At the helm for nearly 47 years, Dr. Norman C. Francis has decided to step down as president of Xavier University of Louisiana.

At a news conference Thursday, Francis — the nation's longest serving university president — said it was time to pass the torch on to new leadership and he's doing so with confidence that Xavier is "better prepared to continue its educational and spiritual mission."

Michael Rue, chairman of Xavier's Board of Trustees, says the board earlier Thursday accepted France's request to retire, which is effective June 30.

Rue says the university has been transformed under Francis' leadership, noting enrollment has tripled and the university's endowment has grown from under $20 million to more than $160 million.

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