Norman C. Francis, J.D. speaks at Meharry Medical College commencement

Norman C. Francis, J.D. Photo by Irving Johnson III

Norman C. Francis, J.D.
Photo by Irving Johnson III

Meharry Medical College has served the nation’s health care needs for 138 years. This year’s commencement speaker, Norman C. Francis, J.D., has been president of Xavier University of Louisiana since 1968, making him the longest-tenured current leader of an American university. This year, the College Commencement exercises are at the Grand Ole Opry House Saturday, May 17, at 10 am. Doors open to the public at 8:30 am.

The classic Xavier student is someone who has heart, an appreciation for diligent work, the determination to use his/her talents to the fullest, and the courage to ask for help when it is needed. Nobody has embodied those qualities more so than Norman C. Francis, whose administrative career at Xavier has spanned a half-century.

A 1952 Xavier graduate, Francis returned to his Alma mater in 1957 (following Loyola Law School and two years in the US Army) to begin his administrative career as dean of men. Since his appointment as the university’s first lay president in 1968, Xavier has more than tripled its enrollment, broadened its curriculum, expanded its campus and received national attention for its award-winning academic initiatives.
The tradition of academic excellence is consistent with the dreams of its founder, Saint Katharine Drexel and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament religious order.

Admired for his sharp mind, revered for his modesty, and praised for his dedication, Dr. Francis enjoys a prestigious national reputation. In December 2006, he received the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President George W. Bush. Francis has served in an advisory role to five US presidents, including: the historic National Commission on Excellence in Education, whose findings, published in the groundbreaking work A Nation at Risk, created a sense of urgency for bringing about educational reform in the nation’s school system.

He has served as chairman or board member for numerous councils and foundations including chair of the President’s Council for the United Negro College Fund, American Association of Higher Education, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; the College Board, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; Educational Testing Service, and the Southern Education Foundation.

In 2005, Gov. Kathleen Blanco appointed Francis to serve as chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, helping to oversee the state’s recovery following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita while he lead the University’s own recovery and rebuilding effort. He served in that capacity for three years. In New Orleans, Francis serves as chairman of the Board of Liberty Bank and Trust; co-chair of the Committee for a Better New Orleans; member of the Advisory Board of The Times-Picayune Publishing Company; the Fleur de lis Ambassadors Program, as well as other local organizations. Norman C. Francis’ career is characterized by his unwavering commitment to educational and social equality, spiritual enlightenment, and community service.

For more about Meharry Medical College and its Commencement Reunion weekend, go to www.mmc.edu