Artist: Nik Richard
Storytellers: Sharlene Sinegal Decuir
In August of 1948, a young man from Lafayette, Louisiana named Norman C. Francis moved to New Orleans to further his education at Xavier University. While at Xavier he remained grounded in the life lessons his parents taught him as a young boy, which include, “succeed despite obstacles, respect yourself, respect others, get a good education, and remember there is dignity in people at every level of work.” These lessons along with his faith shaped the leader that Dr. Norman C. Francis would become.
Francis graduated from Xavier University in May of 1952 with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree. Prior to graduation he applied to Loyola University School of Law and was accepted. In 1955, Norman C. Francis made history as the first African American to graduate from Loyola University School of Law. Days after graduating from law school, Francis married Blanche Macdonald, a 1948 Xavier University graduate, and approximately two weeks later he received U. S. Army draft orders.
When Francis’s tour in Germany ended, in 1957, he returned to New Orleans where he accepted an invitation from Sister Josephina Kenny, S.B. S., President of Xavier University to serve as Dean of Men, the first of many posts Francis would hold at the university The other posts Francis held at Xavier comprised of several administrative positions including, Director of Student Personnel Services, Assistant to the President of Student Affairs, and Assistant to the President in charge of Development.
On April 4, 1968, the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Dr. Norman C. Francis, at the age of 37 accepted the position as President of Xavier University, thus becoming the first black lay person to hold the position. Dr. Francis retired as President of Xavier University in 2015 after serving 46 years and being honored as the nation’s longest serving college president.