Xavier University President Norman Francis — the longest-serving college president in America — last week announced his intention to step down in June 2015. "After nearly 47 years," he said in a statement, "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."
Francis graduated from Xavier in 1952 and was the first black student admitted to Loyola University's School of Law, graduating from Loyola in 1955. After a brief tour of duty in the U.S. Army, he took an administrative post at Xavier and rose through the ranks, becoming university president in 1968. Under his stewardship, the university grew and became recognized as one of the premier African-American colleges in the U.S. He also served as head of the United Negro College Fund.
Francis received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006 and was named Gambit's New Orleanian of the Year for 2007 in recognition of his long tenure at Xavier as well as his work as chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which he agreed to chair at the request of then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco after Hurricane Katrina.