Norman C. Francis, Ph.D.
Dr. Norman C. Francis and Xavier are virtually synonymous.
A 1952 Xavier graduate himself, Dr. Francis is the longest-sitting university president in the United States, having served in that role since 1968. As president of the nation’s only historically Black and Catholic University, he has guided Xavier’s growth both in size and dimension. During his tenure, the University has more than doubled its enrollment, broadened its curriculum, increased its acreage, modernized and expanded its facilities, and strengthened its financial base. Its tradition of academic excellence has been further enhanced.
Under his leadership, the University instituted a core curriculum and mandatory comprehensives, and has become nationally recognized as a leader in minority education, particularly in the sciences and the health professions. Xavier ranks first in the nation in producing African American graduates who go on to complete medical school, while its College of Pharmacy, one of only two pharmacy schools in Louisiana, is among the nation’s top three producers of African American Doctor of Pharmacy degree recipients. Xavier graduates in all disciplines are sought out by job recruiters and graduate and professional schools.
Named by his peers as one of the 100 most effective college and university leaders, Dr. Francis enjoys a prestigious national reputation. He has served in an advisory role to eight U.S. presidential administrations – not only on education issues, but civil rights as well – in addition to serving on more than 60 boards and commissions. In 2006, he was presented the nation’s highest civil award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He has received at least two dozen other major awards in recognition of his leadership in higher education as well as his unselfish service to New Orleans and to the nation. Among his most recent honors were the 2012 Fleur de Lis Visionary Award (Louisiana Bar Association), the 2012 Excellence Award (Southern Co. and Essence magazine), 2012 George Lake Community Service Award (Crimestoppers), the 2012 A.P. Tureaud Achievement Award (Loyola University), and the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award (American Association for Blacks in Higher Education). In 2009 he was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News Media Group and the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
He has received 41 honorary degrees from other universities.
Among Dr. Francis’ civic endeavors, he serves (or has served) as chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, immediate past chair of the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, immediate past Chair of the Southern Education Foundation, chairman of the board of Liberty Bank and Trust and a member of the Times-Picayune Advisory Board. In the past he has been chairman of the New Orleans Aviation Board, the Metropolitan Area Committee Education Fund and the board of directors of PBS-affiliate WLAE-TV.
On the national level, Dr. Francis’ activities include serving as past chairman of the boards of the Educational Testing Service, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, The College Board, the Southern Education Foundation and the American Association of Higher Education. In the past he was member president of the UNCF, a member of the Board of Trustees of Catholic University, and chairman of SACS, the southern regional accrediting agency for more than 11,000 institutions in 11 states.