The year was 1968. Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, The war in Vietnam raged on, and Dr. Norman Francis took the helm as Xavier University President.
"In 40 or 50 years, our culture has changed and racial equality has changed and he's been a constant for that. He's not only served well the university, but also our city and state," said Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
Born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1931, Francis attended Xavier for his undergraduate work. Later he blazed trails as one of the first African Americans admitted to Loyola Law School. Moon Landrieu attended Loyola with Francis and says from the day they met they were friends. The bond lasted through generations.
"He advised me when I became mayor on racial issues, his service on Civil Service Commission made a monumental change in hiring African Americans at City Hall," Landrieu said.
When Katrina's floodwaters damaged his beloved university, Dr. Francis refused to let the storm win and took a leadership role in the he state.
"His heading up the Governor's Recovery Program for Katrina...all of those were over and above what he's done for Xavier," the former mayor said.
Tulane President Emeritus Scott Cowen is a longtime friend, who says Francis handled the recovery with grace and wisdom.
"Xavier is one of the most distinguished HBCU's in the United States, and it's all attributed to Norman Francis and his team there."
Archbishop Aymond says it seems every time he passes Xavier there's another building. Landrieu says the impact it's had is enormous.
"That institution is so important to the city, state and country that it's impossible to exaggerate this importance to this city. You're not losing him. He'll be here. Xavier is in his blood," Landrieu said.