Norman C. Francis, the longest-serving university president in the United States, officially cut a ribbon to mark the renaming of a road in New Orleans in his honor during a ceremony on the stretch on January 28, Fox 8 reported. Now the Norman C. Francis Parkway, the street was previously named after Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Francis, a higher education proponent, served as the president of Catholic HBCU Xavier University from 1968 till his retirement in 2015. A former student of the educational institution, Francis was also the first non-clergy as well as the first African-American president of the university.
In August, the New Orleans city council unanimously voted to rename the street after the 89-year-old after vice-president Kamala Harris wrote an open letter to express her support for the initiative, CNN reported.
“This is a unique opportunity for the leaders of New Orleans to rename the Jefferson Davis Parkway and celebrate a beloved local leader, Norman C. Francis, while embracing progress for American society,” Harris wrote in the letter. “The people of New Orleans deserve the opportunity to learn about this leader who is shaping their city for the better.” The street was officially renamed on January 1.
“It’s a great day and I’m amazed that people were so interested in it and I think it stood for so much for so many people and they wanted to be a part of it, too,” Francis told Fox 8 during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
During the seasoned educator’s almost 50-year tenure at Xavier University, he oversaw an infrastructural expansion project that increased the number of students they could take in.
“When I was a student there were only two permanent buildings,” Francis told Fox 8 in 2008.
Francis also led the school’s rebuilding project following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and served as chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. The state agency was established after the ravaging 2005 hurricane to oversee aid the city received for rebuilding. He was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President George W. Bush in 2006.