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Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Dr. Norman Francis announces his retirement as president of Xavier University, a post he has held since 1968 having previously served in other positions since 1957, at Xavier's University Center in New Orleans, La. Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. In 1952 he graduated with a B.S. from Xavier and was the first African-American student to integrate and attend Loyola University Law School where he received his J.D. in 1955.

There can’t be much more that can be said about the enormous services of Norman Francis, who presided at his final graduation ceremony after 47 years of leading Xavier University. His superlative leadership to the university, the community and the state is legendary.

In the dark days after Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levees, Francis became a hero of Louisiana’s recovery not only for the university but for the state as a whole. Tapped by Gov. Kathleen Blanco as head of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, he led the charge for recovery aid -- not only for greater New Orleans, but for the areas hit by Hurricane Rita as well.

The governor chose wisely, based on Francis’ literally decades of positive leadership and bulding bridges across divisions in New Orleans. The city has been a laboratory for a man who believes in innovation. His contribution to community life is a model for students interested in living the values of Xavier University.

Selflessness is not unusual in the life of Norman Francis.

But we could not help but be impressed that as he leaves the university, he continues to think ahead. Instead of a gold watch or some other gift of recognition, he asked that his admirers contribute to the new Norman Francis Endowed Presidential Scholarship Fund. It will be a gift that keeps on giving in the future.

Our future. That’s what Francis has been all about for a long time.