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TINERANT, sometimes barely literate black preachers major from Oakland, California, who, as an eighth-grader, from the African Methodist Episcopal Church found- got herself into one of San Francisco’s top Catholic girls’ ed Paul Quinn in 1872 in Austin. Initially, it taught schools on her own, be joining them for dinner as planned? blacksmithing, carpentry, tanning, and other trades to “Yes,” he confirmed. freed slaves and their children. The college later moved Butler, raised by her grandmother and aunt in a house also to Waco, where AME Bishop Paul Quinn began adding Lat- shared by her drug-abusing father, was in Sorrell’s back seat, in, letters, and other kinds of learning he hoped would propel flipping through her phone. black people in racially fraught, hierarchical America. On the “That’s my child, too,” Sorrell says. Dallas campus, where the college moved in 1990, the bish“He has kindness and love for his students that is unreop’s grave is on the grounds of a chapel now housing a public lenting,” says Kelsel Thompson, lured to Paul Quinn from charter school. Austin College to be the school’s Paul Quinn’s abiding, faith-based dean of student life. That faithfulness extends to the staff, she says, history was evident during the 2017 and it’s reciprocated. Few among Founder’s Day honors ceremony in the college’s faculty and staff do the student life building across the just one job. way from that chapel. Says Maurice West, a former It was like church. public-school educator and Sor“Oh, dear God, this morning rell’s friend of twenty-five years we thank you, and we accept your who doubles as Paul Quinn’s dean provision today,” invoked Dexter of men and men's basketball coach: Evans, Young Alumni Council “What Michael is doing here, what chair and a Paul Quinn alumnus we all are doing is impact work.” bound for graduate studies at the So, Sorrell tasked the stuUniversity of Pennsylvania’s school dent-athlete who wanted a camof education. pus soccer team with laying the “We are tasked with being repairers of the breach,” said Don groundwork for that. The field got Clevenger, who chairs Paul Quinn’s built, the team kicked off. That multiracial board of trustees. He student was its paid coach. was borrowing from the biblical So, Sorrell or his staffers, on any book of Isaiah. given day, might drop off “We over And Jeremy Thomas, who is slatMe” T-shirts at the same neighbored to graduate from Paul Quinn in hood post office where they helped KUDOS: Sorrell celebrates with an honors 2019, belted a gospel song: … He’s get the stray dogs rounded up. student on Founder's Day. gonna ful-fill e-ve-ry promise to you So, the We over Me Farm, on … Oh-oooh-ooo-oh … He’s able. what was an unused football field, The honchos from Toyota’s philanthropic arm who sat in the sells its organic produce and henhouse eggs to local restaufront row, the elders of a reinvigorated alumni association, stu- rants but also gives some to local food pantries and soup dents, and most everyone assembled took to their feet. kitchens. Sorrell clapped. He sang. He threw his head back in flat-out And so, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra does summer conworship. He testified. He all but preached. In his comments, certs on one of Paul Quinn’s lawns. “The college has to—has to—be visible to everyone,” says he did not forget that an infinitesimal number of people struck by sudden cardiac death live to tell about being revived. In Sorrell, noting that he is the only one among his college-edu2008, he did die of that. God raised him from the dead. How cated kin who didn’t attend an HBCU. “But everything I am is because of what HBCUs did for boundless must this miracle-working God be, Sorrell summarizes, without actually articulating that question. my people,” he says. “My being at Paul Quinn? This is about Days before, on the fifteen-minute drive back to Paul me saying thank you.” n Quinn from the downtown Dallas hotel where he had addressed those university administrators, trustees, fundraisers, Gray’s work has appeared in, among other print and online publiand influencers, Sorrell’s wife, Natalie Jenkins Sorrell, rang cations, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, through his Bluetooth: Would Trezeur Butler, the business Salon, The Sun magazine, and The Washington Post.

which will yield about

4,000

pounds of produce to sell to local restaurants and AT&T Stadium to support the college.

DUKE MAGAZINE

FALL 2017

51

Fall 2017 Issue v. 3  
Fall 2017 Issue v. 3  

Includes Duke Forward campaign insert