Xavier to inaugurate C. Reynold Verret as its next president
Xavier to inaugurate C. Reynold Verret as its next president | NOLA.com
to inaugurate C. Reynold Verret
as its next president
Xavier President C. Reynold Verret
C. Reynold Verret
will be officially inaugurated as president of Xavier
University on Friday.
But if Verret
harbors any sense of inadequacy in his
new role, he
is good at hiding it.
During an interview in his sun-filled office, Verret, who holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was candid and relaxed in the middle of a chaotic week of events celebrating his inauguration.
It culminates Friday morning (Feb. 26) with an investiture ceremony at Xavier
's convocation center.
"People expect that replacing someone like Dr. Francis should produce a lot of anxiety," Verret
said with a grin.
Verret, who is 61 and previously worked in Georgia as provost and chief academic officer for Savannah State University, admits that Xavier faces significant challenges, chief among them boosting the school's flagging enrollment.
The student body has fallen from around 4,000 before Hurricane Katrina to 2,969 this fall.
is confident that Xavier
's reputation for African-American student success, most recently chronicled in a glowing article in The New York Times Magazine
, will continue to draw dedicated students from Louisiana and around the country.
intends to make the school more appealing by taking an interdisciplinary approach to undergraduate learning and by adding new graduate programs.
has long been known for producing more black students who go on to graduate from medical school than any other institution in the United States.
It also is unsurpassed in the number of black graduates with bachelor's degrees in biology and physics.
But to address the most pressing issues in society today requires more than straight As in the sciences, Verret
They settled in Brooklyn, where Verret
developed a passion for science, spending afternoons conducting rudimentary experiments with chemicals and electrical circuits.
He eventually enrolled at Brooklyn Preparatory School, a highly selective Jesuit institution that closed in 1972.
Patrick O'Connor, a longtime friend and a classmate at Brooklyn Prep, remembers Verret
as one of the brightest students in a school full of bright kids.
After high school, Verret received an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Columbia University and his doctorate from MIT.
Rather than spend his
career in a pharmaceutical laboratory, however, he
decided to remain in academia.
Over the past 20 years, he has held teaching, research and administrative jobs at half a dozen institutions, including Atlanta University, Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and Tulane University, where he was an assistant professor of chemistry in the early 1990s.
"As a kid, Reynold
was always very genuine and empathetic and interested in volunteer work," he
also got a tremendous sense of humor.
I think all those things will serve him well as a university president."
co-workers seem to agree.
Sister Monica Loughlin, the special assistant to the president and chief of Catholic identity at the university, said Verret
has endeared himself to students, faculty and staff, and become a regular presence at athletic events on campus.
made us very confident in his
leadership and his
leadership style," Loughlin said, adding that he
of Francis in some ways.
"Neither one of them has a strong ego.
They're both very comfortable and approachable people."
Regina Benjamin, a former U.S. surgeon general and the NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune endowed chair in public health sciences at Xavier, said Verret has championed the idea of merging medicine and science with the community.
In his eight months as president, Verret has pondered the ways in which Xavier might better serve New Orleans and the region.
The university now offers just two doctoral programs: of pharmacy and of education in educational leadership.
said adding doctoral and master's programs, particularly in the business field, would help raise enrollment while drawing support from community partners.
also recognizes the need to market the university.
After The New York Times article came out in September, for example, Verret
received multiple calls from African-American parents around the U.S., wondering why they'd never heard of Xavier
University of Louisiana.