Founders' Day Ceremony to Honor Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell

Community is invited to the Thursday ceremony in Duke Chapel

Founders' Day honorees: Top, Michael Sorrell; bottom row, Karin Shapiro, Thomas Gorrie and Sally Robinson.
Founders' Day honorees: Top, Michael Sorrell; bottom row, Karin Shapiro, Thomas Gorrie and Sally Robinson.

Duke alumnus Michael Sorrell, who as president of Paul Quinn College has turned that historically black institution in Dallas “into an engine of social mobility,” will give the keynote address at the annual Founders’ Day Convocation Thursday, Sept. 27, in Duke Chapel.

A two-time Duke graduate with a master’s in public policy and a law degree, Sorrell has been awarded HBCU President of the Year three times for his contributions to higher education and to the Dallas community. He became president of Paul Quinn in 2007 and he immediately set to make the university an example of what he called “the new urban college model.” With a student population consisting mostly of lower-income students, the university offers a curriculum based on real-world job experience and outcomes. As president, Sorrell instituted a dress code, significantly cut tuition and turned the football field into a farm that is now providing food for students and the neighboring communities, which exist in food desert conditions. 

Sorrell has maintained ties with Duke: This past March, he spoke on a provost’s forum on free speech and civility on campus and recently instituted a program in which Duke alumni will serve as mentors to Paul Quinn students.  In addition to giving the keynote address, Sorrell will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Founders' Day celebrates the founding of the university and provides an opportunity each year for the school to reflect on its history and heritage, and recognize major contributions by students, faculty, administrators, employees and alumni. The event is free and open to the public.

The University Medal, presented for distinguished service to Duke, will be presented to Thomas Gorrie and Sally Robinson, who through their leadership on the Board of Trustees and other committees have helped shaped the course and future of Duke. The Medal is the university’s highest honor.

Gorrie served 12 years on the Board of Trustees. In addition he has been a prominent volunteer leader on the health side, including 19 years on the Duke Health Board of Visitors and 14 years on the Duke Health System Board of Directors. He also was instrumental in developing the Duke Global Health Institute, having served a decade on the institute’s board, including eight years as chair.

Robinson’s relationship with the university dates back to her childhood, when she attended football games in Wallace Wade Stadium. A university alumna with a major in history, Robinson has served on the Board of Trustees, led several trustee committees, and sat on the boards of programs such as the Robertson Scholars, the Center for Documentary Studies and DukeEngage.  Most recently, she served on President Vincent Price’s Commission on Memory and History, which provided recommendations for how the university should respond to issues related to campus memorials and facilities in a manner that best reflects the institution’s values.

Also to be honored during the ceremony is Karin Shapiro, associate professor of the practice in the Department of African and African American Studies, who will receive this year’s Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award. Shapiro teaches a range of courses on the histories of the American South and South Africa, with a focus on race and social justice. She was nominated by students, who praised her ability to evoke challenging discussions in her lectures and who connected modern events to the concepts and histories discussed in the class.