On February 27, nine months into his new job, C. Reynold Verret, 61, was formally inaugurated as Xavier University’s new president.
Verret’s family first fled to America from his home country of Haiti in 1963, settling finally in Brooklyn, New York. His accomplishments since then would be impressive even without his immigrant story: He earned his undergrad degree in biochemistry from Colombia University, his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and went on to serve as a postdoctoral fellow at the Howard Hughes Institute for Immunology at Yale University and the Center for Cancer Research at MIT.Dr. Verret joins Xavier from Savannah State University where he served as provost and chief academic officer from 2012.
Over two decades ago, Dr. Verret moved to New Orleans to teach at Tulane. “New Orleans was a new city for me at the time,” says Dr. Verret. “I discovered the similarities to Haiti really after I arrived here. When I tasted the rice and beans there was that feeling of, ‘Oh this looks like something I’ve seen before!’ New Orleans is clearly the Creole culture of old Haiti. And today New Orleans is even more of a true melting pot, with new people coming to NOLA that I have not seen previously—plus the Haitian population has grown too, since I have been here.”
Dr. Verret’s biochemistry background makes him a good fit for Xavier, which sends more black Americans on to medical school than any other college, as documented in a recent NYT magazine piece. Xavier boasts an even higher number of Black graduates in biology and physics. The school has worked its way through post-Katrina challenges by focusing on building up its STEM education—whereas Dr. Verret has helped develop programs to prepare STEM teachers, secure tuition support for teacher certification in STEM fields, among other similar accomplishments. As chair of the Chemistry department at Clark Atlanta University, he increased research extramural funding by almost $10 million.
But Dr. Verret says Xavier picked him out of 300 candidates for other reasons. He stresses his extensive experience dealing with issues such as declining enrollment, retention and graduation rates. “The post-Katrina changes have been somewhat striking,” he admits of the storm that, for a while there, chopped Xavier’s 3,000-member student body almost in half. “We’ve been dealing with some challenges of how we communicate ourselves, to keep students at Xavier.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of the interview at Louisiana Weekly…
Or watch this video interview with the President: