated A.P. Tureau Jr. to his neighbor's daughter being one of the first black students to complete an undergraduate program at LSU.
"All of those stories give me my story, but there are hundreds of thousands of stories like that," Franklin said. "When you add up all the students that have come and gone, all of the professors who have come and gone — all of the individuals who have helped to build this fine institution — everybody has their story. When we talk about 150 years, we're talking about reflecting on the past that has brought us to this day and celebrating those successes and those victories. But more importantly, we're talking about recommitting ourselves for a brighter tomorrow."
To recognize LSU's sesquicentennial, LSU will hold a series of programs throughout the year that include premier events as well as special editions of annual university traditions.
LSU marks its sesquicentennial anniversary in 2010 with a year of historical reflection, celebration and commitment. All former and future students, faculty and staff, as well as friends of LSU worldwide, are invited to join in celebrating the university's 150 years of excellence.
For more information on LSU's sesquicentennial celebration, visit www.lsu150.com.
Aaron Looney | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations