Dr. Norman C. Francis, the nation's longest serving university president, announced that he plans to retire as president of Xavier University of Louisiana.
Francis, 83, announced his retirement on Thursday after nearly five decades of leadership.
"After nearly 47 years, I believe that the time has come to take the brightly burning torch turned over to me by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and pass it on to new leadership," Dr. Francis told a campus wide Convocation of the University community late Thursday morning.
"I did so with the passionate confidence and absolute certainty that Xavier is better prepared than ever to continue its educational and spiritual mission, and to build on its tradition of excellence," Dr Francis continued.
Francis has been affiliated with Xavier for most of 66 years, arriving at Xavier from Lafayette as a 17-year-old freshman in 1948, and he quickly emerged as a leader. He was elected class president every year of his undergraduate study and student body president in his senior year.
"This morning, my fellow board members and I accepted Dr. Francis' request to retire as Xavier's president, effective June 30, 2015," said Michael Rue, Chairman of the Xavier University Board of Trustees. "We all wish Dr. Francis could remain as Xavier's president for at least 50 more years. We take solace in the realization that Dr. Francis will be forever with us through the institution he helped shape."
Xavier University has been transformed under Dr. Francis' leadership, enrollment has tripled and the university's endowment has grown from under $20 million to more than $160 million. A campus of five permanent buildings that could fit on one city block has grown to 16 permanent buildings and manicured green spaces extending out over 63.4 acres.
Speak of Xavier University of Louisiana and you think of Dr. Norman Francis.
"I'm from Lafayette. People think I'm from New Orleans, I'm not. I've lived here most of my life and it was a segregated town," he said in a prior interview with FOX 8.
Francis first stepped foot on Xavier's campus in 1948 as a student. But for a stint in the military, he's never left.
The segregation Francis was born into hadn't faded by the time he entered Loyola's law school.
"Since I was one of the first blacks admitted, I couldn't stay on Loyola's campus," he recalls. "So I stayed on Xavier's campus as I did my four years undergraduate."
That experience at Loyola did not sour him. The openness of the nuns running Xavier would open his heart to the University in ways he didn't fathom at the time.
"I said well, Xavier's been good to me. I worked my way through, through the scholarship side and I said I could give a couple of years and I did."
His retirement will go into effect on June 30, 2015.
For more information on his life and career, click theses links: