Volume 40 No. 10
October 09
Pelli Visit Brings Drexel Chapel Closer to Reality It would be an understatement to suggest that building a free-standing religious chapel on campus has been an elusive dream for most of Xavier's history. A chapel was actually included in (then) Mother Katharine Drexel’s original blueprint plans ... [ more ]
Cancer Research Program Receives $10 Million Grant Xavier has received a five-year, $10.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will help the university move to the “next level” of competitiveness in cancer research .... [ more ]
XU, NYU Form Partnership
in Materials Research
Offering first year freshmen an opportunity to do research and increasing minority graduate study in the nanotechnology field is the goal of a new partnership with Xavier University of Louisiana and New York University ... [ more ]
Remembering St.
Katharine Drexel
She was the equivalent of an American princess, born into the privileged family of a wealthy Philadelphia banker and philanthropist. She could have lived her life in the lap of luxury, oblivious to the suffering of others ... [ more ]
Young Physician
Makes His Mark
There is no question that Dr. Derek Robinson ’98 is an advocate for an accessible, transparent and efficient heath care system. But at a time when it seems that all of America is embroiled in the heated debate ... [ more ]

1834 COP Schedules Operation Diabetes

Operation Diabetes, the College of Pharmacy's annual campaign to increase awareness of diabetes and the dangers associated with the disease, wil be held Oct. 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Lakeside Shopping Center in New Orleans.

COP students and faculty will offer health screenings and diabetes literature, and will be available to answer questions about diabetes prevention, management, control and related medications.

The event also promotes an awareness of the pharmacist’s role in diabetes management and care.

For more details on Operation Diabetes visit HERE or contact Savannah Washington or Dr. Cori Brock at 504-520-5677. 

1834 Homecoming 2009
Activities Announced

Jot down these dates on your calendar – Nov. 18-22 – that's when XU alumni will make the journey back to campus for Alumni Homecoming 2009.

A usual this year’s celebration will honor the 16 five-year anniversary Classes of 1929, 1934, 1939, 1944, 1949, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1969, 1974, 1979, 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004, but all alumni are encouraged to participate in the festivities.

Among this year’s highlights are the annual Alumni Banquet, Alumni Mixer and the 2nd annual Dr. Norman C. Francis Endowed Scholarship Benefit Concert featuring Xavier’s own Wanda Rouzan ’69 with special performances by Irvin Mayfield and DJ Captain Charles.

For more scheduled events visit HERE. All reunion events will be held on campus.

For more info and a list of suggested hotels, call 504-520-6782 or 1-877 WE LUV XU (1-877-935-8898).

1834 Pilgrimage Honors
St. Katharine Drexel

The St. Katharine Drexel Chapel Advisory Committee will host “In the Footsteps of St. Katharine Drexel” a one-day pilgrimage in honor of the canonization of St. Katharine Drexel Oct. 3.

The pilgrimage will travel by bus to several New Orleans churches and locations where St. Katharine Drexel and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS), had an influence and, in some cases, still do.

“This is an opportunity for prayer, reflection and thanksgiving for St. Katharine Drexel and the wonderful work she has done, especially for the New Orleans community.”  said committee chair Stella Reese.

Tickets are $40 and seating is limited. Lunch is included. For more info visit HERE or call 504-520-5122.

1834 Basketball Teams Ready for New Season

t’ll be an early start for basketball season this year, with both the Gold Rush (men) and Gold Nuggets (women) cranking up the 2009-2010 campaign in later this month.

The men open Oct. 31 at home against Carver Bible College, while the women open on the road a day earlier (Oct. 30) against Talladega College at the Tip-off Classic in Mobile AL.

Visit HERE for a Gold Rush preseason preview and HERE for the Nugget preview. Keep up with all Xavier athletics HERE.

1834 Faculty Participate in LA Creole Conference

Faculty will give presentations and performances at the 5th annual Louisiana Creole Conference Oct. 2-4.

“Suppers, Wakes, and Second Lines: A Celebration of New Orleans Creole Customs and Institutions” is the theme of the conference, which is being presented in conjunction with the Xavier History department and will be held at Xavier’s University Center.

Dr. Ronald Dorris '72, professor of African American Studies will give an overview for the session, “From the Cradle to the Grave: Institutions that Fed the Creole Soul.”

Dr. Michael White '76, professor of Spanish, and jazz performer and historian will give the overview of “The Social Aid & Pleasure: Entertainment and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 

The conference will focus on Creole business, entertainment and institutions and will feature speakers from those areas.

For more information on LA Creole or to register for the conference, visit HERE.

1834 Visiting Artist Concert Series Begins Oct. 5

The Department of Music opens the 2009-2010 Visiting Artist Concert Series with a recital of music for voice and piano featuring soprano Dr. Jeanine Wagner and pianist Margaret Simmons Oct. 5.  

Other upcoming programs in the series include:

Oct. 19 - Clifford Smith, bass/baritone and Wilfred Delphin 71, piano
Nov. 3 – Corinne Stillwell, violin and Heidi Williams, piano
Nov. 18 – Tribute to Mrs. Estelle Baham

All concerts take place at 7:00 p.m. in the Music Building Recital Hall and are free and open to the public. For further info contact the Department of Music at (504) 520-7597.

1834 Alumni Chapter News

The Acadiana Alumni Chapter is reorganizing. For more info contact Karen Gardiner '86 at 337-662-1099.

The Philadelphia Alumni Chapter will host a “Bowling to Raise Dollars for XU” fall fundraiser Oct. 24. Visit HERE for details.

1834 XU Online Research Journal Names Board

The university's online undergraduate research journal, XULAneXUS, has announced its Editorial Review Board for 2009-2010.

Faculty and students serve together on the board to review student submissions for publication in the journal. Two online issues are published annually and can be found at HERE.

Faculty serving on this year's board are: Nora Olgyay (art), Ronald Dorris (English/African American Studies), Steve Salm (history); Lynne Gleiber (political science), and Anderson Sunda-Meya (physics/dual degree engineering).

Students serving on the board are: Cassandra Shepard (history); Raphaela Romero (English), Cassandra Shepard (history); Adrienne Glover (psychology/pre-law), Nicole Simmons (political science/pre-law); Artay Abua (chemistry); and Samantha Taylor (biology).

1834 Join the XU Alumni
Online Community!

Want to make sure you’re on the mail and e-mail lists to get the latest news and info about your alma mater? Want to stay in touch with fellow alums?

Then join the Alumni Online Community, a website open only to registered members. Some features include an alumni directory, online event registration, reunion class notes.



World-renowned architect Cesar Pelli, visiting the campus to unveil his design for the new St. Katharine Drexel Chapel to senior staff, gets a first-hand tour from President Norman C. Francis. Construction of the long-awaited campus religious facility, which will sit on the site of the old Student Center building, is expected to begin next spring once the new Qatar Pharmacy extension is completed.

photo by Irving Johnson III



It would be an understatement to suggest that building a free-standing religious chapel on campus has been an elusive dream for most of Xavier's history.

A chapel was actually included in (then) Mother Katharine Drexel’s original blueprint plans for the Xavier campus in the late 1920’s and it has been mentioned as an upcoming project in nearly every university strategic plan for the past 80+ years. However those plans were always deferred in order to address other essential campus needs such as new classrooms and laboratories, faculty and staff offices, living residences and other student oriented service facilities.

But that dream is finally about to become reality. Last week the long-awaited project officially moved off the university’s “to do” list and onto its “get it done" list when world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli visited the XU campus to unveil his design for the new St. Katharine Drexel Chapel before senior university staff.

While the architectural renderings are not yet ready for public viewing, this much is certain: construction on the 11,000 square foot structure will begin in spring 2010, just as soon as on-going construction of the new Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion is completed. In fact, the new chapel will be situated next to the pharmacy addition right alongside the Interstate-10 Expressway bringing motorists to and from downtown New Orleans.

Like the other buildings on campus, the chapel’s exterior will be made of limestone. Its domed roof will be made of copper with a large cross located strategically at its crest that architect Pelli joked “will be visible from the airport to the river...” adding that “...people will see this cross and know it is the chapel at Xavier University.”

President Norman C. Francis expressed his enthusiasm over the latest developments.

“The new chapel and its centrality on campus will reinforce Xavier’s historic Catholic identity and its continued commitment to the goals and mission established by Saint Katharine, and will welcome students of all faiths to share in their spiritual development,” he said.

The project is expected to cost more than $7 million. Francis is optimistic about raising the needed funds. “We sometimes don’t appreciate how fortunate we have been,” he said. "We have faith that things that we would like to do can be done."

Pelli, whose firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects has designed some of the most famous buildings in the world, including the Petronas twin towers in Malaysia that were once the tallest in the world, expressed excitement at the opportunity to design a house of worship at Xavier.

“The idea of constructing a building with spiritual purposes is extremely attractive to me,” said Pelli, who himself grew up in a Catholic family. “This building will embody Drexel’s traits of modesty, simplicity and spiritually. It will make you feel totally uplifted.”

Those wishing to make donations towards construction the new Chapel should call XU Institutional Advancement at 504-520-7575.


Xavier has received a five-year, $10.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will help the university move to the “next level” of competitiveness in cancer research.

The grant is part of an ambitious, strategic initiative to enhance the university’s research competitiveness in biomedical fields. 

“Xavier has made significant advances in achieving our research goals through the establishment of the Center for Minority Health Disparities and through membership in the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium,” said Dr. Gene D’Amour, Senior Vice President for Resource Development, noting that XU researchers have received high levels of external funding for cancer research from public and private sources over the past decade.

“Our long term goal is to, in the next five to seven years, be seen nationally not only for our eminence in graduating African American science, pre-med and pharmacy students, but also for national prominence in cancer research,” he said. “This grant will allow us to build upon our progress and take Xavier to the next level.”

Dr. Guangdi Wang, professor of Chemistry and program director for the grant said that the funding will be focused on five areas:

– increasing the number and quality of cancer researchers and providing them with start-up packages, release time, and mentoring opportunities
– enhancing the competitiveness of existing research faculty and programs by providing seed funding for developmental projects, enhanced professional development opportunities and increased access to postdoctoral associates and research staff
– developing three research instrumentation cores
– offering enhanced administrative services to assure research support activities meet faculty needs and
– supporting selected pilot projects that will assist investigators who are at the “cusp” of becoming fully competitive.

D’Amour pointed out that cancer is a particularly appropriate focus for an historically black college since the disease disproportionately affects African-Americans. Cancer is among the top three diseases exhibiting such disparities. In Louisiana, which has among the highest cancer rates in the nation, disparities in cancer are a major health and human concern.  



Kaitlyn Gaddis, a sophomore speech pathology major from Snellville GA (South Gwinnet High) and Dr. Ross Louis (communications) made a presentation, "Carnival Life: Performing Citizenship in Post-Katrina New Orleans," at the Louisiana Communication Association Conference. Gaddis was also elected the association's undergraduate student representative.


Dr. Naiema Benson '99, has earned her medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Schanel Gray ’09, has been accepted into the medical post-baccalaureate program at Dominican University and the University of Medicine and Health Science-St. Kitts.

Maiysha D. Jones '03, a graduate student in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill , successfully defended her dissertation proposal and is now a Ph.D. candidate. She expects to graduate in 2010.

Alejandro Perkins ‘99, an attorney with Law Offices of Hammonds & Sills in Baton Rouge LA, has been selected to the National Board of Governors for the National Bar Association.

Ashley Reeves ’09, has been accepted into the master’s degree program in medical science at Hampton University.

Evelyn M. Simien '96, associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, has been appointed Associate Director of the Humanities Institute.

Gerald Smith ’09, has been accepted into the medical science program at Drexel University Medical School.

George Washington ’09, has been accepted into the medical science program at Drexel University Medical School.

Elijah Williams ’05, a contract specialist for the NASA Exploration Systems Procurement Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston TX, has earned a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in public policy from Texas Southern University.


(L-R) Project leaders Dr. Bryan Bilyeu (physics and engineering) and Dr. Lamar Meda (chemistry) work in one the labs where students have the opportunity to do research in the nantechnology field. Xavier and NYU have received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to bolster diversity among materials scientists through collaborative research and curriculum development.

photo by Irving Johnson III



Offering first year freshmen an opportunity to do research and increasing minority graduate study in the nanotechnology field is the goal of a new partnership between Xavier and New York University.

The two schools have received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to bolster diversity among materials scientists through collaborative research and curriculum development.

XU chemistry professor Lamar Meda and physics professor Bryan Bilyeu head the project here at Xavier.

“Materials science builds bridges between scientists and engineers,” said Meda. “This research is cutting edge and there are very few undergraduate programs, none at an HBCU and currently none in Southern Louisiana. This is a hot field. Nanotechnology is the wave of the future.”

The grant was one of eight awarded this year under NSF’s Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) program and funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“This research involves chemistry and physics,” said Bilyeu. “Our materials research group is interdisciplinary. Our first year students will conduct research with their professor, not a graduate student or assistant, but directly with the professor.  We’ll also utilize Peer Mentoring – pairing new freshmen with upper classmen, so that they are doing research working in pairs.”

“Getting students in the lab this early will make a huge difference; they’ll be so much better prepared and advanced by the time they graduate," said Meda. “Our goal is to make high school students aware of the opportunities that are available. We have excellent faculty that do cutting-edge research in the sciences and engineering including nanotechnology. PREM can provide financial support up to $10,000 per year to each student.”

PREM will provide Xavier undergraduate students with the skills necessary to guarantee their success in graduate school at any research-oriented university.  In addition, there will be several Xavier-NYU collaborative research projects and summer research teamwork with NYU graduate students.

Admission to the Xavier PREM program is extremely competitive. Students must major in either chemistry or physics and be interested in doing research in materials science. For more information on the Xavier PREM program contact Dr. Meda or Bilyeu at 504-520-5324 or lmeda@xula.edu.


Dr. Ronald Dorris '72 (African American Studies/English) had a paper, "Race as a Social Construct:  The Impact on Education," published in the Forum on Public Policy:  A Journal of the Oxford Round Table.

Dr. Dominique Gendrin (communications) presented a paper, "Relational Interdependent Self-Construal, Imagined Interactions, and Conversational Constraints among Vietnamese Americans," at the International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies conference, held in Japan.

Dr. Nicole P. Greene (Kellogg Professor of English) was a contributor to a special report on health care in America and Britain in The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly journal.

Dr. David Lanoue (RosaMary Professor of English) has published his third novel, Haiku Wars (Red Moon Press, 2009).


Remembering Our Founder

Saint Katharine Drexel

She was the equivalent of an American princess, born into the privileged family of a wealthy Philadelphia banker and philanthropist. She could have lived her life in the lap of luxury, oblivious to the suffering of others.

But instead, throughout the 1890’s and the first half of the 20th century – long before taking up the cause of racial equality came into vogue – St. Katharine Drexel was at the forefront of efforts to improve the lives of others. During these decades shadowed by the segregation and degradation forced on Blacks – combined with the dispossession, relocation and betrayal of Native Americans – the name of St. Katharine Drexel shone out as a beacon of hope.

St. Katharine was at the forefront of efforts to educate African-Americans and Native Americans with an eye toward helping them to develop their own leadership and self-determination. Her schools were always open to all faiths; and the nuns who followed her lived among the poor they served.

She was born in 1858 to wealthy Philadelphia banker and philanthropist Francis Drexel and his wife Hannah, who died a mere five weeks after giving birth. Her father remarried two years later. It was from her parents – revered for their own generosity and charity to the less fortunate – that St. Katharine learned early the lesson of stewardship and responsibility to the poor.

2009 Founder’s Day Convocation
Tuesday, Oct. 6
12:15 p.m., The Barn

St. Katharine Drexel

Early on, St. Katharine indicated her intent to establish a bureau to distribute her wealth to Indians and Black missions, and to enter a cloistered religious order. But instead, during a trip to Rome with her family, she accepted the challenge of Pope Leo XIII and established a brand new order – the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament – which went on to found and staff schools and centers in the inner cities of the North and East, the Indian reservations of the west and across the Deep South.

Despite the many obstacles placed in their path, including strong opposition from whites, by 1942 the Sisters were operating black Catholic schools, convents and mission centers in some 13 states. So extensive was her influence in the Black, rural areas of New Iberia, St. Martinville and other Acadiana parishes that she is often referred to as the “Patron Saint of South Louisiana.”

St. Katharine’s presence was also felt in urban New Orleans, where the Sisters not only opened a Catholic high school and several elementary schools, but also established Xavier University of Louisiana – which was to become the capstone of her educational system.

Originally a coeducational secondary school, Xavier evolved into a teacher’s college and by 1925 had achieved full university status. A College of Pharmacy – now one of only two pharmaceutical schools in the state – was added two years later.

The stresses and strains of building a nationwide network of schools for black and Indian children were hard on St. Katharine. The never-ending work and awesome responsibilities that she shouldered for more than a half-century finally took their toll in 1935 when she suffered a near-fatal heart attack. For 20 years she was confined to the infirmary at the Motherhouse in Bensalem, Pa., where she is said to have spent most of her remaining waking hours in prayer and meditation.

St. Katharine died on March 3, 1955. She was officially canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in October of 2000 by Pope John Paul II. She is only the fifth American to have been canonized and only the second American-born Saint. She is now in the select company of Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, Rose Philippine Duchesne, Bishop John Neumann and Mother Elizabeth Seton.

“(Katharine) Drexel is an excellent example of that practical charity and generous solidarity with the less fortunate that has long been the distinguishing mark of American Catholics,” the Pontiff said during a rain-soaked canonization ceremony that drew tens of thousands to the Vatican, noting that her life brought about “a growing awareness of the need to combat all forms of racism through education and social services.”

It is estimated that St. Katharine – who during her lifetime shared the annual income from her father’s trust fund with her two sisters – gave away more than $20 million.

Dr. Silas Lee (sociology) made several presentations: “What if Anything We Can Learn from Popular Polls about African Americans” at the Association of Black Sociologists; “An Early Analysis of the Impact of the Obama Administration on Black America and the Role of Black Leadership” at the AFL-CIO 40th National Education Conference; ; “Before You Run” at a workshop for political candidates at the University of Phoenix; and “Louisiana School Psychology Internship Consortium” at the LSU Health Sciences Center.

Robert Skinner (XU librarian) had an article, “Swirl of Magic, Clash of Steel: Bernard Cornwell’s English Chronicles” published in the September issue of FIRSTS.

Dr. Michael White (Keller Chair, languages) will deliver the 2009 keynote address, “Traditional New Orleans Jazz as a Metaphor for American Life,” at the Imagining America Conference, a national consortium of colleges committed to the arts, humanities, and design.

Damon Williams, Jr. ’02
, has returned to the university as assistant director of graduate placement, McNair and Super Scholar/EXCEL.

Where Are They Now?

Young Physician Makes His Mark

There is no question that Dr. Derek Robinson ’98 is an advocate for an accessible, transparent and efficient heath care system.

But at a time when it seems that all of America is embroiled in the heated debate about the future of health care, Robinson is not actively involved in the discussion. Instead he is immersed in the day-to-day delivery of health care services. Someone has to mind the store.

Just four years removed from residency, Robinson was recently named chief medical officer for Region V of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It’s a responsibility as huge as the title indicates.

His Chicago office, one of 10 regional CMS branches in the country operating under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Services, administers the Medicaid and Medicare programs in six states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan) and has a regulatory role over the myriad of healthcare facilities that serve Medicare beneficiaries.

