Bill Cosby Will Deliver the Commencement Address at Paul Quinn College (Updated)

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Six years ago, wooing a high-profile commencement speaker was the last thing on Paul Quinn College's to-do list. The southern Dallas school, the city's only historically black college, was in disrepair, physically and academically, after years of mismanagement. With its accreditation set to be revoked, the entire institution was about to collapse.

What happened next was detailed in Greg Howard's cover story last year. The Cliff Notes version is that Michael Sorrell, a Chicago-born, Duke-trained lawyer, took the job as president and set about resurrecting the school.

His approach was unconventional, a self-conscious effort to jolt the school's mostly black and Hispanic students out of an educational malaise. That's why he turned the football field into a working farm, banned pork from campus, and helped organized protests against the city's plan to dump trash nearby.

It's seemingly been successful. Paul Quinn is not only alive but growing, and thriving enough to start looking for a big-name commencement speaker. A widely admired comedian, maybe, one who also happens to have a PhD in education to go with a reputation of speaking frankly of the need for young black people to take responsibility for their future. And that's exactly who Paul Quinn found.

This will be Cosby's second visit to Dallas in recent months. He had a stand-up show at the Winspear in June featuring his typical mix of jokes and storytelling. Expect fewer jokes at his Paul Quinn speech, with a heavier dose of his message that an urban culture that devalues education has a corrosive effect on young people.

Paul Quinn's commencement is at 10 a.m. on May 4 on the Allen Chapel Lawn.

Update at 11:35 a.m.: Tickets will be available to the public, according to a just-dispatched press release from the school:

Paul Quinn College is opening the doors of the commencement ceremony to welcome members of the Dallas community to attend. However, the college will require all guests to have a ticket. Tickets are free and will be available for pick up from noon to 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 30 through Thursday, May 2, in the Paul Quinn College Business Office, Room 219 in the John Hurst Adams Building of the campus. Each guest will be limited to obtaining a maximum of five tickets per visit to the Business Office. For more information regarding tickets, please call 214-379-5560.

Update at 3:29 p.m.: We got in touch with Sorrell this afternoon, who explains how such a small college was able to land such a big commencement speaker.

"We are very fortunate in terms of the relationships we have," Sorrell says. "I met him several years ago at a very small event convened by some folks about what we do in terms of educating African American males." They were put back in touch last year, which is when Sorrell asked about the commencement. Cosby called last week to confirm.

Students are "inching themselves. They're incredibly excited. but our students have begun to expect the unexpected. They know they are part of a school that is challenging the way things are done."

As someone who is deeply committed to creating positive change and unafraid to speak his mind, Cosby embodies the spirit that has reinvigorated Paul Quinn, Sorrell says. And while the school had a backup plan if Cosby couldn't attend, they're happy to have him.

"We're blessed that we have some great friends in the community that are also wonderful speakers, we would have been fine but this is a bit of a game changer, right?

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30 comments
warden62
warden62

A simple google search would have yielded clarification that Bill Cosby has an Ed.D., not a Ph.D.

Shamelessbrewer
Shamelessbrewer

That is great for PQC.  I'm happy for them.  Keep the momentum going.

sreerammynam
sreerammynam

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manpanties
manpanties

how did banning pork make the school better?

mcdallas
mcdallas topcommenter

I'm thinking of setting up a table to sell 80's-style sweaters.  Anyone want to pre-order?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Will there be pudding?

Everyone likes pudding! 

Dave Ybanez
Dave Ybanez

Banned pork?! Ha! Yeah. That's the problem with students today. Attention DISD! Ban the pig!

GuitarPlayer
GuitarPlayer

Bill Cosby hates the way Urban Blacks speak? He must have forgotten this little cartoon he wrote and starred in called "Fat Albert". Give it up Bill.

Scott W. Hatfield
Scott W. Hatfield

this would be worth doing a live stream to make it available to even more interested parties that might not be able to go to the Campus for the address.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@manpanties Have you ever eaten pig intestines?

Banning them could only do good.

russell.allison1
russell.allison1

@mcdallas If you manage to get hold of any Alexander Julian color block sweaters, count me in.  Can't find those anywhere.  The Coogi sweaters he wore, they're a dime-a-dozen on Ebay. 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@GuitarPlayer Where does it say that in the story?  I see where Bill Cosby thinks urban blacks should take responsibility for their own future, and his belief that an urban culture that devalues education has a devastating effect on young blacks.

nathan_mclain
nathan_mclain

@GuitarPlayer You meant the same Fat Albert where the characters all spoke well and the same Fat Albert that was educational and had a positive message?  Perhaps you should actually watch Fat Albert again (if you ever did) and you'll see that your comment is very misguided.  Seems like you're trying to stereotype, when your comment actually makes you look like the stereotype.

GuitarPlayer
GuitarPlayer

@RTGolden1  

Were was Bill in the 70's, 80's and 90's? 

And when will Jeff Foxworthy come out about those in the rural White communities who devalue education? Stupid rednecks are everywhere and most of them are on meth..


jada5876
jada5876

@nathan_mclain @GuitarPlayer not sure what Fat albert YOU were watching, truth is most were illiterate or had speech impediments, I used to admire and respect The Cos, until his condescending nature and arrogant attitude took over...how dare he call anyone buffoonish the way Dr Huxtable shucked and jived for the masses, that was hypocritical,  his opinion of whats wrong with us was on point but the delivery was not...preaching to the choir for many and too arrogant for the ones that actually need to hear it, I hope his speech is a success, I hope Dallas is happy with it...


GuitarPlayer
GuitarPlayer

@nathan_mclain

"You meant the same Fat Albert where the characters all spoke well...."

Before you post and look like an utter ass, do some research.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@GuitarPlayer @RTGolden1 

Have you ever even watched "Fat Albert"? That was Bill Cosby in the 70's preaching social responsibility through the medium of cartoons. He also wrote several books about family and responsibility, albeit humorous in nature, during the late 70's and early 80's. (between making horrible movies) Then, of course, there was the Cosby Show, which, whether you agree or not with his premise, was a show that portrayed for the world a different view of what it was to be black in modern America during that era.

He's been there all along, saying pretty much the same thing that he is saying now.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@GuitarPlayer @RTGolden1 The world is full of stupid people that think they're cool for being stupid.

Luckily, there's a steady supply of decent red wine available to keep me company as I stay inside making snide remarks about idiots on the intertubes.

rubbercow
rubbercow

Rerun said it also, just with a different inflection.

Daniel
Daniel

@GuitarPlayer @nathan_mclain There was the one character who suffered from some kind of speech impediment and covered his face entirely with a ski cap -- presumably from embarrassment, though I never really got that, since covering your face would do little to hide  a speech impediment. Maybe he also was as ugly as the Elephant-be Man-be.

Other than that, the characters spoke standard, though not entirely unaccented, American English. 

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