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Edith Garland Dupré: A Progressive Educator

by Doris Broussard Bentley

Edith Garland DupreEdith Garland Dupré was born in 1881 in Opelousas, Louisiana, when the South was emerging from the Reconstruction period and when education for women was at the dawn of acceptance. She was educated at Sophie Newcomb Memorial College for women in New Orleans from which she graduated in 1900.

In 1901 she joined a small faculty of eight who opened the doors of the institution in Lafayette known as "The Industrial;" later it became the University of Southwestern Louisiana and, finally, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. For 43 years she dedicated her talents and her spirit to Southwestern which she helped to mold from barely a high school to an accredited institution of higher education.

Edith Garland Dupré served as professor and head of the English Department where her scholarship guided the intellectual development of students in the classroom. Her deep interest in student activities led her to serve wherever her guidance was needed. As chairman of the Student Organizations Committee she took a leading part in every student activity at the school. She founded the literary societies which provided a cultural and social outlet for students for 38 years, the college newspaper, the yearbook, the literary magazine, and the Dramatics Club. She was responsible for the student body organization and the honors program.

As chairman of the Library Committee she was personally in charge of the library which she directed for 23 years, and she directed its policies for 20 more years. As chairman of Classifications she helped to set academic standards of the school for 43 years.

Her greatest contribution was to the development of the fullest potentialities of the students. Lofty aspiration, honest of purpose and generosity of comradeship were the principles on which the spirit of Southwestern was based. She was successful in getting the students to aspire to lofty ideals through her love and faith in them.

As a religious leader in the community and among the students Edith Garland Dupré helped the founding of the Newman Club and the establishment of the Catholic Student Center. She was dedicated to the moral, spiritual and intellectual development of the young men and women at Southwestern.

Lifelong learning was an exciting experience for Edith Garland Dupre. She received a Master's degree at Cornell in 1908, and she did advanced study at Johns Hopkins, George Washington, Washington at Seattle, New York, Michigan and Wisconsin Universities. With travel abroad her scholarly pursuits enriched her teaching and broadened her perspective.

Edith Garland Dupré was also a civic leader. She took a leading role in numerous women's organizations in the community; she served as a volunteer worker overseas during World War I; she directed the Red Cross Drive at Southwestern for many years; and she was a leader in local and state civilian defense work during World War II. When a public library for the parish was established, Edith Dupré was made chairman of the Library Board.

"Love and Service to Others" was her motto. Although she shunned personal acclaim, civic, religious, and professional groups bestowed their highest honors upon her, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette named the Dupré Library in her honor.

Small of stature, she was great of heart. Thousands of men and women were warmed by the nobility of soul of this teacher. She was a guiding spirit whom they respected and revered throughout their lifetime. Many have carried the torch of her ideals as classroom teachers themselves, as business and civic leaders, and as American citizens near and far.

Bentley, Doris Broussard, "Edith Garland Dupre." (1971). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 1963.

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