300 Xavier University of Louisiana

A page from the publication "The Crescent City Pictorial, a Souvenir: Dedicated to the Progress of the Colored Citizens of New Orleans, Louisiana 'America's Most Interesting City," published 1923.

Tulane University Photos

Of the 106 historically black colleges and 251 Catholic colleges in the U.S., only one — Xavier University of Louisiana — is both Black and Catholic.

The university’s origins date to 1915 when St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament created a coeducational high school for the city’s African-Americans. That school was renamed St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory School in 2013. In 1925, Drexel opened a four-year liberal arts college. In 1927, a college of pharmacy was added. Drexel, who was canonized in 2000, purchased land at the corner of Palmetto and Pine streets in 1929. The first school building at the new campus, a U-shaped gothic administration building, was finished in 1933.

The school now teaches courses in 46 fields, and is best known for its pharmacy and premed programs that graduate more African-Americans than any other college in the nation.

In 1968 the nuns handed over leadership of the school to a lay person, Norman Francis. Francis led the school until 2015.

Most of the school’s approximately 3,300 students are not Catholic, but more than half are from Louisiana, largely the New Orleans area. Seventy percent of the school’s students are African-American.

Almost every building on campus was damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Students returned in 2006, and the nation of Qatar donated $17.5 million to help the school recover and expand its school of pharmacy.

C. Reynold Verret is the university’s current president.