University of Louisiana at Monroe
The school opened in 1931 as Ouachita Parish Junior College. In 1934, the institution became the Northeast Center of Louisiana State University. In 1949, the name was changed again to Northeast Junior College, an arm of Louisiana State University. A year later, it became an autonomous four-year institution renamed Northeast Louisiana State College. In 1969, it began to offer doctoral degrees and was elevated to university status as Northeast Louisiana University. Other regional campuses, such as Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, were also elevated to university status. The current name, abbreviated ULM, was adopted in 1999.
Under President George Thomas Walker, Sr. (1913-2011), whose tenure extended from 1958 to 1976, enrollment increased from 2,100 to 9,700. NLU became the largest university in North Louisiana in terms of state funding and enrollments. Among all of the universities under the Louisiana Higher Education Board of Trustees, Northeast had the greatest percent of faculty with terminal degrees in their fields, more academic programs withy national accreditation, and offered the highest faculty salaries.
Walker's successor, Dwight Vines also worked to numerous building projects to fruition: campus: athletic fields, Malone Stadium (1978), the Lake C. Oxford Natatorium, and the buildings for the schools of Construction, Nursing (named for philanthropist Kitty DeGree), and Chemistry-Natural Science. He also established the band building, modern bookstore, University Police building, and Spyker Theater. Vines worked for the establishment of forty new degree programs, including Community Health, Marriage/ Family Counseling, Agri-Aviation, Mild/Moderate Special Education, and Computer Science. The Institute of Gerontology was established during his presidency. The campus became home to National Public Radio and the Small Business Incubation Center. Vines also created the University Foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation that raises millions of dollars to advance ULM. Vines was an avid tennis player, and he built the Heard Tennis Stadium and launched the men’s and women’s tennis teams. During the years Vines was president, the university won the National 1-AA Football Championship in 1987, ten national water ski championships and the NCAA championships in six track and field events.
The largest donor to ULM was Kitty DeGree, a real estate developer originally from New Hampshire. Her periodic contributions began in 1984 with the donation of three hundred apartments through her charitable trust.