University Center (left) across is St. Joseph's Res Hall (top right) and St. Katharine Drexel Res Hall (bottom right); Central Plant (far bottom right)


In August 2005, Xavier was bursting at the seams with 4,204 students and prospering. All that changed on Aug. 29 when Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast, devastating the City of New Orleans. Four feet of flood waters inundated Xavier’s campus.

For most people in New Orleans all hope was lost—but not for Xavier University. Despite extensive damage and students, faculty, and staff scattered across the nation, Norman C. Francis vowed to reopen Xavier in January 2006. Many people doubted his dream and called his decision naïve and crazy. Francis’ unshakeable faith in God
and St. Katharine Drexel made the impossible possible.

According to “Rebuilding Xavier University of Louisiana,” on Jan. 17,
2006, Xavier reopened its doors to 3,098 students.

Francis did not work alone.“A good leader hires people smarter
than he is, then gets out their way,” he often says. The combined efforts
of Xavier administration, staff, and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
helped make Dr. Francis’ vision possible.
Though Xavier’s enrollment has not yet returned to pre-Katrina
numbers, Xavier continues to rank #1 and among the top universities
in country in the fields of natural and physical sciences. Thanks to
Francis’ dedication, resilience, and faith, Xavier’s mission and
legacy of excellence will live on for generations to come.

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