As a native of South Carolina, Joseph M. Grant recalls the memory of living through segregation and surviving to thrive throughout his higher education journey and career. Now, at age 70, he is proud to be graduating from Howard University as part of the Class of 2021 with his doctorate in political science with a focus on American government and Black politics.
“I always wanted to go to Howard; literally all my life. This is my first HBCU experience,” said Grant, who always wanted to study political science and teach. “When I graduated high school, there was a big move to integrate, and because they needed Black students and I needed the money, it was an easy decision to go to those schools. I was determined [as I got older] that when my children were in college, they would go to an HBCU.”
He began his doctoral journey in 2015, when he was 65 years old, with some initial hesitation. Eventually, he took the leap, gave up everything and moved from South Carolina to Washington, D.C. “God just worked it out,” said Grant. He received ongoing support from the late Gary Harris, Ph.D., the former dean of the Graduate School at Howard University; Elsie Scott, Ph.D., the director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center; and his younger classmates. Midway through his coursework, he endured a subdural hematoma, requiring him to take time off which delayed his studies by two years.
“After the surgery, my ability to read and comprehend was much less than it was before the surgery. I had to learn to hold a knife and fork and I had major confusion and memory loss. I could not comprehend what I read, nor understand its importance to what I was trying to do. My surgery altered my course of study, and seriously threatened my ability to complete my program. I almost died. It took a lot of effort, support, patience and understanding from the Department of Political Science and the Howard University Graduate School to allow me to recover and get to the point where I could function at a level worthy of the scholarly research that was expected and that I wanted desperately to deliver. I was determined to do that,” said Grant. “The school had invested in me, and provided scholarship money to me that they could have given to a lot of younger students. [I think] they appreciated the real word experiences that I could share with my classmates and the skills that I had. They realized I was a serious student, so they invested in me, and I felt obligated to honor that investment and not let it be wasted when it clearly could have gone to somebody else.”
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SOURCE: Howard University, Imani Pope-Johns