You’re never too old to go after your dreams!
Joseph M. Grant, a 70-year-old South Carolina native, earned his doctorate in political science from Howard University, Howard.edu reports.
Grant has accomplished several things over his life but decided to revisit some of his dreams as he got older. He said one of those dreams was to attend an HBCU. It took him years to figure out how to do it. Once he got the opportunity, he dropped everything, moving from South Carolina to Washington, D.C. to begin his doctoral studies at Howard University in 2015 at 65.
“I always wanted to go to Howard; literally all my life. This is my first HBCU experience. 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,” Grant explained.
Grant started his career as an association executive and lobbyist, working in politics and government. He was always intrigued by how Black people related to the political process and wanted to explore further the various motivations and thought processes behind the culture’s engagement in politics.
He enrolled in Howard, majoring in political science with an emphasis on American government and Black politics. He said he received the support of faculty members like the late Gary Harris, Ph.D., former dean of the Graduate School at Howard, and Elsie Scott, Ph.D., director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center. Grant was faring well in his studies, unaware of the challenges that would face him. Halfway through his doctoral program, he suffered a subdural hematoma, requiring him to take time off and delaying the process 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." Grant said. "It took a lot of effort, support, patience, and understanding from the Department of Political Science and the Howard University Graduate School."
His motivation to return to school was tied to the school’s investment in him. Grant said that he felt obligated to see his studies all the way through.
“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-world 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,” he said.
Now, Grant has completed his coursework and is set to graduate with the Class of 2021 he has a mission of helping “Black political leaders extend their involvement and influence in the public policy development arena.”
Ravi Perry, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Political Science, praised Grant and his work at Howard.
“Joseph Grant’s intellectual contributions in Black politics are already noteworthy, with a probing dissertation on Black South Carolina senators. That Dr. Grant is not a traditional Ph.D. student is a testament to one’s own truth and life of service, our Howard mission embodied within our life’s stories. Grant’s determination, his research acumen, and the efficiency with which he successfully matriculated through our rigorous graduate studies is a shining light for all of us to never ever give up on one’s dreams. Learning from the lifelong experiences of students like Dr. Grant enriches the teaching profession. The classroom is truly a community of co-learners,” Perry said.
Grant's accomplishment has already inspired thousands of people online after his son shared how proud he was of him.
My Pops doing his dissertation for his PhD from Howard at 70 years old pic.twitter.com/mNNRirw61l— Supervillain (@UncleRoss_) April 13, 2021
Grant hopes to use his degree to begin teaching at an HBCU. He hopes his story serves as motivation to remind people not to give up. He hopes that one day his two-year-old grandson will also attend the illustrious Howard University.
“I’m lobbying real hard for him to attend my HBCU. I’ve decided that when I put my dissertation in bind, I”m going to give it to him, Mason, with my autograph. I want him to know that his grandfather did it and that I completed my program at 70 after facing many challenges. I want him to be really motivated to come to Howard when it’s his time,” said Grant.
Congratulations, Dr. Grant!
Photo Courtesy of Howard University Newsroom