Dr. Norman C. Francis, President of Xavier University of Louisiana, was selected to receive the honor of "Distinguished Service to Catholic Studies" from the American Catholic Historical Association (ACHA).
Francis, the longest-sitting university president in the United States, has served as president of Xavier, the nation's only historically Black and Catholic university, since 1968.
The ACHA Award for Service to Catholic studies acknowledges the exceptional contributions of those who "promote study and research of the history of Catholicism broadly conceived" apart from teaching and publication.
"Under Dr. Norman C. Francis' leadership, Xavier University is committed to promoting Catholicism and the Catholic experience within the African American context," said Bentley Anderson, a member of ACHA's executive council. "This is the third year for this honor, and Dr. Francis embodies the spirit of this award wholly."
Since the mid-1970s, the "Institute for Black Catholic Studies" (IBCS), established by Francis at Xavier University, has been a center for the study of the Black Catholic experience as well as means for preparing lay women and men, religious and clergy, for more meaningful and effective ministry within the Black community.
Francis, and two other honorees – Marvin O'Connell, Professor emeritus of History, University of Notre Dame, for the Distinguished Achievement Award for Scholarship; and Fr. Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., Professor emeritus of Church History, St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, for the Distinguished Teaching Award – received their awards on January 5 at a presidential luncheon at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans.
During Francis' tenure, Xavier asserts that the school has more than doubled its enrollment, broadened its curriculum, expanded its campus, and strengthened its financial base.
Named one of "America's Best Leaders" in 2009 by the US News Media Group and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy's School of Government, Francis is often cited for his involvement in the community and his work on the national, state and local levels to improve education.
In 2006 then-President George W. Bush presented him with the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.