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Pres. Xavier Cole to be inaugurated this weekend at Loyola New Orleans

The Black Catholic academic is the first person of color to serve as president at the 111-year-old Jesuit university.

Dr. Xavier Cole, the new president of Loyola University New Orleans. (Sophia Germer/Times-Picayune)

Inauguration festivities will soon be underway at Loyola University New Orleans, where Dr. Xavier Cole will be installed as president on Friday at the 111-year-old Jesuit institution.

A weekend of events will celebrate the new Black Catholic leader, whose appointment came in the spring following the departure of Dr. Tania Tetlow. He officially began his tenure in June.

“Dr. Cole is the first person of color and the second layperson to serve as president since Loyola’s founding in 1912,” the university said in an official biography.

“He is committed to strengthening the university by seeking mission-aligned partnerships in the New Orleans region and beyond, improving the school’s financial health and stability, and investing in those who work and learn here.”

Events on the docket for the weekend include the J. Skelly Wright Lecture Series on Wednesday, November 8, at 6pm CT, featuring a panel of judges—including a Black Catholic in Darrell James Papillion—in discussion at the university’s College of Law. A reception will follow the event.

On Thursday afternoon at 12:15pm, an inaugural missioning Mass will be celebrated by local Jesuit superior Thomas P. Greene at the historic Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, located at the entrance to the historic campus. The liturgy is open to the public and an outdoor “COLEchella” celebration will take place thereafter with food, games, and music on the Peace Quad.

Cole will be officially inaugurated on Friday at 3pm, also at Holy Name of Jesus, followed by a reception in the Palm Court. Ticketed events on Friday include a centennial celebration of the university’s student newspaper The Maroon, scheduled for 5pm in the Music and Communications Complex. Admission is $100 for general registration, with a half-off discount for young alumni.

The university’s annual 1912 Society Dinner is scheduled for 6:30pm at the Roosevelt Hotel in downtown New Orleans, honoring Cole as well as the 2023 Integritas Vitae Award recipient Amy Cyrex Sins. Tickets are $150 per person.

Cole, the second layperson to serve as president at Loyola New Orleans, previously served as vice president of student affairs at Marquette University, following stops at Washington College and Loyola University Maryland. He completed his doctorate in higher education management at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013, writing his dissertation on mission and identity programs and Jesuit universities in the United States.

While in Milwaukee, Cole also served on the parish council of the Church of the Gesu, a Jesuit parish on the campus of Marquette. He now joins a vibrant Catholic community in the Crescent City, where a significant portion of the majority-Black locale are members of the faith.

Cole has also been highlighted by the university and in local media as a jazz aficionado and trained musician.

“Dr. Cole and his wife, historian Dr. Susanne DeBerry Cole, are delighted to join the Greater New Orleans community,” the university said.

“A practiced trombone and euphonium player, Dr. Cole is well-suited for this next chapter of life in the birthplace of jazz.”

Livestreams will be available on YouTube for both the missioning Mass and the inauguration ceremony, where local dignitaries and politicians are expected to be in attendance. RSVP information for the weekend’s various events is available on the university website.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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