Years in the works, the Ernest Gaines Center, located in Edith Garland Dupre Library at UL, will hold its formal opening ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 31.
“Anything done well takes time,” says Dr. Marcia Gaudet, the center's director. “After Katrina, everything was at a standstill, and we just received full approval from the Board of Regents in June.”
The center was in the works before any of the higher education budget cuts started, with former UL President Ray Authement securing $250,000 to fund its opening. Gaudet says the center is relying on the sale of Ernest Gaines calendars ($15 for one or $20 for two) and books to fund future programs.
Gaines knew his manuscripts would go to UL Lafayette since his time there as the writer in residence. Dr. Albert Fields, head of the English at the time, invited Gaines to teach in 1981 and shortly after asked Gaines if he’d consider donating his manuscripts to the university. Gaines agreed, but says he never thought there would be a center to hold them in his honor, at least not while he was still alive.
“I suppose I’m honored,” says Gaines. “I didn’t think things like this happened until after you died. I’m honored that my home state would do this.”
Gaines was educated in California and returned to Louisiana to finish his first novel Catherine Carmier
and accept a teaching position with UL Lafayette. Gaines thought he would be teaching one or two workshops over the course of one or two years and instead stayed until 2003.
“I imagine this is about the best place [the manuscripts] could be,” says Gaines. “It’s not far from where I grew up. Others wanted the papers, but I had no connection to them.”
The center will not only possess all of Gaines’ manuscripts, which will have to be compiled by an archivist, but has all of his honorary titles and awards, audio from interviews and talks, and several editions and translations of all his works.
“We imagine it will serve as a place for international research. We hope to eventually have research fellowships,” says Gaudet.
Gaines most recent focus is the upkeep and annual beautification of the cemetery that rests on one section of his plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish. “The people buried there are the source of my work,” says Gaines.
The ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 31, from 2 to 4 p.m. It is located in Edith Garland Dupre Library, 400 E. St. Mary Blvd.