Never let it be said that Dorian Joyner Sr. doesn’t set a good educational example for his three sons.
And son Dorian Joyner Jr. could very well be the model for how young people embrace their parents’ interests. Let’s face it: Not many students would relish bumping into their father on campus.
Though Joyner Sr. first enrolled at Morehouse College in 1984, work and raising a family interrupted his pursuit of a four-year degree. On Sunday, he received his religion degree alongside his oldest son, who earned an English degree.
“At first it was a little shaky,” said Joyner Jr. “When I saw him on campus, he was communicating well with students of my age and it felt natural. It was actually neat.”
The Joyners’ tenure at Morehouse was not without interesting moments.
“When I first saw Dorian Sr.’s name on my roster, I thought, ‘Why is he back? He easily passed my class,’” said biology professor Elisabeth Javazon. “Then I didn’t see [Dorian Jr.] in class and saw he had signed the attendance sheet. So I called out his name and saw that he wasn’t the person I was thinking of and told him I had previously had another Dorian Joyner in my class. That’s when he told me it was his son.”
When Joyner Sr., 46, first arrived on Morehouse’s campus, he was one of the first students to have a computer. He set up a typing service and made about $22,500 typing papers for students and teachers.
“Back then everyone had typewriters and they had to use Wite-Out. I was typing 110 words a minute. I had an Apple 2E,” he recalls.
“I just came to school to learn about people, not to get a job but to learn and enrich myself,” he said. “I always knew I could get a job or be an entrepreneur.”
A Lithonia resident originally from Roosevelt, N.Y., Joyner Sr. works as a data and finance analyst. He previously worked for King & Spalding, which got him interested in the legal field. In 2007, he received his associate degree in paralegal studies. Now that he’s done with Morehouse, he plans to attend law school and begin work on an MBA.
He and his wife Angela have two other sons: Jamil, who will attend Morehouse on scholarship this fall, and Gabriel, who attends Warren Tech where he is studying culinary arts. Jamil, a graduate of Chamblee High School, wants to become a doctor. After a tour in the Peace Corps., Joyner Jr. plans to attend film school.
“I didn’t force [Jamil] to go to Morehouse, he chose Morehouse,” said Joyner Sr.
While on campus for two years, father and son would pass each other and exchange greetings. Joyner Jr. advised his father on which professors to take and they engaged in several hearty debates about free will and predestination.
Kipton Jensen, the Joyners’ philosophy professor, said: “It makes me smile to imagine them discussing philosophy during their shared morning commute to Morehouse over the past few years, as a sustained intergenerational yet familial conversation, animated by a shared set of ideas and metaphors or theories as well as a shared life.”
Said Joyner Sr.:“I had high expectations I had to meet because he had set a good example [on campus].”
Joyner Sr. met those expectations and then some, said Javazon, the biology professor.
“As the semester went on, I got to know Dorian Sr. a little better and it quickly became apparent that he is an amazing man,” she said. “In addition to attending school full time, he had a full-time job that required a lot of travel. He had a family that did not only consist of his biological children but also an extended family of daughters that he ‘adopted’ years ago.
“He excelled in my course and I have no doubt he will continue to do so in law school.”
And which of the Joyner men finished with the highest grade point average?
“He carried a full load, 19 hours. I think I may have edged him out,” said Joyner Sr. “We didn’t even look. I know I was keeping up with mine.”
Joyner Jr. can’t say enough about his father’s efforts to finish the degree he started nearly 30 years ago.
“A lot of people have asked me what I learned from him and what he learned from me,” said Joyner Jr. “He learned to be more disciplined. I learned from him perseverance. He sacrificed his time to work and go to school … to get a degree and maintain.”