Lamar University is a comprehensive university offering bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees; located in Beaumont, Texas, and a member of The Texas State University System. As of Fall 2009, the university had 13,994 students, the highest enrollment in the university’s 85-year history.
Lamar University started on September 17, 1923 as South Park Junior College, operating on the unused third floor of the new 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 about 1932, recognizing that the junior college 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 veterans boosted enrollment, and the Lamar board of trustees asked the Texas Legislature to promote Lamar College to a four-year state college. The initial attempt in 1947, led by Texas Representative Jack Brooks failed, but the following year the 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.
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.
In 1975, the university merged 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. Lamar Institute of Technology was created in 1990 to provide technical, business, health and industrial education through programs two years or fewer in length.
In 1995, the Lamar University System was incorporated into the Texas State University System, with the Lamar State College - Orange, Lamar State College - Port Arthur and Lamar Institute of Technology campuses becoming separate entities within the system. Since the reorganization, Lamar University's enrollment has continually increased, and numerous construction projects have revitalized or replaced old buildings.