Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA), located in the Gert Town section of New Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States, is a private, coeducational, liberal arts college with the distinction of being the only historically black Roman Catholic institution of higher education.
Located in New Orleans, Xavier University of Louisiana was established in 1925 when St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded the coeducational secondary school from which it evolved. Drexel, supported by the interest of a substantial inheritance from her father, banker-financier Francis Drexel, founded and staffed many institutions throughout the United States in an effort to help educate Native Americans and Blacks.
Aware of the serious lack of Catholic-oriented education available to young Blacks in the South, St. Katharine came to New Orleans and established a high school on the site previously occupied by Southern University. The High School continues on today as Xavier University Preparatory School, known as Xavier Prep. A Normal School, offering one of the few career fields (teaching) open to Blacks at the time, was added two years later. In 1925 Xavier University became a reality when the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established. The first degrees were awarded three years later. In 1927, a College of Pharmacy was opened.
Recognizing the university's need for a separate identity and room to expand, St. Katharine bought a tract of undeveloped land for a campus on the corner of Palmetto and Pine Streets in 1929. Construction of the U-shaped, gothic administration building (now a city landmark) was completed in 1933.
Through the years, as needs dictated, the campus gradually filled out, with the addition of a library—which now houses music—in 1937, the gymnasium (1937), St. Michael's men's dormitory (1955), the Student Center (1962), women's dormitories: St. Joseph's (1965) and Katharine Drexel (1969), the House of Studies (1967); the College of Pharmacy (1970), the Norman C. Francis Academic/Science Complex (1988), the new Library/Resource Center and College of Pharmacy addition (1993), and Peter Claver women's dormitory (1994). Xavier South, a multi-story office building, was purchased in 1990. The Living Learning Center, a co-ed residence hall for upperclassmen and the Norman C. Francis science complex addition were completed in 1998. A new student center called the University Center was opened in 2003. It replaces the previous Student Center built in 1962, and now houses the bookstore (previously housed at Xavier South) & the post office (previously housed in the Administration building). An additional dormitory for upperclassmen, the Saint Martin Deporres hall was also opened in 2003. The previous Student Center was recently knocked down to make way for the new Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion, which opened in the Fall of 2010. Construction has begun on the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel. The Chapel will replace the current chapel, now housed in the Administration Building, and will fulfill St. Katharine's vision for a freestanding house of worship and meditation on the campus.
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 Deporres hall and the Katherine Drexel hall.
The Sisters remain a vital presence on campus today, providing much-needed staffing and some financial assistance, but today Xavier is governed by a multicultural Board of Trustees. In 1987, Pope John Paul II addressed the presidents of all U.S. Catholic colleges from the courtyard at the administration building at Xavier. Xavier's president, Dr. Norman C. Francis, himself a Xavier graduate, is a nationally-recognized leader in higher education.
Since its founding by Katharine Drexel, Xavier's mission has been to serve the African American Catholic community; however its doors have always been open to qualified students of every race and creed. Today 25.1 percent of its enrollment is not African American and 74.3 percent are not Catholic.
More than one-half of Xavier students are from Louisiana (58.2%), primarily from the New Orleans area. Non-local enrollment continues to increase with students coming from 40 other states – most notably Texas (7.5%) and Georgia (4.9%). Five foreign countries are represented on campus. Student life is enriched by the social and cultural setting of New Orleans, and by campus activities designed to enhance personal growth, interpersonal skills, and leadership in such areas as community service, the environment, cultural concerns, and social justice.
Notability for pre-med graduates
A premier university for educating African-American students in the sciences, Xavier is consistently a national leader in placing African American students into medical school as well as first in awarding African Americans baccalaureate degrees in the physical sciences, the biological/life sciences, and physics. The College of Pharmacy is one of just two pharmacy schools in Louisiana. XULA ranks among the top three colleges in the nation in graduating African Americans with Pharm.D. degrees.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, striking the New Orleans area with devastating, long-lasting damage. Xavier, being a landlocked property located in the lower-lying Gert Town section and adjacent to the Washington-Palmetto Canal, suffered wind or water damage up to six feet to almost every structure on campus. Many buildings sat partially submerged for weeks following the deluge brought on by canal breaches during the hurricane. President of the university, Dr. Norman C. Francis, organized boats and buses to caravan stranded faculty, staff and students from the campus to safe areas. He then organized the immediate rehabilitation of damaged structures and committed to returning the campus back to operation by the beginning of the coming spring semester. The administrative staff was set up in temporary offices around the country. Francis and his immediate staff worked from an office in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, Grambling State University donated office space to assist the fiscal affairs administrative staff, the staff of the registrar's office operated out of the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, and the student financial aid and the resource development (fund-raising) staff operated from an office in Baton Rouge. As scheduled, students began returning to the university in January 2006.
In spite of damaged incurred due to Hurricane Katrina, the university participated in and led community efforts in disaster recovery. Xavier offered housing for over 500 volunteers working with groups assisting in the disaster relief efforts. Public relations students led a campaign which resulted in 1,500 student volunteers working to gut houses, clean streets and replace street signs. Other student-led efforts planted trees, painted schools, delivering food, volunteering with the New Orleans Health Department. Pre-med students at the university worked with local agencies to conduct health screenings and communications students recorded and documented stories of residents. For the combined efforts of the students, Xavier University received the "Katrina Compassion Award" from the United States Corporation for National and Community Service in 2006.
In April 2006, the Middle Eastern country of Qatar donated $17.5 million to assist the university in hurricane recovery and expanding the school's College of Pharmacy. The groundbreaking ceremony 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 an additional 60,000 square feet adjacent to the existing College of Pharmacy building.
President Barack Obama visited New Orleans in August 2010 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He gave his address from Xavier, complementing the work of the leaders of the community and affirming the commitment to continue to aid in the re-building of the area. In 2006, the university bestowed an Honorary Degree on then-Senator Obama.
Xavier (XULA) athletics are nicknamed as the Gold Rush for men's teams and Gold Nuggets for women's teams. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), competing in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC). Men's sports include basketball, cross country, tennis and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, tennis, track & field and volleyball.
As of Fall 2012, Xavier's basketball and volleyball teams have moved into their new facility, the Xavier University Convocation Academic Center. The Convocation Center is a $25 million facility with a seating capacity of 4,500.
In addition to current university president, Dr. Norman C. Francis, Xavier University distinguished alumni includes: