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Darren Walker

Non-profit executive and foundation president Darren Walker was born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1959, and raised in Ames and Goose Creek, Texas. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1982, and received his J.D. degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1986.

Walker was hired at the international law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in 1986. In 1988, he joined the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), where he spent seven years in the capital markets division. He left UBS in 1995 and worked for a year as a full-time volunteer at The Children’s Storefront, an elementary school serving low-income families in Harlem. Walker then entered the nonprofit sector as chief operating officer for the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a community development organization in Harlem, where he guided efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families. In this capacity, he oversaw two of Harlem's largest privately financed commercial projects as well as the development of the first public school built in New York City by a community organization.

Walker was hired by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2002 as director of its domestic urban program. In 2006, he was promoted to vice president for foundation initiatives, where he led both domestic and global programs. Then, in 2010, Walker was named the Ford Foundation’s vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression, where he shaped more than $140 million in annual grant-making around the world. Walker was appointed the tenth president of the Ford Foundation in September of 2013, becoming the second African American to head the foundation.

He has served on the boards of the Arcus Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Friends of the High Line, the New York City Ballet, and the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies. He also co-chaired the New York Public Library Council. In addition, Walker has taught housing, law and urban development at the New York University School of Law and Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and is a fellow of the Institute for Urban Design. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has received the University of Texas Distinguished Alumni Award as well as the Honorary Order of the Coif by its law school. He is the recipient of honorary degrees from Bard College and Miami Dade College.

Walker lives in Manhattan, New York with his partner, David Beitzel, a contemporary art dealer.

Darren Walker was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 26, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.170

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/26/2014

Last Name

Walker

Maker Category
Marital Status

Domestic Partner

Middle Name

C.

Schools

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Sterling H S

Cedar Bayou J H

First Name

Darren

Birth City, State, Country

Lafayette

HM ID

WAL22

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Carribean

Favorite Quote

You Know What I Mean

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/28/1959

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Nonprofit executive and foundation president Darren Walker (1959 - ) was named tenth president of the Ford Foundation in 2013. He previously served as COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation in Harlem, and as vice president for the Rockefeller Foundation’s program initiatives.

Employment

Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton

Union Bank of Switzerland

Abyssinian Development Corporation

Rockefeller Foundation

Ford Foundation

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
0,0:2106,27:4758,77:13409,198:21752,316:32567,433:33185,441:33906,446:67948,789:68728,799:74500,872:74812,877:83930,952:84350,959:94220,1199:96040,1262:97510,1317:106370,1405:114935,1496:116927,1523:117674,1535:119900,1545:124280,1575:127397,1611:133290,1712:133716,1719:135278,1758:140248,1832:140745,1841:149884,1934:152302,1961:154252,1989:166212,2061:172011,2107:172758,2121:176742,2185:184046,2289:184378,2294:187449,2322:187781,2327:212405,2603:212713,2608:221414,2740:229340,2832:244119,3070:245365,3090:246700,3109:249130,3130$0,0:4590,82:9720,120:24300,282:32134,329:32418,334:33270,354:54576,686:61133,783:66730,803:67528,812:67984,817:69466,833:74368,884:76192,905:83028,937:92466,970:98844,1042:99320,1047:102988,1091:110035,1196:113514,1205:120360,1262:120968,1271:121576,1280:132604,1406:133024,1412:138718,1446:139228,1452:143100,1472:166954,1793:178742,1911:194466,2073:195852,2090:202384,2142:204936,2166:205728,2181:211360,2243:212680,2264:213824,2284:214176,2289:222800,2323:223640,2332:224585,2342:228155,2383:228680,2389:255346,2596:255674,2601:256166,2609:256822,2619:258052,2633:260594,2665:261086,2672:261414,2677:263300,2708:265022,2731:265678,2739:266334,2748:270273,2762:270711,2769:274215,2826:274507,2831:276040,2854:276551,2862:281004,2919:281296,2924:281953,2934:282464,2942:283048,2951:283340,2956:284216,2973:286333,3004:290690,3010
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Darren Walker's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Darren Walker lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Darren Walker talks about his mother, Beulah Davis Spencer

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Darren Walker describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Darren Walker recounts his childhood years in Ames, Texas and Baytown, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Darren Walker describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Darren Walker talks about family life and his personality as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Darren Walker describes his active childhood imagination

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Darren Walker recounts role models he read about in Ebony and Jet magazines

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Darren Walker talks about the role of church in his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Darren Walker describes his awareness of the Civil Rights Movement as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Darren Walker recalls his childhood education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Darren Walker remembers his grade school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Darren Walker remembers his experience at Sterling High School in Baytown, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Darren Walker talks about his experience at the University of Texas at Austin, and coming to terms with his sexual identity

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Darren Walker talks about his activities in the Texas Student Union and the Friar Society at the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Darren Walker recalls his first experience at a country club with a college suite mate

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Darren Walker describes his mentors from college who inspired him to go to law school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Darren Walker recalls his job in the office of Texas Governor Bill Clements prior to law school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Darren Walker talks about his summer internship at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in New York City while a student at the University of Texas School of Law

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Darren Walker describes his first years at the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Darren Walker talks about his experience at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, pt.1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Darren Walker talks about his experience at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, pt.2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Darren Walker recalls his introduction to Ned O'Gorman and then to HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Darren Walker describes New York City in the 1980s and 1990s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Darren Walker talks about his tenure at UBS

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Darren Walker talks about how he became a board member of the New York City Ballet and of the Children's Storefront School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Darren Walker describes how his social and civic engagement benefited from his position at UBS

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Darren Walker talks about leaving Wall Street and joining the Abyssinian Development Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Darren Walker talks about becoming the COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Darren Walker talks about his work in the Abyssinian Development Corporation with Karen Phillips and HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Darren Walker recalls the recommendation from HistoryMaker Stacey Stewart that led him to his joining the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Darren Walker describes his appointment as director of the domestic urban program at the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Darren Walker talks about his ascent from program director to vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Darren Walker talks about his mentors and supporters including Johnnetta Cole, Ann Fudge, Franklin Thomas, and HistoryMakers Richard Parsons and Vernon Jordan

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Darren Walker talks about African American foundation presidents Franklin Thomas, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, and HistoryMakers Earl Lewis and La June Montgomery Tabron

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Darren Walker talks about Franklin Thomas, the first African American president of the Ford Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Darren Walker describes the impact of President Bill Clinton's move to Harlem, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Darren Walker talks about his tenure at the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Darren Walker talks about the Ford Foundation's focus on social justice

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Darren Walker describes how he became the president of the Ford Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Darren Walker talks about the Ford Foundation's budget and challenges

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Darren Walker describes how he has been a beneficiary of the Ford Foundation's legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Darren Walker describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Darren Walker reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$1

