Xavier Cole Named 18th President of Loyola University New Orleans

Thumbnail Xavier Cole
Photo courtesy of Loyola University New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — Dr. Xavier A. Cole has been named the 18th president of Loyola University New Orleans.

Currently serving as Marquette University’s vice president for student affairs, Cole will become the first person of color, and the second layperson, to lead the 111-year-old Jesuit-run institution. He will appear at in-person campus event at 1 p.m. on March 24 and begin his tenure at Loyola on June 1.

“I am committed to strengthening this thriving institution by seeking out mission-aligned partnerships, promoting our financial health and stability, and investing in those who work and learn here,” Cole said. “There is so much possibility for us to rise up to meet the needs of our city, our state, and our region – needs in the business community, education sector, and healthcare fields. Loyola has the necessary academic programs not only to prepare future successful employees, but to position them as trusted leaders.” 

“Dr. Cole is a uniquely experienced higher education administrator who has dedicated his career to the study and preservation of Jesuit, Catholic institutions in America, and to the service of their students,” said Stephen Landry, chair of the Loyola board of trustees, in a press release. 

Cole’s appointment by unanimous board vote on March 17 followed a seven-month national search by a committee representing faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents. With the help of executive search firm Isaacson, Miller, the committee culled four finalists from dozens of applicants and invited them to campus last month for final interviews.

“We have found a real gem for our students in Dr. Cole,” said Robert LeBlanc, chair of the presidential search committee and vice-chair of the board of trustees. “Throughout his career, he has been guided by Ignatian-influenced education ideals of fortifying the mind, body, and spirit.” 

An interest in music makes Cole well-suited to life on a campus located in a famously musical town. At each stop in his career as a senior administrator, he has performed on the trombone and euphonium in student orchestra pits and jazz bands. (His mother sang professionally; his father was a band leader.) 

“I see Loyola New Orleans students as a force of nature and the heart of the university — the very reason we do our work as educators,” he said. “I can’t wait to learn more about their dreams and how they plan to use their gifts to improve the world.”

Raised in Biloxi, Miss., Cole earned a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Mississippi and a master’s degree in history from Miami University (Ohio). He said he discovered his passion for student affairs as a resident advisor at Ole Miss and then as a graduate hall director at Miami. 

In 2013, Cole earned his doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. He has led the division of student affairs at Marquette since 2016. He earned praise for chairing Marquette’s COVID-19 response team, starting in the demanding days of March 2020.

“As I begin my tenure as president of Loyola New Orleans, [my priority is] understanding and knowing my community: our students, our faculty, our staff and the people who create this good Catholic, Jesuit educational experience,” he said.

Cole said his attention will turn soon enough to enrollment, capital projects and ways to best serve Loyola’s faculty and staff.

“I’m going to spend the first 60 to 90 days truly getting to know who my people are … and, most important, for them to get to know me,” he said. “Not just what’s in my head, but what’s in my heart, so we can work together and walk lockstep into a future that’s very hopeful for Loyola New Orleans.”

Before his role at Marquette, Cole spent more than two decades at higher education institutions in Maryland. From 2014 to 2016, he was vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Washington College in Chestertown, Md. From 1995 to 2014, he held various positions at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore.

Today, Cole serves as chair for the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education executive doctorate alumni board. From 2017 to 2022, he was vice chair and director of the education committee on the board of Messmer Catholic Schools, a K-12 network of Catholic schools serving Milwaukee’s north and west sides.

Cole will take the reins from Fr. Justin Daffron, who served as interim president after the departure of Tania Tetlow, Loyola’s first women and first lay president. Tetlow was named the 33rd president of Fordham University in early 2022.

“We would also like to thank Fr. Daffron for his service as interim president,” Stephen Landry said.

Making the move to New Orleans with Cole are his wife, historian Susanne DeBerry Cole, Ph.D., and Mingus, their feisty cairn terrier.

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