There are 107 Historically Black Colleges and 251 Catholic colleges in the United States, yet there is only one that is both historically Black and Catholic. Yes, we are talking about the Xavier University of Louisiana located in the Gert Town section of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Xavier’s Mission and History
Founded in 1915 by Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Xavier is a small liberal arts college originally dedicated to the education of African Americans and Native Americans. In 1925, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established. The first degree was awarded three years later, and the College of Pharmacy was included in 1927.
To separate the identity and expand the campus, St. Katharine bought a tract of undeveloped land on the corner of Palmetto and Pine Streets in 1929. Finally in 1933, construction of the U-shaped, gothic administration building (now a city landmark) was completed. Through the years, as needs dictated, the Xavier campus gradually added various other departments. In 1980, Xavier’s identity was further enhanced and celebrated with the creation of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS.)
Today, the ultimate purpose of the University is to contribute to the promotion of a more just and humane society by preparing its students to assume roles of leadership and service in a global society. This preparation takes place in a diverse learning and teaching environment that incorporates all relevant educational means, including research and community service.
Even though this Black Catholic HBCU is now governed by a multi-racial Board of Trustees, the Sisters play an important role on the campus today providing much-needed staffing and some financial aid. Xavier’s former president, Dr. Norman C. Francis, himself an XULA graduate (1952), is a nationally-recognized leader in higher education and is the longest tenured college president in the United States. Dr. Francis retired on June 30, 2015, after 47 years at Xavier.
Under Dr. Francis’ leadership, with the outstanding support and involvement of First Lady Blanche Francis, Xavier has significantly increased its enrollment. During the Francis era XU has been ranked as a top academic institution, expanded its campus, and strengthened its financial base. During his and Xavier’s greatest challenge, and the devastation of the flooding following Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Francis led the effort to rebuild, rapidly reopen, and continually improve the campus. Miraculously classes resumed in less than six months.
On May 14, 2015, C. Reynold Verret was named the next president of Xavier University. Verrett, a native of Haiti, has been the chief academic officer at Savannah State in Georgia since 2012. Previously, he served as Provost at Wilkes University in northern Pennsylvania and before that as Dean of the Misher College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Verret is also a scientist, who taught and led research laboratories as a member of the faculty at Tulane University and also at Clark Atlanta University, where he was also chair of the department of chemistry.
Xavier’s Rankings and Distinctions
Xavier is recognized as the top producer of African-American undergraduates continuing to complete medical school and one of the top three producers of African American Doctor of Pharmacy degree recipients. Xavier ranks first nationally in the number of African American students earning undergraduate degrees in biology and life sciences, chemistry, physics and pharmacy.
As always Xavier’s doors are open to qualified students of any race or creed irrespective of its special mission to serve the Black, Catholic community. Despite a growing influx of out-of-state students, more than one-half of the university’s students are from Louisiana.
Sources: Xavier University of Louisiana and Wikipedia