Columbia, SC -- December 5, 2008 -- Dr. Norman C. Francis, President of Xavier University, will receive an honorary degree from Benedict College and give the commencement address during the College's 139th Commencement Exercises (Winter). The ceremony is set for 9 a.m., Saturday, December 13, 2008 in the Benjamin Mays Human Resources Center Area on the campus grounds.
A 1952 graduate of Xavier University, Dr. Norman C. Francis returned to his alma mater in 1957 following Loyola Law School and two years in the United States 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. He 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.
Dr. Francis has served as chairman or board member for numerous councils and foundations including the President's Council for the United Negro College Fund, American Association of Higher Education, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Foundation for the Improvement in Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Educational Testing Service, and the Southern Education Foundation.
In 2007, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education appointed Dr. Francis to Chair the HBCU Capital Financing Advisory Board. Also, in 2005, Governor Kathleen Blanco appointed Dr. Francis to serve as Chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority helping to oversee the state's recovery following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita while leading the University's own recovery and rebuilding effort. He served in that capacity for 3 years. In New Orleans, he 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 and the Business Council of New Orleans, The Fleur de lis Ambassadors Program, a member of the board of trustees of the National World War II Museum, as well as many other local organizations.