French House Renovations
There’s something in the air at LSU, and it’s not just the smell of the Quadrangle’s blooming magnolias. It’s the success of the University’s best students, as demonstrated through their formidable academic achievements. This year, Devon Wade was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar, and Charlotte Gates won a Fulbright Fellowship to study in France. Julie Doucet, Katrina Battle, and Jeffrey Kornuta were all awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships. In 2008, LSU was the only university in America to boast a Truman scholar, four Goldwater scholars, and a USA Today All-USA College Academic First Team member. LSU is becoming an increasingly competitive research university, and these scholars are just the latest evidence that the University’s growth shows no signs of stopping.
All of this year’s distinguished undergraduate scholars have one common thread: they are students or recent alumni of the LSU Honors College.
The LSU Honors College boasts 1,500 of the state’s most intellectually ambitious students. Students must meet rigorous admission requirements; incoming freshmen rank equal to or higher than their peers at the nation’s top 10 public universities. While enrolled in the Honors College, students pursue an accelerated academic program that encourages years of community service, study abroad, internship, and thesis research. Honors College students often plan and execute projects and research endeavors today that they continue after graduation. And studying isn’t all these students do. They take key roles in community service projects, join student organizations, compete in NCAA athletics, run for student leadership positions, and play in Tiger Band.
Taught by some of the most distinguished faculty members in any of LSU’s 235 academic fields of study, Honors students are concurrently enrolled in the Honors College and a senior college, some of which have established Honors tracks. Honors students frequently earn some of the most prestigious national and international awards and are highly recruited by graduate schools and employers.
"The Honors College is dedicated to training Louisiana's future leaders, those students who will make a difference for the future of our state,” said Honors College Dean Nancy Clark. “Over the past five years, applications to the Honors College have risen nearly 500 percent, demonstrating that our students want to make a difference. Our challenge is to meet this growing demand, and creating a state-of-the-art educational facility in the beautiful, historic French House is paramount in this endeavor. If we can provide the best students with the best opportunities, Louisiana will reap the benefits of strong state leadership for years to come."
The French House—La Maison Française—is a Renaissance-style Normandy château built in 1935 as a center for intense study of French language, culture, and literature. On April 15, 1935, French Ambassador André de Laboulaye traveled to Louisiana to celebrate LSU’s Diamond Jubilee. He laid the structure’s cornerstone, which included a piece of wood from the original Fort de la Boulaye, the first French settlement in Louisiana. Ambassador François de Laboulaye, André de Laboulaye’s son, rededicated the building on April 3, 1981. The French House remains the only non-Quadrangle LSU structure on the National Register of Historic Places.
In its prime, the facility was host to formal entertainment and distinguished visitors to campus. Since 1999, it has housed the daily administrative and student life functions of the LSU Honors College. While Honors College annual applications number nearly 5,800 for 500 spaces, and enrollment increased 33 percent in 2007, the highest of any senior college, its facility is in deplorable condition. A proposed French House renovation will provide the state-of-the-art educational facility that our University’s most outstanding students deserve.
“The LSU Honors College is a symbol of higher education in Louisiana,” said Brian Haymon, Honors College chair of the Forever LSU Campaign Cabinet. “Its mission is to offer our most talented students a university experience that competes favorably with Ivy League and other top schools. We don’t want to force our best and brightest to leave Louisiana to get the education they deserve; we want to make that opportunity available to them here.”
The French House will become a host site for visiting scholars and industry leaders who will engage students and faculty in research and academic pursuits. It will also serve as a base for growing scholarship in the sciences and technology that will translate into economic and workforce development and increased alliances with industry.
The French House project includes complete restoration of the Grand Salon and complete renovation of the second and third floors. Classroom space is set to increase by 50 percent, and classroom design will be contemporary and flexible while providing cutting-edge technology.
Additionally, the renovation will provide student community space with the goal of becoming the first public honors “campus within a campus” that couples a small school experience with the resources of a Carnegie Tier I research university. This facility will help LSU recruit and retain top students, promote peer-to-peer education, and provide student-to-professor and student-to-student collaboration spaces that bolster the Honors experience, enhance creative leadership, and affect LSU’s potential for discovery.
The French House renovation is just one of a series of infrastructure improvements slated for the LSU campus. The full schedule of campus improvements will provide needed technology upgrades and acquisitions, construct additional classroom and laboratory space, address deferred maintenance, and maintain the lush campus landscape. These projects will support all LSU students, including those in the Honors College, by providing fitting facilities for academic and research endeavors in all disciplines.
“As the home of the Honors College, the French House reflects our commitment to the critical role the Honors College plays in our University and our state,” said Haymon. “Investing a relatively small amount of money into this National Historic Landmark will allow us to create a state of the art educational facility that will continue to attract and produce the next generation of Louisiana leaders.”
The Foundation for Historical Louisiana concurred, when it named the LSU French House a “treasure in trouble” and one of the state’s top 10 buildings of historical significance. However important, the project’s ideological affirmations aren’t going to save this site. The French House is in need of generous support from private donors, too.
LSU’s top national and international scholars are proof of what can happen when passion meets possibility. Are you passionate enough to make this project possible?