Xavier University of Louisiana
Deo Adjuvante Non Timendum
Motto in English
With God's help there is nothing to fear
TypePrivate historically black university
Established1925 (1925)
FounderSt. Katharine Drexel
Religious affiliation
Catholic (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament)
Academic affiliations
ACCU, UNCF, Space-grant
Endowment$178 million (2022)[1]
ChairmanSonia Perez
PresidentC. Reynold Verret
ProvostMarguerite Giguette
Students3,419 (fall 2022)[2]

29°57′55″N 90°06′25″W / 29.9652°N 90.1070°W / 29.9652; -90.1070
ColorsGold & White
NicknameGold Rush and Gold Nuggets

Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) is a private, historically black (HBCU), Catholic university in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is the only Catholic HBCU and, upon the canonization of Katharine Drexel in 2000, became the first Catholic university founded by a saint.



Katharine Drexel, a Catholic nun possessing a substantial inheritance from her father, banker-financier Francis Drexel, founded and staffed many institutions throughout the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, in an effort to help educate and evangelize Native Americans and African Americans. Many of her chosen staff included sisters of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the religious order she founded and served in as the first Superior General.

Aware of the lack of Catholic education for young black people in the South during Jim Crow, she planned to establish a high school in New Orleans. The chosen site had been previously occupied by Southern University on Magazine Street, a black institution which had moved to Baton Rouge after an influx of white neighbors petitioned for its relocation.[3]

Drexel sent the Josephite priest Pierre Oscar LeBeau to survey the property, to avoid public scrutiny and controversy, as her reputation for establishing black schools was well known.[4] On April 13, 1915, Harry McEnerny, serving as Drexel's agent, purchased the property for US$18,000.[5] She knew that the city and community would never approve a sale for a black institution, but by going through an agent, the sale was allowed; even so, vandals smashed all the windows after learning of Drexel's intent.[6]

High school era

The high school opened on 27 September 1915 as Southern University of New Orleans,[7] later re-named after Francis Xavier (the namesake of Katharine's father).[3] In May 1916, it was incorporated under the title, "Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, of Louisiana," according to the laws of the state, and the new name, "Xavier University", was cut into the stone slab above the main entrance.[8] (The high school, known as Xavier Prep, remained in operation until 2013; today, St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory School operates from the same location.)

In 1917, Xavier expanded to include a normal school to provide training for black teachers, as Archbishop James H. Blenk was eager for graduates to teach at six planned new black parishes.[3] On September 9, 1921, the Louisiana Department of Education officially recognized "Xavier University" as a State Approved High School.[9] By 1922, the school was described as the only Catholic institution in the United States that offered "a full four years' high school course to colored boys."[10] While this may not be true, Xavier University was by far the most prominent Catholic institution offering such educational opportunities at the time.[11]

University founding

In 1925, Xavier University of Louisiana came into being when the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established, with the Josephite priest Edward Brunner as the first president. The Louisiana Department of Education officially recognized Xavier University as a four-year college on March 19, 1928, with the first degrees awarded that spring.[12] The College of Pharmacy was next to be opened, in 1927. Alongside Drexel's sisters, the Josephites served as some of the school's first male teachers, and as chaplains.[4]

Recognizing the university's need for a separate identity and room to expand, Drexel bought a tract of undeveloped land for a campus on the corner of Palmetto and Pine Streets in 1929. To avoid blockage of the deal, Drexel again purchased the property through an agent.

Construction of the U-shaped, Gothic Revival-style Main Building, Convent and Library, made from Indiana limestone and now on the National Register of Historic Places, were completed between 1932 and 1937.[13] The Main Administration Building was dedicated by the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Dennis Joseph Dougherty, on Columbus Day, October 12, 1932.[8] The Administration building is a City of New Orleans landmark.[14]

Modern history

In May 1961, a group of Freedom Riders, arrived in New Orleans by plane after bus drivers in Alabama refused to take them to Montgomery, Alabama. Locals, aware of the fire bombings and other attacks against other Freedom Riders, refused to accommodate them with lodging out of fear of retaliatory violence. Norman C. Francis, the university's Dean of Men, secretly arranged for the group to stay several days in a dormitory on campus. He had received permission from University President Sister Mary Josephina to allow the group to occupy space on the third floor of St. Michael's Hall under the condition that the press would not be alerted as to the move.