His new job makes him the interface between the federal government and the health care providers of Medicare and Medicaid services in that heavily populated Midwest region of the U.S. As such, his actions take on added weight and play an important role in the quality of health care in the area.

Dr. Derek Robinson
Photo Courtesy ACEP

That might seem like a lot of responsibility for a young physician, but despite his age, Robinson is far from in over his head. That’s because he has crammed a lot of experiences into his still very early career and, just as importantly, possesses has an innate ability to grasp the “big picture”. “Medicine is not what it was 30 years ago,” said Robinson, an emergency medicine specialist by training. “Physicians not only need to be well-versed in basic science, evidence-based medicine, and bedside skills, they also need to be able to adapt an evolving healthcare landscape and be willing to play a broader role in an integrated health care system.”

“The days of physicians clinging to their particular specialties are eroding,” he said, pointing to an evolving value-based healthcare business model and the explosion of information technology. “Successful practice of medicine today requires a much more collaborative effort with attention to transparency, quality, and safety.”

For his part, Robinson looks at the CMS position as another chapter in his overall growth as a health professional. And he’s been busy. A fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, his professional expertise includes board certification in emergency medicine with experience as a domestic and international flight physician. He has also compiled an outstanding record of involvement in physician-led organizations, advocacy and leadership development. In 2008 he was recognized as a “Hero in Emergency Medicine” by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), and for several years served as an ACEP national spokesman.

Robinson holds a medical degree from Howard University as well as an M.B.A. (07') degree from the University of Chicago. Following his graduation from medical school, Robinson matched at the University of Chicago for residency. He later served as an attending emergency physician at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Chicago IL for four years before changing staff to the Spalding Regional Medical Center. In late summer, he accepted the appointment to CMS.

Surprisingly, Robinson continues his clinical practice of emergency medicine.

“I am fortunate that my schedule is extremely flexible,” said Robinson, who noted that his new role allows him to leverage his clinical expertise with his business acumen to enhance the broader health care delivery system. “When I am in the office, I can devote 100 percent of my time to CMS clinical, regulatory and administrative concerns; while I’m in the emergency department, I am 100 percent focused on patient care and emergency medicine. Both environments offer significant challenges, require the use of sound judgment, and offer many rewards.”

Robinson said his rapid progression is not part of any great plan.

“I can’t say I planned everything that has happened, but as I found areas of interest, I was not hesitant to get involved,” he said. “That led to many early opportunities, and provided me with a lot of life lessons that I might not otherwise have experienced.”

He said he also owes a great deal of his success to the unwavering support he has gotten from his many mentors, all of whom were willing to share their experiences and thus allowed him to capitalize on their wisdom and avoid costly mistakes. He also credits a wide circle of friends and associates in medicine. He counts Xavier in among his many benefactors.

Robinson, a Shreveport LA native recently married to Shawn Smith, a physician herself, recalled that he grew up knowing he wanted to follow a career path that would allow him to help other people. His experiences at Xavier convinced him that his goal of becoming a physician was attainable, and fortunately, Xavier was THE place for medicine.

“Xavier not only gave me the confidence to pursue my dream but provided the tools, network and  knowledge needed to do so successfully,” he said.His advice to current XU pre-med students?

“Work hard and take advantage of the opportunities you have, especially the external opportunities afforded you because of the Xavier University brand,” he said. “Despite the many economic concerns that exist today, there remains a great need for medical professionals who can approach health care with vision, compassion, and desire. Xavier provides a unique environment where you can mature and develop lasting relationships with future leaders.”

1834 Xavier in the News

Universities Ax Cafeteria Trays to Cut Costs, Help Planet
2Yahoo Sports
NBA Needs History
Lesson for Its Pioneers
- Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton
Local Universities Report Growing Enrollments
2Diverse Issues
Colleges Battling Rising Tide
of ‘Economic Dropouts’
Los Angeles Sentinel
Dr. George McKenna ['61]
is Back in L.A. Schools
New Catholic Pharmacy Schools Help Ease Shortage
About Xavier - Contact Us - Site Map
© 2009 Xavier University of Louisiana. All rights reserved