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Darren Walker talks about his work in the Abyssinian Development Corporation with Karen Phillips and HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts
Darren Walker recounts his childhood years in Ames, Texas and Baytown, Texas
Transcript
Okay, so, so, can you talk about Pathmark?$$Sure, the Pathmark was important because, in spite of the fact that Harlem [New York] had more people than Atlanta [Georgia], there was no supermarket in Central Harlem. And we had been, we, meaning the Abyssinian Development Corporation, along with partners on the east side of Harlem, had been advocating for a site on 125th Street to become the site of a, of a, of a supermarket. And after a long arduous, formidable campaign, we were able to get control of the land, the city-owned land, and to attract national supermarket chain Pathmark. And it was transformative. It was a moment that signaled that development was going to take hold on 125th Street, and that we were going to seed all across 125th Street new, new development. Which today, of course, 125th Street abounds in development, but in 1995, there were not many people willing to take a risk on 125th Street.$$When you think about that, that's just about twenty years, less than twenty years.$$Absolutely, less than twenty years.$$And then the other, 'cause I hear there's Whole Foods getting ready to go there.$$Oh, Whole Foods, now it's, it was a tipping point. It, it just needed that tipping point, and once that, then Starbucks, then and it just fed on its own.$$So what, what did it take to get that done? You said after much--and then I'm also thinking you had not grown up in the church and here you are--$$Well, two things: one, I was not a member of Abyssinian Baptist Church, in part, because I felt it was important that I not buy into this idea that my minister is the head of the business that I am in, in charge with running, because there were some behaviors on the part of some church members who worked for the development corporation that I didn't think reflected the kind of independent thought that was needed. And, and it allowed me to have a relationship with [HM] Reverend [Dr. Calvin] Butts that was based more on the business of the development that he wanted to achieve than it was as my spiritual leader. And it's just, it's just important to, to, to know how different the context in Harlem in the '90s [1990s] was than it is today, and that a significant part of that transformation is due to Calvin Butts's vision and Karen Phillips' very hard work and a lot of, a lot of hard work, because not everyone believed in that vision.$$Now were there conflicts between the three of you?$$Oh yes, always, in the best way for all the right reasons. Are we moving fast enough? Are we moving too fast? Are we being too aggressive with city hall? Should we be more aggressive with the bank? Should we work harder on, on the blocks to get the residents to clean up their stoops? I mean there was always these tensions. Are we spending too much money? Are we spending too little money? Always though carried out constructively and with just the right spirit.$$So how much--so where is the funding coming from? How much is coming from the government? How much are you set to raise and--$$Sure, a third, a third, a third, a third government, a third corporate, a third private.$$Okay.$So, your--when you moved, do you remember when you move also to Houston [Texas]?$$Well, so, when we left at, when I was four, and we moved to, to Ames, Texas--$$Ames, Texas, which is--$$We moved to Ames, Texas. I was four, and I remember that, that time, I think, which, which was around the time I was riding--because we moved into this little shotgun house.$$Oh, so this story that you just told is in Ames?$$Is in Ames, yes, yes. I have no memory of, of, of--$$Rayne [Louisiana].$$--Louisiana, of Rayne. I have no memory whatsoever before we moved. My first memory as a child was of, was of being in Rayne.$$Okay.$$I'm sorry, being in Ames.$$Ames. So in Ames, so are you--is it also rural too?$$Yes, in Ames, Ames is a, was a small town, is a small town, was a small town of approximately maybe three or four thousand people when I was growing up. The next town was Liberty, Texas. And Liberty, Texas, maybe in 1965 had 25,000 people, 50,000 today maybe. So, this was the setting for my early years. I also remember when I was in Head Start, and I read--I was very interested in reading, my mother encouraged me to read, and we had a book called "Wings to Adventure." And I remember that the book was in, it, it was about fantasy and travel. And I remember thinking that it, it was otherworldly, because it was so out of my lived experience, but it so sparked my imagination. And it was the first time I thought about travel and a world outside of my own.$$That book?$$Mm.$$Now, can you describe--so are you living in the shotgun house in Ames a long time, or do you move around?$$So, I live in that, we live in that little house until--I then, when I'm, when I'm in the--we moved to Baytown [Texas], to Goose Creek, whatever you want to you--(unclear)--when I was in the maybe third grade, and, and that's where I lived from then until graduating from high school.$$So, what is that area like? What was the difference in those two places?$$Well, moving to, to Baytown/Goose Creek was closer to Houston [Texas], so that was good. We lived, then it, it was about forty-five minutes to an hour outside of Houston. And it was, still a small town, but because of the proximity to Houston, there was--and the fact that there were just more jobs there because there was a very large Humble Oil refinery, so the economic situation there was much better than it was in the small town of, the very small town of Ames.$$Okay.$$And it was racially very segregated. I remember that the schools were transitioning and had recently transition to integration, and that the colored, the Negro high school, which was called George Washington Carver, had become a junior high school in the newly integrated district, and that the African American students from George Washington Carver were then transferred to Robert E. Lee High School. And there was another school called Ross S. Sterling, and I ultimately went to high school at Ross S. Sterling High School. Ross S. Sterling was a governor of, of Texas.