In 1987, Pope John Paul II addressed the presidents of all U.S. Catholic colleges from the courtyard of the Xavier administration building.

When Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area in August 2005, Xavier, located in the lower-lying Gert Town section and adjacent to the Washington-Palmetto Canal,[15] suffered damage to almost every structure on campus. Many buildings sat partially submerged for extended periods of time following the hurricane. University president Francis organized boats and buses to transport stranded faculty, staff, and students from the campus to safe areas.[16] Students began returning to the university in January 2006.[17]

In April 2006, the nation of Qatar donated $17.5 million to assist the university in hurricane recovery and in expanding the school's College of Pharmacy.[18] The groundbreaking in 2008 was attended by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, leader of Qatar, and on 15 October 2010 the school's Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion opened, adding 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2) adjacent to the existing College of Pharmacy building.

Senator Barack Obama gave the commencement speech in August 2006.[19] New Orleans' archbishop, Alfred C. Hughes, declined to attend, citing that Obama was not opposed to abortion, and that he had not been consulted prior to the event.[20] Obama returned after becoming president, visiting New Orleans in August 2010 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He gave an address at Xavier complimenting the work of the leaders of the community and affirming the commitment to continue to aid in the rebuilding of the area.[21]

The university received the "Katrina Compassion Award" from the United States government Corporation for National and Community Service in 2006, for the efforts of an estimated 60% of its students in rebuilding the neighborhoods damaged by the hurricane.[22]

Xavier's campus was evacuated during Hurricane Ida in August 2021, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina. Students who remained on campus were later evacuated to Dallas. The school resumed operations as normal on September 13


In July 2020, Xavier received $20 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the largest single gift in the university's history.[23]



Though Xavier is the nation's only historically Black and Catholic university, its doors have always been open to qualified students of any race or creed.

In fall 2020, the vast majority of the student body was Black or African American (approx. 75.1%), and 12% identified as Catholic. Xavier was also the first U.S. Catholic college to educate both men and women, though the university currently enrolls a student population that is overwhelmingly made up of women (at more than 75%). Almost half of Xavier's students (43.8%) in the fall of 2020 were from Louisiana. Non-local enrollment continues to increase, with students coming in from at least 40 other states and sixteen foreign countries.


As of fall 2020, Xavier had a full-time faculty of 236 educators, both religious and lay, of diverse ethnic and racial origins—95 percent of whom have terminal degrees—providing a student/faculty ratio of 12.5/1.[citation needed]

Forty-four faculty members serve as endowed chairs or professors, which provides additional financial support for their research and teaching.

Unique among HBCUs, Xavier has a higher percentage of non-Black faculty than Black as of 2022.[24]



Dr. Norman C. Francis
President Verret


College of Arts and Sciences

Academic divisions

College of Pharmacy

Academic divisions

Pre-Med and biological science programs

Academic rankings
Washington Monthly[25]114
U.S. News & World Report[26]17 (South)

More African-American alumni of Xavier consistently place into medical school and graduate with baccalaureate degrees in the physical sciences and biological sciences than African-American alumni of any other college or university in the United States.[27][28] Xavier's College of Pharmacy is one of just two pharmacy schools in Louisiana.[29] Xavier consistently ranks among the top three colleges in the nation in graduating African Americans with Pharm.D. degrees.[30]

Dual degree engineering program

Xavier does not offer engineering degrees but belongs to partnerships with several engineering institutions that automatically admit qualified Xavier science students interested in pursuing a bachelor's in an engineering discipline. Students who successfully complete the program will receive a bachelor's degree from Xavier and the chosen engineering institution in approximately five years. Engineering institutions in partnership with Xavier are Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Southern University at Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University, University of Notre Dame, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, University of Detroit Mercy, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Wisconsin at Madison.[31]

Institute for Black Catholic Studies

In 1979, the Institute for Black Catholic Studies was founded at XULA by Fr Thaddeus Posey, OFM Cap, with the help of Frs Augustus Taylor; David Benz; Joseph Nearon, SSS; and Sr Jamie Phelps, OP. Every summer since, IBCS has hosted a variety of accredited courses on Black Catholic theology, ministry, ethics, and history, offering a Continuing Education & Enrichment program as well as a Master of Theology degree—"the only graduate theology program in the western hemisphere taught from a black Catholic perspective".[32][33] It is currently headed by Dr. Kathleen Dorsey Bellow.

