After 47 years of serving Xavier University, Dr. Norman C. Francis plans to retire as president in June 2015. Francis graduated from Xavier in 1952 with a degree in mathematics and a minor in teaching, and became president of Xavier in 1968 after 10 years working in Xavier’s administration.
Within his 47 years of service, Francis has had many accomplishments. As his term comes to an end, what does the future hold for Francis?
Francis said one of his largest accomplishments is seeing Xavier change over the years. “One accomplishment is being a part of the changing of landscape of Xavier, from World War II buildings, to permanent academic facilities that facilitated our ability to change as the curricular demands were being put on Xavier graduates,” Francis said.
Many of Xavier’s classrooms and facilities were used federal army barracks, bungalows and mess halls. “I can’t go anywhere without someone saying how amazing the campus looks, compared to what it was in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s,” he said.
Beyond physical growth, Francis notes how Xavier has evolved academically.
“I was a part of the growth of the sciences that brought us national attention in the last 20 years. Xavier has become a small black school out-producing major institutions for blacks in the field of science. “A lot of Xavier graduates even integrated medical schools in the east, the west, and especially in California.”
Francis attributes the success to XU science teachers who saw a need to increase the number of African-American individuals in science.
Xavier has also increased its research capabilities. “Xavier was always a teaching institution, and in the last 20 years we started growing our research capacity. We are probably number three behind Tulane and LSU in grants from NSF and NIH, and number three in the number of grants in research,” he said.
Francis also appreciates developing a strong image for Xavier: “When I look back at my accomplishments, they were critical in making a brand for Xavier. When someone is asked what this school is known for, people right-off-the-bat will say Xavier produces doctors, PhDs in science, undergraduates and research.”
Quiet, But Active Retirement
As Francis’ presidency comes to a close, he sees a new purpose in life. “I think about all the things I’ve done because it was important to do for other people,” Francis said. “I think now I am turning to myself and my family and my wife. Now, does that mean I’m not going to do some things? I will. But I’m not going to do it as intensely as I do now.” Francis has a wife, Blanche Francis, six grown children, and several grandchildren.
In reflecting on his past, Francis recognizes that now is the proper time to retire. “I think I have used as much energy and intelligence that I have and I think it’s time for somebody else to take us to the next level. And I’m not leaving Xavier in bad shape. Sure we are challenged like all the schools, but I think we are better prepared as we have ever been to take it from here on,” he said
“My contract with the university, I’ve fulfilled, I believe, but now, it’s time for me to spend more time with my wife.”
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