Robert Sherwood Dorsey

Engineer Robert Sherwood Dorsey was born on October 9, 1293 in Lafayette, Louisiana. The son of Rita Starling Allen and Willie Dorsey, he graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School in Houston, Texas. Enrolling in Prairie View College in 1941, Dorsey volunteered for the U.S. Army Reserves and studied engineering. Drafted into the segregated U.S. Army, Dorsey served in the 92nd Infantry Division and worked as a water purification specialist for a combat engineering battalion. Honorably discharged in March of 1946, Dorsey eventually enrolled at Ohio State University where he excelled at football and earned his B.S. degree in 1949 in mechanical engineering.

Hired by General Electric, Dorsey helped develop the engines used in airplanes like the B-1, B-2, F-14, F-16, and F-18. He also participated in the joint venture between GE and French company SNECMA which created the CFM56 engines used in many commercial jets. After leaving GE in 1987, Dorsey worked with Belcan, a consulting firm, analyzing problems associated with military engines.

Ohio State University awarded Dorsey the Distinguished Football Alumnus Award and he has also received awards from the NCAA and the Cincinnati chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. An inductee into Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and Pi Tau Sigma, the international mechanical engineering honor society, Dorsey is also a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He served on the board of trustees for the Ohio State University and as the president of the National Alumni Association of the Ohio State University.

Dorsey was married to Helena Fredericka Harris and they had three daughters. Dorsey passed away on February 11, 2011.

Accession Number

A2005.063

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/14/2005

Last Name

Dorsey

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Sherwood

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Phillis Wheatley High School

Prairie View A&M University

The Ohio State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Lafayette

HM ID

DOR03

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Favorite Quote

You should change the problems that you can change and accept those you cannot change and then have the wisdom to know the differences.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

10/9/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cincinnati

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spaghetti, Meat Sauce

Death Date

2/11/2011

Short Description

Mechanical engineer Robert Sherwood Dorsey (1923 - 2011 ) worked as a mechanical engineer for General Electric, where he helped develop engines for various commercial and military aircrafts from 1949 to 1987. After retiring from GE, he worked with Belcan, a consulting firm that analyzes problems associated with military engines.

Employment

General Electric Company.

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2100,36:2400,41:3525,53:4050,62:8025,144:8550,153:14762,244:15034,249:15714,260:16462,273:16938,278:17550,289:17822,294:18638,308:18978,314:19454,323:19794,329:25094,366:31960,409:33390,427:34490,438:35700,447:36800,458:37460,464:39220,479:40210,489:40980,498:45588,514:46512,523:46848,528:47940,545:48780,555:49284,563:53484,638:55668,662:56004,667:56928,681:57768,692:58860,702:59952,713:63732,766:65496,775:65916,781:72708,795:74600,826:75202,836:76062,847:76922,860:77954,875:81652,920:83286,950:87750,965:88839,980:96165,1085:96660,1091:102326,1120:103150,1130:107976,1180:110736,1224:111656,1235:116974,1278:120130,1289:120725,1298:123275,1340:124890,1364:125315,1370:126080,1383:126760,1393:127100,1398:127780,1407:128800,1415:131010,1436:131520,1444:134930,1449$0,0:5324,100:9932,181:10892,191:11564,200:11948,205:12524,212:14156,232:15116,243:20752,322:27745,374:29785,398:30380,407:31485,415:34848,431:35586,442:36078,449:37226,460:38046,474:39686,490:41572,504:41900,509:42966,524:44524,549:45098,557:45590,564:49980,572:51450,585:52136,593:54978,613:55860,624:61446,688:70974,727:72118,741:72646,748:72998,753:73350,758:79620,782:80577,792:82665,816:88059,905:88755,915:94088,943:94862,953:95722,962:96066,967:96926,978:98732,1008:99420,1017:100108,1031:100710,1039:101484,1049:102344,1058:103032,1067:110757,1118:111576,1130:111940,1135:113578,1149:113942,1154:117536,1173:118272,1184:119376,1193:122136,1218:123700,1239:125632,1259:127196,1275:128576,1289:131796,1320:138132,1339:146193,1407:146746,1416:150380,1489:150854,1496:155240,1529:157176,1551:158144,1563:158760,1571:160872,1595:161752,1606:162896,1635:171332,1708:171588,1713:171844,1735:172292,1743:173956,1761:174468,1771:175812,1793:176452,1802:177156,1811:177412,1816:185044,1864:188021,1885:189305,1903:193371,1947:197800,1962
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Dorsey's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Dorsey lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Dorsey talks about his mother, Rita Allen