Xavier Exponential

Established in 2018, Xavier Exponential is the university's holistically selective honors program for high-achieving undergraduate students. Students admitted to the program have access to special funding and learning opportunities.[34]

Special programs

Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit

In 2018, David Robinson-Morris founded the university's Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit (CEJHS), a social justice hub and a space for scholarly research and community-driven systems change.

The first of its kind at an HBCU, the center's focus is to shift oppressive policies and practices in education, criminal justice, and environmental sustainability. The Center aims to honor the faith and principles of XULA's foundress, St. Katharine, and benefits from a planning grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Robinson-Morris departed the university in December 2020, saying that he was overworked, undervalued, and that his concerns about the university's administrative issues were not being fully heard and addressed.[35] Cirecie Olatunji was appointed the new director in 2022.[36]

Campus life

S.B.S. Sisters

The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament remain a presence on campus, providing much-needed staffing and some financial assistance, but today Xavier is governed by a board of trustees.

Student organizations


Main article: Xavier Gold Rush and Gold Nuggets

The Xavier athletics teams are called the Gold Rush and Gold Nuggets. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) since the 2021–22 academic year.[37] The Gold Rush and Gold Nuggets previously competed in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) from 1981–82 to 2020–21.

XULA competes in 12 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, tennis and track & field; women's sports include basketball, cross country, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball; and co-ed sports include competitive cheer. Former sports included football.


Xavier's basketball and volleyball teams compete on campus in the Xavier University Academic Convocation Center. The Convocation Center is a $25 million facility with a seating capacity of 4,500.


Xavier Herald

The Xavier Herald, the university's student newspaper, has served as an outlet of the student voice, especially during the Civil Rights Movement and thereafter. The Herald was first published in 1925, coinciding with the first year that Xavier University of Louisiana began offering college-level courses. The original title of the newspaper was La Cigale, which means grasshopper, or cicada, in French. The title was changed in 1928 to The Xavier Herald, to identify the paper more with the university.[38] The newspaper has been published continuously since, with issues scheduled monthly during the Fall and Spring semesters, but with less regular issues during the summer. It was instrumental in the fight for more Black faculty—the university remains one of the few HBCUs with more White faculty than Black—and for the hiring of Dr. Francis as the university's first lay president, as most of the previous presidents were from the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who—despite serving minority communities—are largely White.

Other media

The university currently houses a student radio station, YouTube channel, and a podcast.



Through the years, as needs dictated, the campus gradually expanded:

The campus of Xavier University of Louisiana is often referred to as "Emerald City" due to the various buildings on campus that have green roofs. These include the Library/Resource center, the Norman C. Francis science addition, the University Center, the Living Learning Center, the Saint Martin De Porres hall and the Katharine Drexel hall.

Notable alumni

In addition to former president, Norman C. Francis, distinguished alumni include:

