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New Center for History and Culture to tell the story of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast

Lamar University officials recently announced the establishment of the Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast, which will serve as a cultural hub for the region.

Located less than two miles from the original site of the Spindletop Lucas gusher, the new Center is an interdisciplinary, multi-cultural organization for preserving, promoting, and transmitting the knowledge of the region, including the role of the petroleum industry in the region, the state, the nation and the world, said Center Director Mary Scheer, professor and chair of the Department of History.

According to local historian Ellen Rienstra “the Center for History and Culture will serve as an invaluable focal point to collect, preserve, study, and celebrate this unique amalgam.  And what more logical home than Lamar University, with its virtually unlimited academic, scientific and cultural resources.”

The interdisciplinary, multicultural center will promote public engagement through publications, exhibits and cultural performances, sponsorship of lectures and symposia, innovating curriculum, and support of faculty and students in their research. The Lamar Center offers LU the opportunity to establish a regional identity, Scheer said.

The Center’s first major goal is to enhance access to the university’s many existing programs about the region— like a course on local history, a class on Texas literary figures, and the public programs of two on campus museums that support the mission of the Center.

Another step towards telling the story of the region will be to encourage and support original scholarship through undergraduate research, symposia, lecture series and research prizes for work that promotes the Center and its mission.

The Center for History and Culture also proposes to spearhead the upcoming Centennial of Lamar University in 2023.   It will celebrate the 100-year anniversary by sharing LU’s history, traditions, contributions, and legacy through a variety of events and programs in the years leading up to the Centennial.

Towards these goals, the inaugural program of the Center will be to host a reception, lecture, and book signing by two local authors.  On November 9, 2016, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the University Reception Center on the 8th floor of the Mary and John Gray Library, Ellen Rienstra and Jo Ann Stiles will discuss The Long Shadow:  The Lutcher-Stark Lumber Legacy, which traces the lives of three generations of the Lutcher-Stark family of Orange, Texas.   This event is free and open to the public.

The Center for History and Culture is one of five “visionary projects” selected from faculty and staff proposals and funded by Lamar University over the next three years. In 2015, campus leaders sought ideas for advancing the university’s mission across all facets of instruction, scholarship and service in ways that advance the priorities detailed in the recently completed strategic plan. Initiatives that built on existing strengths, were distinctive, could secure additional resources, and fostered collaboration across disciplines were sought. Of 49 proposals developed, five were ultimately selected for portions of $1 million in support.