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Posted under: News

70-Year-Old Earns Ph.D. In Political Science From Howard University, The School He Wanted To Attend 'All My Life'

Joseph M. Grant, Ph.D., began his doctorate program at 65 years old.

A 70-year-old has proven dreams don't have an age limit after graduating from Howard University with a Ph.D. in political science. 

Joseph M. Grant, who's been studying American government and Black politics, completed his life-long ambition to earn an education at an HBCU this graduation season, Howard Newsroom reported

“I always wanted to go to Howard; literally all my life,” Grant said. 

With experience working in politics and government, Grant wanted to learn more about how Black people and Black culture engaged with the political processes, Because Of Them We Can reported. Now his goal is to help Black political leaders in the public policy arena.  

In an April 29 Facebook post, the university gave a shout out to the Class of 2021 grad for his hard work.

Ravi Perry, Ph.D., the Department of Political Science Chair also delighted in Grant’s long time coming achievement. According to Howard Newsroom he said he admired Grant’s desire to go back to the classroom and learn. 

“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,” Perry said. “Learning from the lifelong experiences of students like Dr. Grant enriches the teaching profession.”

Initially, Grant taught four years at a South Carolina community college. It was there that he was inspired to enact change.

“What [my students] had in common was being intimidated by government and their lack of knowledge about how to navigate the system,” Grant said. “So, I was able to connect with a lot of my students and help them resolve issues that involve government by helping them understand it. That was rewarding!”

However, the South Carolina native recalled his earlier years living through segregation and what it took for him to get a higher education. 

“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,” Grant said.

Grant first started his doctorate journey in 2015 at the age of 65. According to Because Of Them We Can, he immediately moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue his degree. He said he received the support early from faculty members including the former dean of the Graduate School at Howard, Gary Harris, Ph.D., and the director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center, Elsie Scott, Ph.D.

“God just worked it out,” Grant said of giving up everything in South Carolina.   

But a medical shock caused him to delay the program for two years. He had to relearn how to perform certain tasks and became slower at comprehending material, according to Howard Newsroom. 

“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."   

Grant now hopes to serve as a motivation for others, Howard News reported. He also hopes his grandchild will attend Howard, too.

“I was determined [as I got older] that when my children were in college, they would go to an HBCU,” he said. “I want him to know that his grandfather did it and that I completed my program at 70 after facing many challenges.”
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Danyella Wilder is a freelance writer and reporter currently based in Southern CA. She is a recent graduate of the Medill School of Journalism M.S. program at Northwestern University where she focused on magazine and feature writing. Danyella has a passion for writing about culture and uses her free time to engage in sustainable living practices.