Name  Class Notability References
Jimmie McDaniel c. 1940 African-American tennis player who unofficially broke tennis' color barrier with an exhibition match against Don Budge.
Herb Douglas c. 1942 Olympic Bronze Medalist in the long jump (1948 Summer Olympics). Transferred from XULA in 1942
Nathaniel Clifton 1946 First African-American to sign a contract with an NBA team and stick with a team; member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Attended but did not graduate; left to join the Army during World War II.
Mary Munson Runge 1948 First woman and first African American to be elected president of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).
Ernest Nathan Morial 1951 First African-American mayor of New Orleans
John Stroger 1953 First African-American president of the Cook County, Illinois, Board of Commissioners.
Bernard P. Randolph 1954 USAF General, retired: only the third African-American to reach the rank of four-star general in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, serving as head of the USAF Space and Defense Systems Command
Joseph Boye Lomotey 1955 Ghanaian diplomat.
Marino Casem 1956 Head football coach at Alabama State University, Alcorn State University, and Southern University; member of College Football Hall of Fame.
Débria Brown 1958 Mezzo-Soprano opera singer
Philip Berrigan 1963 Josephite Catholic priest and lifelong activist.
John T. Scott 1963 Sculptor, painter, printmaker, collagist, and MacArthur Fellow. Served as Xavier Professor of Art.
Marie McDemmond 1968 First female president at Norfolk State University, vice president for finance and chief operating officer at Florida Atlantic University
Gilbert L. Rochon 1968 Sixth President of Tuskegee University.
Bishop Moses Anderson 1968 First black bishop to serve in the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit; Pastor of Precious Blood Parish, Detroit, MI (1992-2001).
Bogart Leashore 1968 Dean of the Hunter College school of social work (1991-2003)
Alexis Herman 1969 First African-American U.S. Secretary of Labor; director of the White House office of Public Liaison.
Ivan L. R. Lemelle 1971 U.S. Magistrate Judge and U.S. District Court in New Orleans (eight-year terms).
Vernel Bagneris 1972 Playwright, actor, director, Obie Award Recipient.
Donald "Slick" Watts 1973 NBA Player for the Seattle Supersonics, New Orleans Jazz, and Houston Rockets.
Bruce Seals 1973 ABA Player for the Utah Stars, drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics
Gilda Barabino 1974 President of the Olin College of Engineering, where she is also a professor of biomedical and chemical engineering.
Regina Benjamin 1979 United States Surgeon General and recipient of MacArthur Genius Award
Stephen W. Rochon 1984 Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher at the White House; Rear Admiral of the Coast Guard.
Todd Stroger 1985 Elected Cook County, Illinois Board President in 2006, succeeding his father, John Stroger.
Gary Carter, Jr. 1996 Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans.
LaToya Cantrell 1997 The first African-American female mayor of New Orleans. [46]
Jared Brossett 2004 Member of the New Orleans City Council; member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for District 97 in Orleans Parish, 2009 to 2014.
Candice Stewart 2006 First African American Miss Louisiana USA, Miss Louisiana Teen USA, and an NFL cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans.
Landon Bussie 2010 Head men's basketball coach at Alcorn State

