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June 13, 2008

Community vision results in new University Residence

When guests visit Bon Aire, ULM’s new University Residence, they will encounter the work of master craftsmen and people of vision – a dynamic masterpiece produced by the ULM Foundation and community cooperation. ULM’s jewel on the bayou was completely funded with private dollars.

Betty Cummins, immediate past president of the University of Louisiana at Monroe Foundation Board of Trustees, marveled at the elegant culmination of so much community teamwork. “It’s exactly as we pictured it, it’s exactly as we planned it, and I really feel like we accomplished what we set out to do. To think everything was given by other people, believing in us – it’s pretty overwhelming. This house captures the past, present and future of this great university.”

The decision to build an on-campus residence for the university president resulted in 2005 after the ULM Foundation, a private, non-profit affiliate organization, examined the increasing demand for university presidents to be involved in fund-raising and other external activities, and how crucial a president’s home could be for these missions. At the time, ULM was the only institution of the eight members of the University of Louisiana System to not have such a residence.

Now, ULM’s university residence is a beautiful showpiece, according to Cummins. She praised the work of all involved. “It flows, it will entertain beautifully without being intimidating, which is what we strived for. We want students to feel comfortable, sitting around the dining room table. This home should be welcoming, whether the governor comes in and stays the night, or whether the university is entertaining someone they’d like to recruit.”

Cummins identified the ULM Foundation’s Board of Trustees campaign steering committee, under the leadership of Tex and Carole Kilpatrick and James and Lynn Moore. They were instrumental in raising and providing the needed funds to construct the new university residence, which will be donated to ULM.

“And now the university has a magnificent tool to attract new faculty, students and supporters, making us all stronger in the process. This has been a fantastic group effort,” Cummins said.

Complete information about Bon Aire can be found at the ULM Web site at


More about Bon Aire’s past, present and future:

Bon Aire is established on the site of Bon Aire Plantation, its namesake. The French definition is “good air” (in this case referring to quality appearance, look, manner, or style). The plantation was established prior to the Civil War by Wesley John Quincy Baker and his first wife Columbia Winston Hamblen. Baker was a planter and an attorney. Bon Aire Plantation adjoined Ingleside Plantation to the east across Bayou DeSiard and Limerick Plantation south of Bayou DeSiard.

Located on picturesque Bayou DeSiard, the present Bon Aire serves as the home for the ULM president and family, but its role in the life of the university goes well beyond that of a residence.

This 6,893 square-foot Country Acadian-style one and one-half story home provides an elegant setting for receptions, dinners, and other events. These events will center on gatherings for faculty, students, or alumni, recognition of donors, and volunteer appreciation.

At a glance, visitors will notice an eye-catching array of live oaks, red maples, cypress, Vitex trees, sweet olives, iris, indigo, and azaleas long before they enter the foyer. Once inside, guests may take in the hand-crafted curving staircase and lovely furnishings.

On the ground floor, many features will capture attention, from the Country French décor to the subtle rural nature theme present from artwork (much of it ULM students’ work) to the tapestry attached to the curve of the stair wall. One trip through the president’s eucalyptus-paneled library will highlight the ULM connection after a visitor spots the custom-made wood carving of the Bell Tower on the west wall over the fireplace.

Culinary appetites will be met as food is prepared in the catering kitchen and the butler’s pantry, while guests gather together in the spacious breakfast room, replete with buffet and dining tables, a baby grand piano, chandelier, and a dazzling view of the beautiful Bayou DeSiard – either inside through the floor-to-ceiling windows, or by taking a stroll outside to the terrace, surrounded by further lush landscaping. Two fountains, an arrival garden, a bayou garden, and a rose garden also grace the property.

Powder rooms and storage space abound, ready to accommodate all guests’ comfort.

The second floor is intended for guests staying at Bon Aire. Guests may travel to the second floor by way of a handicapped-accessible elevator or by the staircase. Upstairs, they will encounter three bedroom suites: one with a king bed (including a handicapped-accessible bathroom), a suite with a queen-sized bed, and another containing twin beds. Guests have access to the upstairs den, stocked with all amenities and entry to the outside upper veranda.

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