NEW ORLEANS ― Hundreds of individuals crowded into the Convocation Center on Friday morning to watch as Dr. C. Reynold Verret was inaugurated as the sixth president of Xavier University of Louisiana.
Verret, an experienced higher education administrator and widely respected scientist who previously served as provost of Savannah State University, was unanimously elected as president of the Catholic historically Black college last spring and began his tenure on July 1st. He replaced Dr. Norman C. Francis, who retired from Xavier after 47 years on the job.
Francis, who had been the longest serving college president in the nation before his retirement last year, was in the audience at the investiture program and received a rousing applause.
“For education at Xavier is not purely utilitarian,” said Verret in his speech. “It is not solely the utility of our degrees, their monetary values that give them merit. Education at Xavier will always be education with a purpose, education with meaning and education to serve. Indeed, to be a Xavierite is an aspiration to be fruitful.”
In his speech, Verret ― a trained saxophonist ― discussed the importance of Xavier continuing as an institution that is civically engaged.
“The founding of Xavier was an endowment to the world in response to the challenges of that day,” said Verret. “The times called for raising people up through learning and the formation of leaders, like themselves, to shape communities in Louisiana, across the South and in far-off places. When Xavier graduates went forth, they shared and gave generously of themselves as they had received at Xavier.”
A series of dignitaries, including Paul Altidor, the U.S. Ambassador from Haiti was on hand to salute Verret, who was born in Haiti and immigrated to the United States as a youngster.
“I’m truly pleased to be apart of what’s happening here today,” Altidor told Verret. “I’m sure you will help guide this institution to new heights.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu who has been a champion of the private Black college, lauded the selection of Verret and said that Xavier continues to be an important institution in educating youngsters.
“It’s a joyous day of hope for us,” said Landrieu. “Xavier is a unique space. It has a unique purpose. We can never be a great city without a great university. We are in this together.”
Following the Xavier University of Louisiana Chorus chant of “He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands,” a traditional American Spiritual, Verret said that the best days are yet to come.
“We are called to reflect on Xavier as it is now and to contemplate the Xavier we will become,” he said. “We have been principally an institution for traditional undergraduates. Xavier will continue to serve this role, but Xavier will expand boundaries and explore what new educational programs can best serve the needs of this day and tomorrow. We look at the evolving economy to know how Xavier can best prepare the agents of that economy. Whether we expand graduate offerings in specific fields, provide programs to mid-career professionals or reach adults seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees and develop key proficiencies, we must respond to the signs of the times. Xavier has been ready before, and is ready now. Tomorrow is our grasp.”
Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at diverseeducation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson