Not so very long ago it looked as though Paul Quinn College on Simpson Stuart Road might not be long for this world, following the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' decision to yank its accreditation. Appeals were made; lawsuits, filed. And the entire time, president Michael Sorrell stood firm, insisting there was no way he'd let the oldest liberal arts college for African Americans in Texas shutter: "It is not time to write Paul Quinn's obituary."
And he was right: The university whose slogan is "Greatness ... one step at a time" planted a celebrated urban garden where its football field once was, and Trammell S. Crow donated $1 million to raze abandoned buildings on the campus. And Sorrell began making efforts to recruit students of all colors to Paul Quinn, where, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal this morning, African American enrollment will drop from from 94 percent last year to 85 percent this year among the school's 200 students.
[Sorrell] says black colleges must stay committed to their historical mission as "beacons of light" for students who need resources and support. "My difference is, I just don't assign a race to that."
After being hired in 2007 to help solve the school's financial and accreditation problems, Mr. Sorrell told alumni that the campus would soon "look dramatically different," he says. "It doesn't mean that we've turned our backs" on the college's historical constituency. "It means we've expanded our mission and our definition of who will benefit," he says. No alumni have objected, he adds.
Part of his strategy is to recruit top students of all races to serve as campus leaders, by offering personal mentoring, full $20,000-a-year scholarships and a post-graduation job guarantee. Among these 20 hand-picked "presidential scholars," six have been white or Hispanic.
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