Notable faculty and staff

See also


  1. ^ "Facts & Figures | Xavier University of Louisiana".
  2. ^ "Facts & Figures | Xavier University of Louisiana". www.xula.edu. Retrieved 17 March 2023.
  3. ^ a b c Baldwin, Lou (2000). Saint Katharine Drexel: Apostle to the Oppressed. Philadelphia, PA: The Catholic Standard and Times. pp. 150–152. ISBN 0-9618073-1-8.
  4. ^ a b Tinner, Nathaniel (2021-01-01). "The‌ ‌Josephites‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌founding‌ ‌years‌ ‌of‌ ‌Xavier‌ ‌University‌ ‌of‌ ‌Louisiana‌ ‌". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "Southern University Property Is Sold Buildings and Lot Bought in at Auction by Harry McEnerny". Times-Picayune. 14 April 1915.
  6. ^ Finney, Peter Jr. (2016-09-01). "The Legacy of Saint Katharine Drexel". Franciscan Media. Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  7. ^ "Industrial school for colored youth". The Times-Picayune. 5 September 1915.
  8. ^ a b c "A Historical Sketch of Xavier University of Louisiana," Sister M. Veronica, 1966, Xavier University of Louisiana, Archives & Special Collections
  9. ^ Correspondence, "State of Louisiana Department of Education Baton Rouge to Sister M. Eucharia," 9 September 1921, Xavier University of Louisiana, Archives & Special Collections.
  10. ^ "In the whole United States...". The Catholic Tribune (St. Joseph, Missouri). 15 April 1922. p. 9.
  11. ^ McCarthy, Joseph J., "History of Black Catholic Education in the Chicago, 1871-1971" (1973). Pages 72-74.
  12. ^ Correspondence, "State of Louisiana Department of Education Baton Rouge to Sister Mary Frances, Dean," 19 March 1928, Xavier University of Louisiana, Archives & Special Collections.
  13. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Nomination: Xavier University Main Building, Convent and Library, Orleans Parish, LA". National Park Service. January 16, 2004. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  14. ^ "Xavier University". 64 Parishes. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  15. ^ Pope, John. "Xavier University being transformed by influx of money following Hurricane Katrina". Nola.com. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  16. ^ Clark, Kim. "Norman Francis: Xavier's President Led Through Hurricane Katrina". USA News. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  17. ^ Block, Melissa. "Students Return to Louisiana's Xavier University". NPR.org. NPR. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  18. ^ Strom, Stephanie (2 May 2006). "Qatar Grants Millions in Aid to New Orleans". New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  19. ^ "Obama Speech - Xavier University Commencement - New Orleans - Full Text". obamaspeeches.com. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  20. ^ Luke, Michael (2009-04-23). "Archbishop will not attend Xavier commencement, citing pro-abortion speaker". Houma Today. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  21. ^ "Remarks by the President on the Fifth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana". whitehouse.gov. 29 August 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2012 – via National Archives.
  22. ^ "Katrina Compassion Awards". Corporation for National & Community Service. Archived from the original on September 16, 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  23. ^ "Three HBCUs announce they received the largest donations in the schools' histories". Cbsnews.com. Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  24. ^ "University Profile 2021-2022" (PDF). Xavier University of Louisiana. Retrieved 2022-06-03.
  25. ^ "2023 Master's University Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  26. ^ "Best Colleges 2023: Regional Universities Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  27. ^ Pope, John. "Xavier leads the nation in African-American medical graduates". Nola.com. Times-Picayune. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  28. ^ A Prescription for More Black Doctors: How does tiny Xavier University in New Orleans manage to send more African-American students to medical school than any other college in the country? New York Times Retrieved September 10, 2015.
  29. ^ University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) also offers the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, but, unlike Xavier, ULM is under public control and in the northern part of Louisiana.
  30. ^ "College of Pharmacy General Information". Archived from the original on September 2, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  31. ^ "Dual Degree Engineering Program". Xula.edu. Retrieved 2017-12-24.
  32. ^ "Father Nutt to lead Institute for Black Catholic Studies". St. Louis American. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  33. ^ "Xavier University of Louisiana". Xula.edu. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  34. ^ "Xavier Exponential | Xavier University of Louisiana".
  35. ^ Robinson-Morris, David (2020-12-01). "Pressing Forward and Fearing Nothing: A New Adventure". David W. Robinson-Morris, Ph.D. Archived from the original on 2021-11-28. Retrieved 2023-01-25.
  36. ^ "The Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit Staff | Xavier University of Louisiana".
  37. ^ "Xavier University of Louisiana Athletics". xulagold.com. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  38. ^ "Xavier University of Louisiana, Digital Archives". Xula.com. Retrieved 2021-11-16.
  39. ^ DuConge, Oscar (1930). The Xavier Herald - XULA Yearbook. New Orleans, LA: Xavier University of Louisiana. p. 12.
  40. ^ The Lighthouse - XULA Yearbook. New Orleans, LA: Xavier University of Louisiana. 1931. p. 12.
  41. ^ "Xavier Dedicates New Library Building". Xavier Herald Newspaper. 1937-11-01. p. 1. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  42. ^ "Students Witnessed Passing Of Another Milestone In Dedication Of Gym". Xavier Herald Newspaper. 1937-12-01. p. 1. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  43. ^ "Student Center To Be Dedicated December 2". Xavier Herald Newspaper. 1962-11-01. p. 1. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  44. ^ "New Residence Hall Dedicated At Xavier Univ". The Louisiana Weekly. 1969-04-26. Retrieved 2022-11-07.
  45. ^ "Dedication". Xavier Herald Newspaper. 1970-03-01. p. 1. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  46. ^ "May 2018". Archived from the original on 2018-09-19.
  47. ^ "Edward S. Bopp". bopplawfirm.com. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  48. ^ Brack, Naomii (21 September 2020). "Antoine M. Garibaldi (1950- )". Blackpast.org. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  49. ^ "Frank Hercules, 85, Novelist and Teacher (Published 1996)". The New York Times. 1996-05-13. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-11.
  50. ^ "NBA pioneer Harold Hunter, an ex-Xavier coach, died Thursday". Times-Picayune. 2013-03-07. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
  51. ^ Continelli, Louise. "BREAKING JOURNALISM'S CLOSED CIRCLE PEARL STEWART EDITS AND LEADS". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2021-01-11.
  52. ^ "JAMES YESTADT Obituary (1921–2020) – New York Times". Legacy.com. Retrieved 2021-01-12.

Further reading

Media related to Xavier University of Louisiana at Wikimedia Commons