83-year-old Johnnie W. Jones Receives PhD in December 2018

Living the American Dream: A Timeline of a Heart Tailored to Community, Perseverance and Dedication

November 6, 2018

Jones, I am transformative artwork

Dr. Johnnie W. Jones following an interview regarding his doctorate degree on October 2, 2018.

Baton Rouge, La. -- A war veteran. A scholar. A grandfather. Born and raised in Picayune, Mississippi in the year of 1935, Dr. Johnnie W. Jones is an African American man raised in a different era, which drove him to a 65-year journey as a student. In August 2018, at the age of 83, Dr. Jones accomplished yet another significant milestone in his life, by successfully defending his dissertation for his doctorate degree.

Dr. Jones entered the Marine Corps. in 1953 at 18 years old with a sixth grade education.  His decision to enroll in night classes stemmed from seeing each Marine with a high school diploma receive a promotion.  Johnnie first fell in love with LSU while he was taking correspondence courses during the Vietnam War.  He laughed while saying, “I did two tours and kept my head down and nose in the books,” all while steadily working on the courses, in the jungle, in active combat zone.  In 1972, he returned to the states and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Hawaii. Following his completion of service and discharge from the Marine Corp in 1973, his love of LSU was still burning and it drove him to leave Hawaii and move to Louisiana.  He completed his Master of Social Work in 1975 and began to pursue his PhD in Human Ecology.  He nearly completed it (9 hrs. short), when he was offered a position with the Louisiana Correction Institute (LCI).  At this time, he was supporting a family and working as a dishwasher at the Ground Patty. Duty called once more and he left his studies and job for a career in the prison system. 

Upon his retirement at the Warden from LCI in 2008, Jones returned to LSU to his PhD studies, this time in Human Ecology.  Again, Johnnie was close to earning his PhD this time he was set back by a serious medical condition.  He was encouraged to not quit pursuing his PhD and the university granted him a waiver to complete.  He needed the waiver since the seven years required to achieve a PhD had expired.  He received the waiver and continued. When asked what his main goal was for pursuing such rigorous degree at 83, Jones was quick to respond with, “Once I start something, I want to finish it.” Dr. Cassandra Chaney said this about him, “Johnnie Jones is resilience personified.”

Dr. Jones had an interesting, long and rich journey as an LSU Tiger. His doctoral dissertation titled “Religion, Racism, and Ecological Stress among African-American Families: A Qualitative Analysis of Perceptions and Coping Strategies” is a topic that holds close to his core. The adversity and history that Jones had witnessed shaped his very being.  As a young man, Johnnie had his own bias.  Then serving in the Marine Corp. with men who are willing to lay their life down for you and you for them, no matter what, transcended lines of racial differences.  This is what began to drive Dr. Jones to learn how life experience can change people. Starting in childhood to the marines and then college student, Jones always defended family structure and the impact of that structure on an individual and how they thrive in American society.

One would think that Dr. Jones might appear he would like to take a well-deserved break from education; Jones has already begun the admissions process for LSU Law School at 83. Dr. Chaney, said, “Johnnie is a testament to not allowing difficult circumstances in one's life to keep one from pressing forward or altering one's worldview, when new information challenges that previously-held view. Unfortunately, many people allow themselves to drift into a life of complacency and stagnation. They become comfortable, and while they may not realize it, over time, this comfort becomes a crutch that keeps individuals from reaching their greatest potential. Dr. Jones approaches each day with a sense of wonder, challenges himself, and makes the conscious and deliberate effort to attain his goals. Dr. Jones's resilience is a testament to who he is as a person and he is a sterling example of the strength that an LSU Tiger embodies!”

Scheduled for December 14, 2018, Dr. Johnnie W. Jones will walk across the stage to receive his PhD in Human Ecology surrounded by his family, friends, and supportive team of classmates and colleagues who helped make this journey a rich and memorable experience.  Johnnie plans to remain a student and thinks that the ultimate goal will be completing his Juris Doctor at which time he will have made it to the top of the mountain.  The top of the mountain comes with a great view.  Dr. Jones' lifelong commitment to the pursuit of education, understanding humanity, and the ability to change shows that if you have determination, an open mind, and willingness to change you can achieve anything.


About SSW
The LSU School of Social Work (SSW) aspires to be a leading school of social work, a vibrant center of intellectual development, a leader in promoting and supporting diverse communities, and an advocate for an integrated and inclusive model of social work, all within a learning environment that supports best educational practices. The SSW offers a Child and Family Studies (CFS) undergraduate degree, MSW, online MSW, and PhD. In fall 2018, the school is launching a bachelor of social work degree program. SSW is part of the College of Human Sciences & Education.  

Visit the School of Social Work at lsu.edu/chse/socialwork


About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. The college is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, the School of Information Studies, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs, 18 graduate programs, and 7 online graduate degree and/or certificate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,120 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is committed to improving quality of life across the lifespan.

Visit the College of Human Sciences & Education at lsu.edu/chse

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