2008 TORCH AWARDS HONOREES
Dr. Norman Francis
For nearly 40 years, Dr. Norman C. Francis has been the best and most effective prescription for New Orleans’s Xavier University, and in the process, he has become the nation’s longest-sitting university president. In a White House ceremony in December 2006, President Bush presented Francis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil honor in recognition of his remarkable career. “The United States honors Norman C. Francis for his leadership, compassion and commitment to education,” the award reads.
Dr. Francis’ prestigious national reputation includes serving in an advisory role to five presidential administrations–in addition to serving on 54 boards and commissions. During his tenure as president of Xavier, the nation’s only historically Black Catholic university, the university has more than doubled its enrollment, broadened its curriculum, expanded its campus and strengthened its financial base. He is credited with being the catalyst for nearly every building constructed on the campus during the past 39 years.
Top Row (L-R): Thomsas Jefferson, Lt. Genl. Russel L. Honore John Williams, Dr. Norman Francis, Terrence Roberts, Ernest Green. Bottom Row (L-R): Carlotta Walls, Elizabeth Eckford, Gloria Ray, Thelma Watershed, Minnijean Brown
Lt. General Russel L. Honoŕe
Lt General Russel L. Honoré served as 33rd commanding general of the U. S. First Army at Fort Gillem, Georgia. He is best known for serving as commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina affected areas across the Gulf Coast. General Honoré’s awards and decorations include the: Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (four Oak Leaf Clusters), and Bronze Star. He served until January 11, 2008 when he retired from the Army.
Little Rock Nine
The Little Rock Nine were the nine African American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Their entrance into the school in 1957 sparked a nationwide crisis when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, in defiance of a federal court order, called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Nine from entering. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending in units of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to escort the Nine into the school on September 25, 1957. The military presence remained for the duration of the school year.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Xavier continues to rank first nationally in the number of African-American students earning undergraduate degrees in the biology and life sciences, chemistry, physics and pharmacy. In pre-medical education, the university is first in the nation in placing Black students into medical schools, where it has ranked for the past 18 years. The 77 percent acceptance rate of Xavier graduates by medical schools is almost twice the national average, and 92 percent of those who enter medical schools complete their degree programs
John C. Williams is the head of the Universal College of Beauty that has been existence for 75 years. The idea of a cosmetology school specifically for hair care needs of Blacks materialized from Williams’ mother Hazel D. Williams. Since there were no such schools for Blacks during the 1930’s, Williams decided to open her own school and she did.
Hazel D. and John C. Williams, along with Henrietta Kent, started the first Black cosmetology school in Los Angeles, CA.