Located in New Orleans, the small liberal arts college dates back to 1915, when St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded the coeducational secondary school from which it evolved. St. Katharine, supported by the interest of a substantial inheritance from her father, banker-financier Francis Drexel, founded and staffed many institutions throughout the U.S. in an effort to help educate Native Americans and Blacks. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in October 2000.
Aware of the serious lack of Catholic-oriented education available to young Blacks in the South, St. Katharine came to New Orleans and established a high school on the site previously occupied by Southern University. A Normal School, offering one of the few career fields (teaching) open to Blacks at the time, was added two years later. In 1925 Xavier University became a reality when the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established. The first degrees were awarded three years later. In 1927, a College of Pharmacy was opened.