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Dorsey talks about his father, Willie Dorsey

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Dorsey describes his childhood in Houston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Dorsey describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Dorsey describes his experience in Houston's segregated school system in the 1930s and 1940s

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Dorsey talks about his teachers in school

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Dorsey talks about joining the U.S. Army during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Dorsey describes his experience with the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) during World War II - part one

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Dorsey describes his experience with the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) during World War II - part two

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Dorsey talks about segregation in the U.S. Army during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Dorsey talks about applying to college after returning from World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Dorsey talks about his mentors during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Dorsey describes his experience at Ohio State University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Dorsey talks about segregation in Columbus, Ohio, in the 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Dorsey describes how he met his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Dorsey describes his decision to work at General Electric

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Dorsey describes his first year at General Electric

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Dorsey describes the creative process in engineering

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Dorsey discusses the changes in minority rights that began in the 1940s and 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Dorsey describes his experience at the General Electric plant in Cincinnati

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Dorsey describes General Electric Company's involvement in manufacturing jet engines

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Dorsey reflects upon keeping abreast with changes in technology

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Dorsey describes his proudest contribution at General Electric Company

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Dorsey talks about his family

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Dorsey reflects upon the opportunities for the African American community in the 1960s and 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Dorsey reflects upon his experience as one of the first African Americans at the General Electric plant in Evendale

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Dorsey talks about his simulation project at General Electric

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Dorsey describes his post-retirement consulting work with H&R Block and Belcan Engineering

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Dorsey reflects upon the future of engineering and race relations in America

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Dorsey reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Dorsey describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Robert Dorsey describes the creative process in engineering
Robert Dorsey describes his proudest contribution at General Electric Company
Transcript
Now, Mr. Dorsey, you mentioned that your decision to take the assignment with GE [General Electric] was influenced by the fact that you thought might be able to be creative on the job.$$Um-hum.$$So can you just help me to understand what is it that mechanical engineers do that allows for this creativity to enter into the whole process?$$Well, it's--the creativity that enters into it is the, the solving of problems that are associated with the mechanical parts because in any machinery that you have, there are problems that will arise. You know, you have an automobile, and you know your automobile doesn't, it doesn't perform as it should always. There's some problems that creep up. Well, the creativity comes in and how do we go about researching, say the cause of those problems, and what do we do to fix 'em? And also, the creativity comes in the design and the improvements of the parts because as you see that the automobile, say went from a Model-T Ford to now we have these big SUVs [sport utility vehicle] that we have. And so the creativity comes in and how do you start from this humble Model-T and arrive at something like the Escalade [Cadillac SUV] or the Expedition [Ford SUV]? So that's where the creativity comes in and all the conveniences that are associated with the controls, how you control things, the air conditioning and all of these things are a result of some creative efforts that an engineer has come up with.$Mr. Dorsey, you said you were with GE [General Electric] for over thirty-eight years?$$Thirty-eight years, over thirty-eight years, yeah.$$Okay.$$About thirty-eight and a half.$$Is there any phase of your career with GE that you're especially proud of, any product or any project that you worked on that you're especially proud of?$$Well, I was really proud of the last job that I did with GE, and that was when we started what is called the Office Automation which was the introduction of computers and word processors and that into the work place because before that we just had the desktop calculators and the pencil and paper that was creating all the documents that we had to create because with the new applications, the documentation became much more critical. And also the volume of documentation that grew fantastically, and it just grew to a point where we just couldn't handle it with the old paper and pencil method. So when the computers came in, word processors came in and what not, and the personal computer, the desktop computers came in, this was really the big breakthrough in us being able to do things in a more efficient and more creative way. And part of my activity before I retired was the introduction and the application and the support of that system of the equipment and the work and the personnel that was necessary for, to operate that equipment. So I was--and, you know, that was sort of outside of my field of training because my field of training was mostly mechanical, and, but now, we get into this business of information systems processing, which is an altogether different field. And all of that was really just learned on the job. We didn't go back--we went, we took some classes, but the classes that we took were mostly to familiarize ourselves with the software more than anything else. But the techniques and the organization and the gathering and the storage and all that was just an on-the-job creation, yeah.

