First African-American College of Law alumnus wins St. Ives Award


Barbara Brown

Norman Francis receives the St. Ives Award at the College of Law alumni luncheon. Francis was the first African-American graduate of Loyola’s College of Law and will serve as president of Xavier University until he retires at the end of this academic year.

Lauren Saizan

Loyola’s College of Law recognized Norman C. Francis, A’55, for his lifelong leadership throughout New Orleans and the nation.

This type of leadership led to Francis being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 41 honorary degrees and most recently, Loyola University College of Law Alumni Association’s highest honor, the St. Ives Award.

He received the award at the College of Law Alumni Luncheon, held at the Ritz-Carlton on Feb. 6.

Francis was the first African-American graduate of Loyola’s College of Law in a time when many schools were opposing integration. In his acceptance speech, Francis said that he was proud that Loyola took the high road in giving him a chance to attend.

Francis said that his time at the College of Law was one of the finest times in his life, and that the students there helped him feel welcome.

“I met young men who opened their arms to me, and they wanted to make sure that I was treated correctly,” Francis said in his acceptance speech.

What Francis learned at the College of Law helped him become President of Xavier University in 1968. During his time at Xavier, Francis said that keeping lines of communication open with students has contributed to the success of his 47-year presidency.

“It comes from a big willingness to listen to making sure that students were served well and to really create an environment where everybody got an opportunity to fulfill their talents,” Francis said.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu congratulated Francis on his accomplishments at the luncheon, saying that every time the city of New Orleans has needed an anchor, Francis has been there.

“The way he has lived his life has been one of the greatest examples that anybody could learn from if you want to learn how to act in good times and bad. His life is the perfect symbiosis between living a life of intelligence and living a life with your heart,” Landrieu said in a speech.

Sharonda Williams, board president for the Loyola Law Alumni Association’s New Orleans branch, remembered Francis’ impact on her as a young student at Xavier.

“When I met Dr. Francis, I was 17 years old, and his leadership and commitment to the university and to education in the community made it a rigorous academic environment but also felt like home,” Williams said.

Francis said that young people wishing to make a difference in their community today should find a way to use their talents to serve and lead others.

“The bottom line is you have to respect yourself, respect other people and then be secure about who you are,” Francis said.