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Paul Quinn Announces 150th Anniversary Commencement Speaker, Reverend Dr. Howard-John Wesley, Senior Pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church, Historic Surprises Planned for Graduating Class

Alfred Street Baptist Church to Surprise Graduating Students During Commencement That Will Make Lasting Impact for Students’ Future

Portraits of Michael Sorrell
Portraits of Michael Sorrell

WHAT: Paul Quinn College, the creator of the Urban Work College model and one of the most celebrated colleges in the country, announces Reverend Dr. Howard-John Wesley, Senior Pastor of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church as speakerfor its 150th anniversary commencement celebrations. During commencement, Alfred Street Baptist Church will make a first-of-its kind surprise announcement for the graduating class, which will impact students’ lives for years to come.  Ninety students will graduate from Paul Quinn this year. 

“I have known Dr. Wesley since our days together at Duke where we were fraternity brothers and friends. I am so excited to have him serve as our Commencement speaker. He is one of the leading voices in America and his church, Alfred Street, is one of the best models in the country for social activism from an African-American perspective, ” said Dr. Michael J. Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College. “The surprise that he will be announcing Saturday will once again prove all of this to be true.” 

Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley
Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley

Reverend Dr. Howard-John Wesley is the exciting, gifted, and anointed senior pastor of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church (ASBC) in Alexandria, Virginia. A courageous, dynamic, and visionary leader, he is the eighth pastor in the church’s 217-year history. Dr. Wesley is regarded as one of the most prolific and prophetic voices of justice and grace in our generation. His preaching became a favorite of former President and Mrs. Barack Obama who worshipped with their family at Alfred Street Baptist Church on several Easter Sundays. An empathetic pastor who is not afraid to take on social and political issues, Dr. Wesley led community protest marches against the New York grand jury’s 2014 decision not to indict an NYPD officer whose chokehold led to the death of Eric Garner. His sermon, “When the Verdict Hurts,” was acknowledged in Time magazine’s July 29, 2013 cover story, “After Trayvon” as one of the best sermons preached in the United States following the “not guilty” verdict in the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Three of Dr. Wesley’s sermons, “When the Verdict Hurts,” “A Rizpah Response” (and with the black hoody he donned while preaching this sermon), and “Tell Your Own Story,” have been archived in the faith-based collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Under Dr. Wesley’s extraordinary leadership, the Alfred Street Baptist Church has grown from 2,800 members to 10,000 members, 60,000 plus monthly online viewers and 80 active ministries with an emphasis on children’s ministries and missions.  


  • Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor, Alfred Street Baptist Church
  • Dr. Michael J. Sorrell, president, Paul Quinn College

WHEN: Saturday, May 7, at 8:00 a.m. CT

WHERE: Paul Quinn Campus, Richard Allen Chapel Lawn, 3837 Simpson Stuart Rd, Dallas, TX 75241 

*Must show proof of vaccination for entry; please arrive by 7:30 a.m. to ensure campus roads are accessible for media trucks. Security will direct you where to go upon arrival.


Paul Quinn College is a private, faith-based, four-year, liberal arts-inspired college that was founded on April 4, 1872, by a group of African Methodist Episcopal Church preachers in Austin, Texas. The school’s original purpose was to educate freed slaves and their offspring. Today, we proudly educate students of all races and socio-economic classes under the banner of our institutional ethos, WE over Me. Our mission is to provide a quality, faith-based education that addresses the academic, social, and Christian development of students. Under President Sorrell’s leadership, Paul Quinn has become one of the most innovative and respected small colleges in the nation and now serves as a model for urban higher education. Fortune magazine recognized President Sorrell’s work and the College’s transformation by naming him one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. President Sorrell is also a three-time award winner of HBCU Male President of the Year by HBCU Digest, was selected as 2018-2019 President of the Year by Education Dive and named by Time magazine as one of the “31 People Changing the South.” 

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