| There are 102 historically Black colleges and 253 Catholic colleges in the United States, yet only one is both Black and Catholic. That distinction belongs to Xavier University of Louisiana, which strives to combine the best attributes of both its faith and its culture.
Located in New Orleans, the small liberal arts college dates back to 1915, when St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded the coeducational secondary school from which it evolved. St. Katharine, supported by the interest of a substantial inheritance from her father, banker-financier Francis Drexel, founded and staffed many institutions throughout the U.S. in an effort to help educate Native Americans and Blacks. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in October, 2000.
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. 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), St. Joseph's (1965) and Katharine Drexel (1969) women's dormitories, 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. A new residence hall (the Living/Learning Center) and the science complex addition have both been added within the last two years.
The Sisters remain a vital presence on campus today, providing much-needed staffing and some financial assistance, but today Xavier is governed by a bi-racial Board of Trustees. Xavier's president, Dr. Norman C. Francis, himself a Xavier graduate, is a nationally-recognized leader in higher education.
Even with its special mission to serve the Black, Catholic community Xavier's doors have always been open to qualified students of any race or creed. In fact today, more than 50 percent of Xavier's students are of other religious affiliations, and close to 10 percent are of other races.
Recent years have seen a growing influx of out-of-state students, yet one-half of Xavier's 3,820 students are from the New Orleans area. The balance represents some 40 states and 20 foreign countries.
Since 1986, total undergraduate enrollment has nearly doubled.