Nearly every student who enrolled at Northwestern State University in the last 50 years likely set foot in the building bearing Victor Leander Roy’s name, but would never see the face of one the school’s most legendary leaders. In honor of the 100th anniversary of Roy becoming NSU President, artist and graduate student Shayne Creppel painted a portrait that will hang in the lobby of Roy Hall.
The acrylic painting was unveiled by NSU Provost and Vice President of Student Affairs Lisa Abney on March 29, 2012 during NSU Research Day. Creppel says he noticed that Roy Hall was one of the few buildings on campus named for a key figure that lacked a portrait. “In all the research I did on NSU history while an undergraduate, V.L. Roy was such a fascinating character. I felt that more students should know about the lasting accomplishments he achieved as president.”
While Roy’s tenure remains the longest of any president in the institution’s 128 year history, it would also be remembered as one of the most controversial. “He was known as a very strict disciplinarian and was rather stern, but he was still highly regarded by the students for all the hard work he did for the school when he was here. I tried to convey that in the portrait,” Creppel said. According to one University publication, Roy expelled his own son from the school for giving a car-load of female students a ride across town. The same biographical sketch said Roy “famously banned Coca-Cola from campus for twelve years until the company sent a chemist to convince him that Coke was not as harmful as coffee if drunk in moderation.” In 1929, the fifth NSU president was ousted from office under pressure from infamous governor Huey P. Long, nicknamed “The Kingfish.”
The Roy administration from 1911 to 1929 is also lauded as one of progress and achievement in the name of the students. Roy is credited with creating or supporting the following NSU traditions: Purple Jackets Society, The Current Sauce student newspaper, the selection of the “Demon” as official school mascot, and students “escorting” Isabella’s ghost to her new home when the oldest building on campus is destroyed. Perhaps one of his most significant achievements was expanding the curriculum to include 4-year degrees.
For Creppel, the painting presented the greatest challenge in capturing an appropriate expression on Roy’s face. By way of applause, students and faculty attending the unveiling at Research Day seemed to agree the portrait is a worthy encapsulation of the spirit of “Normal’s” most-revered character. Creppel then addressed the gathering, sharing stories about V.L. Roy and even a few laughs.