McNeese State University was established by the Louisiana Legislature in 1939. The institution was first named Lake Charles Junior College, and was a division of Louisiana State University with the opening session beginning on September 11, 1939. The following fall, the school changed its name to John McNeese Junior College to honor John McNeese, a renowned Southwest Louisiana educator and the first superintendent of schools in Imperial Calcasieu Parish. In 1950, McNeese became a four-year college in its own right and came under the authority of the Louisiana Board of Education. Finally, in 1970, McNeese State University became the official name of the school.
McNeese achieved Commission on Colleges/Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation in 1954 and maintains its regional accreditation status as a Level IV institution authorized to award associate, bachelor, master, and specialist degrees.
The University also provides opportunities for continuing education in support of its mission to value lifelong learning. As a member of the University of Louisiana System and a selective admissions institution, McNeese offers degrees through the department of general and basic studies and six academic colleges: Business, Education, Engineering and Engineering Technology, Liberal Arts, Nursing, and Science. McNeese's student body is comprised of students from throughout Louisiana, the United States, and approximately 50 countries. McNeese's athletic programs are NCAA-certified for competition at the Division I level.
The McNeese State University campus in Lake Charles, Louisiana, features 68 buildings on 500 acres dotted with live oak trees and azalea bushes. The McNeese community continues to use three original structures - Kaufman Hall, Ralph O. Ward Memorial Gym (the Arena), and Francis G. Bulber Auditorium. Bulber Auditorium, a striking example of Art Deco architecture, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
McNeese State University upholds a long tradition of service to the Southwest Louisiana community and the nation. The University motto of "Excellence with a Personal Touch" extends beyond the classroom. During World War II, the campus was the headquarters of the Louisiana Maneuvers, an extensive military exercise to prepare American soldiers for battle. In 1957, the McNeese community gave aid and comfort to the victims of Hurricane Audrey and served as the National Guard's base of rescue operations. Recently, McNeese provided shelter for New Orleans residents and university students fleeing from Hurricane Katrina. McNeese faced one of its greatest challenges when Hurricane Rita struck in the fall of 2005. The storm caused devastating damage to campus facilities and infrastructure. The recovery effort after Hurricane Rita demonstrated the resilience and commitment of the McNeese faculty, staff, and students to higher education and to moving forward in support of the core values of academic excellence, student success, fiscal responsibility, and university/community alliances.