a legacy for a legend
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Honoring 40  Years of Service

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(New Orleans, LA)- Alumni, friends and supporters of Xavier University are lining up to attend the November 21, 2008 “Legacy For a Legend” gala concert honoring the 40th anniversary of America’s longest serving college president, Norman C. Francis of Xavier University, and presented by Liberty Bank.  The concert will feature legendary vocalist and seven-time Grammy Award winner Ms. Gladys Knight, along with world-renowned comedian, actor and philanthropist William “Bill” Cosby as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies and opening act.  The Friday evening Gala concert, planned to celebrate Francis’ 40th Anniversary as president of the nation’s only Historically Black and Roman Catholic institution of higher education, and to recognize his service to his community and the nation, takes place at the New Orleans Theater inside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Hall H.

The university is also pleased that Liberty Bank, a local New Orleans institution since 1972, is the Presenting Sponsor of the 40th Anniversary festivities. Says President & CEO Alden McDonald, “Liberty Bank is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor for this Gala, not simply because of Norman C. Francis’ role as Liberty’s Founding Chairman, but also because of his amazing legacy of leading Xavier to tremendous heights all these years, plus always being available to serve his fellow Louisiana citizens.”

Dr. Francis was the founding Director of the Bank and continues to serve as its Chairman.  Liberty is one of the five largest African-American-owned financial institutions with assets of more than $370-million, a corporate partner of Fortune 500 companies, and a major supplier of financial services to government and government agencies throughout Louisiana and Mississippi.

The November 21st Gala will serve as a major fundraiser to establish a special Norman C. Francis Scholarship Fund, with special sponsor tables and individual tickets available through the Office of Institutional Advancement at 504.520.7575.

Four Decades of Leadership - Norman C. Francis, the Visionary

In 1948 a young man from Lafayette, Louisiana arrived in New Orleans to attend the nation’s only historically Black and Catholic university; armed with a determination to succeed and a letter from the Holy Family sisters –- who taught him in high school -- asking the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS) to give him a chance to attend Xavier University despite his family’s limited financial resources, and even if it meant “working off” his tuition. Sixty years later, with the exception of two years in the U-S Army, Norman Christopher Francis is still “working off” that tuition as he prepares this Fall to celebrate forty years of service as Xavier’s first and only lay president.  That also makes him America’s current longest serving university president and a universally respected leader in higher education circles. This at a time when, according to sources like the Chronicle of Higher Education, the typical career expectancy these days for newly hired university presidents is 5-7 years.

Francis is still a dynamo at age 77 who spends long hours on the job and maintains a travel schedule that might easily debilitate younger men.  This visionary has served in advisory roles to seven U-S presidents on the subject of improving education in the United States, including Ronald Reagan who appointed him to the landmark commission that drafted the famous “Nation at Risk” report.

Francis earned further national respect when he led the recovery of Xavier's devastated campus in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, making good his pledge to reopen the campus in less than five months. In addition to that challenge, he accepted the role as chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority following Katrina. Those dual roles and the visionary leadership Francis demonstrated in both undoubtedly led to President Bush awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in December 2006.

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