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Lamar University is a four-year university located in Beaumont, Texas, and a member of the Texas State University System. As of February, 2005, the university had an enrollment of 9,831 students, a record for the spring semester.
Lamar University first started on September 17, 1923, as South Park Junior College. The junior college began operations on the unused third floor of the newly constructed South Park High School (now South Park Middle School). South Park Junior College became the first college in Texas to receive Texas Department of Education approval during the first year of operation, and became fully accredited in 1925.
In 1932, recognizing that the junior college had grown beyond serving a small portion of the city of Beaumont, and was now serving the region, the college renamed itself Lamar College, after Mirabeau B. Lamar. The next year, the separation of the college from South Park High School began with construction of new facilities. By 1942, the college was completely independent of the South Park school district, and operations moved to the current campus.
With the end of World War II, an influx of war veterans boosted enrollment, and the Lamar board of trustees decided to ask the Texas Legislature to promote Lamar College to a four-year state college. The initial attempt in 1947, lead by Texas Representative Jack Brooks failed, but the following year the necessary bill passed both houses. On June 14, 1949, Governor Beauford Jester signed the bill creating Lamar State College of Technology, with the new entity to focus on engineering and science, an emphasis that continues today.
The college's enrollment continued to grow throughout the 1950s and 1960s, reaching 10,000 students, but in the 1970s enrollment plateaued. In 1969, Lamar State College opened its first branch in Orange, Texas. In 1970, Lamar State College began offering its first doctoral program, the Doctor of Engineering, and in 1971 the college's name was officially changed to Lamar University.
1975 brought another branch for the university, with it merging with Port Arthur College in Port Arthur, Texas, creating Lamar University-Port Arthur. In 1983, state Senator Carl Parker sponsored a bill creating the Lamar University System, and in 1986, Lamar University-Orange and Lamar University-Port Arthur were granted accreditation separate from the main campus.
In 1993, an audit by the state of Texas revealed numerous shortfalls in the Lamar University System budget. In 1995, the Lamar University System was incorporated into the Texas State University System, with the Orange and Port Arthur campuses becoming separate entities within the system. Since the reorganization, Lamar University's enrollment has rebounded, and numerous construction projects have revitalized or replaced old buildings.
The Lamar University campus is located on Martin Luther King Boulevard, near U.S. Highway 69, in the southeast part of Beaumont, Texas. Facilities include the 10,000 seat Montagne Center arena, and the eight story Mary and John Gray Library.
In the late 1990s, Lamar began undertaking campus improvement projects. Most buildings on the campus dated to the late 1960s and 70s and had deteriorated since. Many older buildings in the northern part of the campus were gutted and refinished one-by-one.
In 2001, the University began replacing its 1960s-vintage dormitories with new apartment-style housing facilities, dubbed "Cardinal Village," operated by the private firm American Campus Communities . Older campus housing facilities have been demolished as Cardinal Village expanded to meet demand. Demand for on-campus housing has risen, coinciding with the opening of the new dorms. As of April 2005, a new dining hall was under construction near the housing complex and is scheduled to open in December 2005 .
Lamar University is a member of the Southland Conference, participating in men and women's basketball, baseball, and other sports. Lamar does not have a football program, which is unusual for a Texas educational institution. The football program was dropped in 1989, largely due to budget overruns and declining attendance.
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