NEW ORLEANS - Xavier University is pleased to announce that world renowned comedian, actor and philanthropist William “Bill” Cosby will return once again to perform the opening act for the 3rd Annual Dr. Norman C. Francis Endowed Scholarship Benefit Concert on Friday evening, November 19, 2010 sponsored by AT&T* at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s New Orleans Theater.
The Friday evening concert, which started three years ago to celebrate Francis’ 40th Anniversary as president of the nation’s only Historically Black and Roman Catholic institution of higher education, will showcase performances by four legendary R&B vocalists – Jeffrey Osborne, Peabo Bryson, Howard Hewitt and Freddie Jackson – performing together this year in the nationwide “Men of Soul” concert tour.
The University is also pleased to announce that AT&T Louisiana will be the primary sponsor of the 3rd Annual fundraiser. Sonia Perez, president of AT&T Louisiana, says, “We are pleased to support Xavier University’s important role in educating future leaders of New Orleans, and we also salute Dr. Francis’ decades of exemplary leadership in service to our community.”
The annual concert serves as a major fundraiser to support the Norman C. Francis Endowed Scholarship Fund.
In 1948 a young man from Lafayette, Louisiana arrived in New Orleans to attend the nation’s only historically Black and Catholic university; armed with a determination to succeed and a letter from the sisters who had taught him in high school asking the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS) to give him a chance to attend Xavier University despite his family’s limited financial resources, and even if it meant “working off” his tuition.
More than sixty years later, with the exception of two years in the U-S Army, Norman Christopher Francis is still “working off” that tuition as he celebrates forty-two years of continuous service as Xavier’s first and only lay president. That also makes him America’s current longest serving university president and a universally respected leader in higher education circles. This at a time when, according to sources like the Chronicle of Higher Education, the typical career expectancy these days for newly hired university presidents is 5-7 years.
Francis is still a dynamo at age 79 who spends long hours on the job and maintains a travel schedule that might easily debilitate younger men. This visionary has served in advisory roles to numerous U-S presidents on the subject of improving education in the United States, including Ronald Reagan who appointed him to the landmark commission that drafted the famous “Nation at Risk” report.
Francis earned further national respect when he led the recovery of Xavier's devastated campus in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, making good his pledge to reopen the campus in less than five months. In addition to that challenge, he accepted the role as chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority following Katrina. Those dual roles and the leadership that Francis demonstrated in both roles led to President George W. Bush awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in December 2006.