Norman Francis

Educator and institution builder, Norman C. Francis was born March 20, 1931, in Lafayette, Louisiana. His father, a barber and his mother, a homemaker, sacrificed to send him to St. Paul Catholic elementary and secondary schools. After graduation, Francis attended Xavier University in New Orleans. At Xavier University, Francis began an association that would last a lifetime. Graduating with a B.S. in 1952, Francis was admitted to Loyola University Law School, where he earned a J.D. in 1955. He spent 1956 to 1957 in the U.S. Army's Third Armored Division.

Recruited to return to Xavier, Francis served as dean of men in 1957 and in 1963 was hired as director of student personnel services. In 1964, he was promoted to assistant to the president, in 1967 to executive vice President and in 1968 to president of Xavier University. His presidency has been marked by unparalleled growth. Francis created a campus that is referred to locally as the "Emerald City" because of its aqua/green roofs. The campus' tall structures include a $15 million Library Resources Center, a 430-bed, $13 million dorm, and a $23 million Science Complex, including a new School of Pharmacy. Over the past six years, Xavier has had 470 graduates accepted to medical schools. Enrollment has jumped 35 percent during this same period, to more than 4,000 students.

Francis' thirty-four years as president is among the longest of any college president in the United States. Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jesse Jackson and Pope John Paul II have come to New Orleans to commend Francis. His awards include twenty-two honorary degrees and major awards from the UNCF, the National Urban League, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1986, he was named one of the 100 Most Effective College Administrators in America.

Accession Number

A2002.198

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/14/2002

Last Name

Francis

Maker Category
Middle Name

C

Organizations
Schools

St. Paul Catholic School

Xavier University of Louisiana

Loyola University New Orleans

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Evenings

First Name

Norman

Birth City, State, Country

Lafayette

HM ID

FRA01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Only if travel is required

Favorite Season

Thanksgiving

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Any

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southwest Louisiana

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

3/20/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp Etouffee

Short Description

University president Norman Francis (1931 - ) served as president of Xavier University of New Orleans for thirty-four, one of the longest terms of any university president in the United States.

Employment

Xavier University

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Norman Francis interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Norman Francis's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Norman Francis discusses his parents and ancestors in 19th century Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Norman Francis remembers growing up in segregated Lafayette, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Norman Francis talks about his father's personality and life

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Norman Francis talks about his mother and siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Norman Francis recalls the willingness to succeed that his parents instilled in him

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Norman Francis explains how life in a small community and his family's beliefs shaped his outlook on life

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Norman Francis explains his decision to attend Xavier University

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Norman Francis describes Katharine Drexel's involvment in starting Xavier University of Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Norman Francis discusses the efforts of Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Norman Francis discusses the impact of World War II veterans' attendance at Xavier University

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Norman Francis recalls integrating Loyola University New Orleans's law school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Norman Francis recalls how the realities of segregation dawned on his white college friends

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Norman Francis discusses the career of 'Moon' Landrieu

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Norman Francis describes his foray into civil rights legal advocacy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Norman Francis remembers Moon Landrieu and other law school classmates

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Norman Francis discusses Xavier University providing lodging for the Freedom Riders

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Norman Francis discusses his work to promote minority hiring for federal jobs in the South during the turbulent early 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Norman Francis describes the significance of education

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Norman Francis describes the challenges he encounters as the president of Xavier University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Norman Francis describes his relationship with Xavier University students

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Norman Francis denies mayoral plans

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Norman Francis shares his hopes and concerns for the black community of New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Norman Francis considers his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Norman Francis discusses his parents' reactions to his own and his brother's professional success

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Norman Francis describes his six children and their professions

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Norman Francis considers how he'd like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Norman Francis discusses his future with Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Photo - Norman Francis with his wife on their wedding day, June 6th, 1955

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Photo - Norman Francis as a private in the U.S. Army, Frankfurt, Germany, ca. 1957

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Photo - Norman Francis with his oldest brother, Bishop Joseph Francis, not dated

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - Norman Francis's grandmother Mathilde Reynaud, not dated

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Norman Francis's great-grandparents, not dated

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Newspaper article featuring Norman Francis and his oldest brother, 1976

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Norman Francis, ca. 1968

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Norman Francis's family members at his inauguration as president of Xavier University of Louisiana, 1968

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Norman Francis, Alexis Herman and Bill Clinton, ca. 1993

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Dr. Claude Organ, Ethel Kennedy and Norman Francis, 1972

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Richard Nixon and unidentified men of a committee Norman Francis served on, Washington, D.C., ca. 1969-1974

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Lady Bird Johnson on Xavier University of Louisiana's campus during Norman Francis's presidency, 1968

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Norman Francis with Jimmy Carter and Louis Martin, ca. 1977-1981

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Norman Francis's friend Muhammad Ali and unidentified men, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1978

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Norman Francis, Chris Edley, Ronald Reagan and unidentified man, Washington, D.C., 1981-1989

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Norman Francis and extended family, 1950

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Norman Francis's children, not dated

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Norman Francis, Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Gantin, Rome, Italy, not dated

Tape: 5 Story: 19 - Photo - Norman Francis with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Gantin, not dated

