On the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Norman C. Francis accepted an offer to become president of Xavier University, the historically Black educational institution in New Orleans. He still holds that office and is the longest-tenured university president in the United States.
President Francis has announced that he will step down as president of Xavier in June 30, 2015. Speaking at the university’s convocation, President Francis said, “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. I do 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.”
President Francis is a native of Lafayette, Louisiana. His father was a barber. He graduated from Xavier University and earned his law degree at Loyola University in New Orleans. He served for 11 years as Xavier’s dean of men, before becoming university president. In 2006 Francis was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.