The longest-serving university president in the country, Norman Francis of Xavier University of Louisiana, will retire after the 2014-15 academic year, nearly 47 years after he took office.
Francis, 83, is a 1952 Xavier graduate who was elected class president every year of his undergraduate study and student body president his senior year. In 1957, Francis became Xavier’s dean of men and, on April 4, 1968—the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated—he was appointed the first African-American and first layman president of the historically black, Catholic university.
Under Francis’ leadership, Xavier’s enrollment has tripled and its endowment has grown from $20 million to $160 million. Following Hurricane Katrina, Francis was appointed chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority and was awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts. Francis will formally step down on June 30, 2015. Xavier’s Board of Trustees has not announced an interim president or chosen Francis’ replacement.
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