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

5$5

DATitle
Norman Francis recalls integrating Loyola University New Orleans's law school
Norman Francis describes the challenges he encounters as the president of Xavier University
Transcript
And so when I left Xavier [Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans] and became the first black to enter Loyola's law school [Loyola University New Orleans School of Law], which was, was quite a feat so to speak, because there was a movement for three years trying to break the barrier, starting back in 1949, actually, to get the law school of Loyola to admit a black. And I wasn't the first that applied. That--the, the, the process was, and it was a process designed by black and white community leaders who met--I'll never forget, every Sunday after mass to talk about how we will integrate Loyola. And they had at least two Jesuit priests in the group. And the, the, the first applicant was an Xavier senior. The word was take an Xavier senior, let him apply. And the first was Alexander, his last name was Alexander. He was turned down. He went to Georgetown [University, Washington, D.C.] Law School. The second who applied was a man by the name Richard Gumbel, whose father was Bryant Gumbel. He was turned down, and the third, I was chosen. My--the, the clock stopped on me, and I became the first black at [Loyola University New Orleans's] law school. I say this to you say that I then was in school with, with--more men than women, who had gone to many different college universities. None of them had a better educational experience than I had. I'd say it was equal, but no better. I wasn't the smartest, but I wasn't the dumbest. And, and this was an experience, not just for me, but for my classmates. And I haven't written the book. A lot of my classmates who were and became the judges, the legislative folks, the mayors of the city and the like, today, keep saying, well, "When are you gonna write the book?" Well, I haven't stopped working yet. Many of them retired. I said, I went straight. The rest of them went to law, and practiced law. I practiced for a very short time, but we still are very close. And one of my closest friends in law school was the mayor of this city [New Orleans, Louisiana], state legislator, became the secretary of HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development], and then a court of appeals judge, my closest friend, white, and, and I say, and he's still my closest friend [Maurice Edwin 'Moon' Landrieu]. It, like his daughter is the state's--sorry, is a U. S. senator who's running for office now. I was in the law school library the first day of class. You, you've got to remember, this is 1952. And there was much talk about, well, Loyola's admitted a black. Can he do law school work that is at this so-called prestigious law school? And they did make a mistake. I went to school early that morning. It was an 8:00 class. I wasn't gonna be late for the first class. And so, as you do in a new--you don't really know anybody, I went to library and started looking around, killing the time. And two guys came up to me, and one was this Moon Landrieu, who was the secretary of HUD, mayor of the city. He said to me--he's twenty-one years of age, and he says, "I know who you are, and I want you to know, if you ever need a friend, I'm gonna be your friend." Now, he wasn't running for office. He had no ambitions, but that's the kind of guy he was. And so we have been close since 1952, I mean very close. When he became mayor, he made it possible for the first black mayor to be mayor, who was [Ernest N.] 'Dutch' Morial. Dutch Morial and I, who were undergraduates here at Xavier, he integrated LSU [Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana], I integrated Loyola. And New Orleans would not be what it is today in race relations if it were not for Moon Landrieu.$What has been the single biggest challenge of being the president of Xavier [University, New Orleans, Louisiana]?$$The biggest challenge has been providing the resources. And, and, and that's people and money, for students, for faculty, to provide the excellence that we have become known for. And, and it, it pains me because we have proved, as other black colleges have proved, that young African Americans can be educate to the fullest degree in almost every discipline. It base--it surprises some people when I tell this story. Here we are, and we have grown, but we have a college of arts and sciences, which is roughly about 2,800 students. And we are now in the United States, the number one producer of African Americans who get undergraduate degrees in the biological sciences. We're the number one institution in the United States producing African Americans who get degrees in the physical sciences. We're the number one school in this country with African Americans who get undergraduate degrees in physics. We're the number one producer of pharmacist--now, I'm talking about the college of pharmacy, which is five hundred, the number one producer of African Americans who get doctor of pharmacy degrees in this country, and as most people have come to learn nationally, we're the number one producer of African Americans who get admitted to medical school in the United States. And it's been true for the last nine years. And people say, well, how do you do this? Well, we're proud of it, but I can also say to you, that shouldn't be the case, that a school of 2,800 shouldn't be number one in all of these major areas. But we have proved that African Americans can do science. We can--we have proved that if you give a youngster, no matter what background economically and socially he or she comes from, if you give them the support they need, you believe that they can learn, and you hold them to higher expectations, and I mean with discipline, they will succeed. And that myth that, they can't learn, it's just that. It is a myth. And so I look back and say, well, what [Xavier University founder] Katharine Drexel started out to do, we are continuing to do. And we have become a model for other institutions to aspire to make it a--make the opportunity available. Just this past--about two years ago, the University of Maryland [College Park, Maryland], to their credit, got great publicity for graduating three black females with Ph.Ds in mathematics. You produce a black female in math, maybe at one or two a year over the last twenty years. To produce three at one school is quite significant. One of those three happened to be a Xavier graduate. There's another one coming up, it's gonna be an Xavier graduate will be in two years. My, my point in saying this is that what is frustrating is to see that we have produced excellence, and we are at the top of the heap. And the figures I've just given you is produced by an outside agency, and to black use of higher education, which shows the top one hundred colleges in the United States, top one hundred, not just black, in the country and who is producing African Americans who get degrees. So we are at the top of the heap in these areas, and yet we struggle, struggle to get monies for these young people to come to college. I think there should be much more financial aid available. I write it on my sleeve. You don't have the money, but you're a bright student. I say, okay, we'll give you a--what we call a tuition admission, no money behind it, just come and, and, and we're try to find the money for you. It's hard when the end of the year comes, and you still got two million dollars of a receivable, and, and, and yet you're investing in those young people. And, and so we are continuing what Katharine Drexel did, although she had the money, we don't have the money to the degree we need. Now, we are getting grants from, from folks who now see that, boy, you, you know what you're doing. But we need more. And I'm not saying, you know, just for us as an institution. I'm talking about for young people.