NASHVILLE, TN — At Wesleyan University’s 187th Commencement on May 26, 2019, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the historic Vanguard Class of 1969 and the founding of the African American Studies program at Wesleyan, Wesleyan presented an honorary degree to Edwin Sanders II. Some of the prior recipients of this distinguished honor included: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Barack Obama, Herb Kellelher (co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines) and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The Reverend Edwin C. Sanders II ’69 is the senior servant and founder of Metropolitan Interdenominational Church (established 1981) in Nashville, Tennessee. Metropolitan’s mission is to be “inclusive of all and alienating to none,” with outreach ministries for substance abuse, child advocacy, sexual violence, and harm reduction, and services to persons affected by HIV/AIDS.
An anthropology major while at Wesleyan, Rev. Sanders began his career as co director of Wesleyan’s African American Institute, later serving on Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees and receiving the University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2014. He pursued graduate studies at Yale’s and Vanderbilt’s divinity schools. In Nashville, he held positions as dean of the chapel and assistant professor of religious and philosophical studies at Fisk University, director of the Southern Prison Ministry, pastoral counselor for the Meharry Medical College Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program, and commissioner for the Tennessee Human Rights Commission.
Rev. Sanders has been a member of advisory committees and councils for the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations and has spoken at numerous international AIDS conferences. He formerly served on the Board of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and the Howard University School of Divinity Board of Visitors. Rev. Sanders is the founding chair and current ambassador of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network Legacy Project Advisory Group designed to increase the participation of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Pacific Islanders in HIV vaccine studies; and he serves on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Scientific Advisory Board and the Boards of National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Black AIDS Institute.