Nathan Wilson | Reporter
Students, alumni and dignitaries from across Louisiana met in Natchitoches to celebrate the completion of new residential facilities on the campus of the Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts (LSMSA) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, May 6.
The ceremony began with LSMSA Executive Director Dr. Steve Horton and Board Chair Sharon Gahagan outlining the three-year process of building the mixed-use residence hall and the 35-year process of funding its construction. The Prudhomme, Bossier, and later Caddo residence halls used by LSMSA had originally been lent to the school by Northwestern State University for an intended term of only five years.
Horton described the process. “The challenging journey of acquiring funding for our new residence hall is over. Now we celebrate the results of that journey with this beautiful new building.”
Gahagan focused on LSMSA’s future. “Let us celebrate what will make our school better. Let us celebrate what will make our experiences more endearing,” she said.
Olutunmike Adeleye, a graduating senior from LSMSA, was chosen to introduce Governor John Bel Edwards for the ribbon cutting. She later described the significance of the Commons in her experience studying at the school. “Not many of us have gotten the chance to live in Caddo or Prudhomme and the LLC because we were online last year,” she says. “Seeing how it was in Caddo and how it was here, it’s more conducive to forming a community in this building.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards began his remarks with a quip about touring the old residence halls during a previous visit. “I’m not sure they showed us real, representative dorm-rooms. The environment was rather spartan. I was always taught when I was in the army that kind of leads to character development, and if that’s true there was a lot of character being developed here at the Louisiana School,” he said. “I know governor (Dave) Treen committed to this school when he didn’t have a lot of money in Baton Rouge. Similarly, we committed to this building when we didn’t have a lot of money.”
Wielding an enormous pair of gold scissors provided by the Natchitoches Chamber, Edwards cut the ribbon flanked by many of the school’s assembled supporters including former State Senator Donald Kelly.
Highly regarded for his role in the school’s founding, Kelly, a Natchitoches native, was humble about his contribution. “Governor Treen’s the finest man in the world. He just grabbed a hold of it and ran. Jimmy (Long) and Bobby (Robert Alost), all of us pitched in, but it was Jimmy and Bobby’s Idea. I don’t make claims to something I didn’t do, but I did help them pass it. That’s where I was, and I helped them finance it for the rest of the time I was down there until 1996.”
During the reception following the ceremony, Adeleye reflected on the impact LSMSA has had over her education. “I’m really lucky to have come here. I know that had I not, I wouldn’t have had all the opportunities I’ve gotten while I was here, so I’m really thankful.” She will be attending Tulane University next year to study molecular biology.
The four-story, 110,000 square foot building can house up to 360 students and replaces the Prudhomme and Caddo Halls, which were built during the 1950s and 1960s and were last renovated during the 1980s. In addition to housing the school’s students, the building offers community spaces for students to prepare meals, study and engage in recreational activities.