As the next president of Xavier University, C. Reynold Verret isn’t likely to serve as long as his predecessor, Norman Francis, who’s been on the job since 1968. But we hope Verret’s time at Xavier is fruitful, and we wish him well in his new role.

Francis’ biggest accomplishment lies in the simple fact that Xavier is still around. Its continued existence was far from assured in the terrible days after Hurricane Katrina, as the aftermath of the disaster brought seismic challenges to every institution of higher education in New Orleans. His steady hand guided Xavier to better days, even as he helped oversee the region’s broader rebound as chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

Historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, have been doing a good bit of soul-searching in the past decade, as social changes prompt these institutions to rethink their role in the 21st century.

We’re heartened by Verret’s long track record of promoting collaboration among the sciences and liberal arts. In times of change, some basic realities endure, such as the need for students to know not only technical skills but writing, history and the arts. Verret is no stranger to Louisiana; his extensive academic background includes a teaching stint at Tulane.

Xavier’s work in advancing knowledge has been invaluable to Louisiana. We hope that Verret can extend Francis’ legacy to a new generation of learners.