He started with a sixth grade education, and now he has his Ph.D.
Johnnie Jones, an 83-year-old Marine Corps veteran, dropped out of school not long after World War II to support his family in Picayune, Mississippi. This Friday, he’ll walk away from Louisiana State University with a doctorate in social work.
But he’s not stopping there. He told The Advocate he plans to continue his education. His next endeavor will be to start law school in fall 2019.
“One of the guys who climbed Mount Everest — I don’t remember his name — when someone asked him why did he do it, he said because the mountain was there,” Jones told the newspaper. “That’s pretty much my attitude toward knowledge. I’m pursuing it because it’s there.”
A lifelong learner, 83-year-old veteran Johnnie Jones will receive his Ph.D. from #LSU on Friday, and he has no plans of stopping his pursuit of knowledge.
— LSU (@LSU) December 11, 2018
At 18 years old, Jones joined the military in 1953. Not long after he entered the Marine Corps, he noticed enlistees with high school diplomas were getting better duties, so he attended night school and eventually graduated.
And during his two combat deployments in Vietnam, Jones enrolled in correspondence courses offered by LSU.
Jones, after returning to the U.S., earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii, and following his retirement from the military in 1973, attended LSU, where he graduated with a master’s degree in social work two years later.
In order to make ends meet, Jones had to put his education on hold. He began a lengthy career as a warden for the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women. He retired from that position in 2006.
After his second retirement, Jones became an assistant professor of criminal justice at Southern University in Baton Rouge, where he remains on faculty, and started working on his doctorate. Due to a serious health setback, Jones had to get a waiver allowing him to complete his studies in the required seven-year period.
So why is an 83-year-old veteran continuing his education? To Jones, “age is an artificial restraint.”
“Your behavior, your activities should be guided by your physical fitness and your mental fitness. If you’re mentally fit and physically fit, you should keep on pushing,” he said. “We’ve been so socialized to believe that once you hit a certain age, I’ve done my thing, so I’m going to sit back and enjoy life. OK, if that’s your thing, that’s your thing. But to me, age doesn’t mean that much. It’s whether or not I have the ability to be doing the things I need to be doing.”
Jones is just living out his life philosophy, one degree at a time.