The Loyola University New Orleans Board of Trustees today named Xavier A. Cole, Ed.D., an empathic, student-centered leader of Jesuit institutions, as the university’s 18th president.
Cole will become the first person of color, and the second layperson, to lead the 111-year-old institution. Currently serving as Marquette University’s vice president for student affairs, Cole will begin his tenure at Loyola on June 1. He was announced today to the Loyola community via video message, in advance of an in-person campus event tomorrow at 1 p.m.
“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 Board of Trustees.
“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.”
Cole’s appointment by a unanimous board vote on Friday, March 17, culminates a seven-month, national search by the Presidential Search 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 Robért LeBlanc, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee and Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees. “Throughout his career, Dr. Cole has been guided by Ignatian-influenced education ideals of fortifying the mind, body, and spirit.”
A musical hobby exemplifies Cole’s love of student life and makes him well-suited to a campus within the birthplace of jazz. At each stop in his career as a senior administrator, Cole, an accomplished trombone and euphonium player, has sought permission to audition for and play in student orchestra pits and jazz bands. (Cole’s mother sang professionally; his father was a band leader.) Cole’s presence in these ensembles has allowed students to understand him as more than a student affairs professional.
“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. I can’t wait to learn more about their dreams and how they plan to use their gifts to improve the world,” Cole said.
A product of Biloxi, Mississippi, Cole holds a bachelor’s in history from the University of Mississippi, and a master’s, again in history, from Miami University (Ohio). Cole discovered his passion for student affairs as a resident advisor at Ole Missand then as a graduate hall director at Miami.
In 2013, Dr. Cole added a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation explored the outcomes of mission and identity programs at U.S. Jesuit universities and analyzed their effectiveness in preparing future lay leaders at Jesuit universities. Its prescient title is “Answering the call: An examination of the development of lay leadership on Jesuit, Catholic university campuses.”
Leading the Division of Student Affairs at Marquette since 2016, Cole has brought particular passion to access and engagement initiatives to ensure first-generation students and students of color feel they belong. Cole also won praise for chairing Marquette’s COVID-19 Response Team, starting in the demanding days of March 2020.
Before his role at Marquette, Cole spent more than two decades shaping student life at higher education institutions in Maryland.
From 2014 to 2016, he was vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Washington College, a small liberal arts college in Chestertown, Maryland, which holds the distinction of being the first college chartered in the sovereign United States. From 1995 to 2014, Cole held roles of increasing responsibility within the Division of Student Development at Loyola University Maryland, leaving Baltimore in 2014 as assistant vice president.
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’s appointment as the first Black president of the university breaks new ground following the tenure from 2018 to 2022 of Tania Tetlow, Loyola’s first female and first lay president.
“We would also like to thank Fr. Justin Daffron, S.J., for his service as interim president,” 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.