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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

HOME OF THE CARDINALS

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
In my academic career I have been a Buffalo, a Cardinal, an Owl, a Tiger, a Thoroughbred, and for the past forty years, a Lumberjack. Those are the mascots of French High School, Lamar University (Lamar Tech when I was a student there from 1954 to 1958), Rice University, Louisiana State University, Murray State University in Kentucky, and Stephen F. Austin State University. I was a student at the first four and an employee of the latter two. One might say that I never "finished" schooling, because all told, I have been attending classes some where since 1941.

Lamar University is located in my hometown, Beaumont, Texas, which is why I got to attend college. The college wasnąt much older than I was when I became a Cardinal. It began as South Park Junior College in 1923 when the South Park School system accepted plans presented by Superintendent L.R. Pietzch to create the college from the growing population of Beaumont and the Golden Triangle Pietzch hired Carl W. Bingman as dean of the college and also principal of South Park High School. Within the year the name of the college was changed to Lamar in honor of President Mirabeau B. Lamar because of his well-known interest in education.

Classes began on the third flour of South Park High School but moved to separate facilities on the same campus. This made the college almost separate from the high school both physically and administratively, and the affiliation came to an end with the creation of the Lamar Union Junior College District in 1940. The district sold bonds to raise revenue to construct a separate campus only three blocks east on Virginia Avenue and the Port Arthur Road. These facilities were occupied in 1942 and John E. Gray became president of Lamar.

Lamar's curriculum featured traditional academic subjects but it also provided ample vocational instruction to train workers for a multitude of local industries. Rapid growth during and immediately after World War II justified expanding Lamar into a four-year institution, which was achieved in 1950. Gray left the presidency of Lamar in 1952 for a banking position and the board appointed Dr. F.L. McDonald as Gray's successor.

Under McDonald's guidance Lamar grew to over 9,000 students occupying more than 25 buildings. Graduate work was begun in 1960, two years too late for me, and by the 1970s Lamar had grown into a "system" with campuses in Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange.

Despite all my affiliations, I am still a Cardinal. Without Lamar, I would never have become an Owl or a Tiger, and especially not a Lumberjack.

© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical July 29, 2004 column
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Dr. Archie McDonald is executive director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas history.
 
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