An 83-year-old Marine Corps veteran who fought in Vietnam was slated to receive a doctorate in human ecology from Louisiana State University on Dec. 14.
Johnnie Jones, who studied at the university’s Department of Agriculture, said that people should work on being the best they can be, regardless of how old they are.
“Every person regardless of his station in life, or his or her limitations, should seek to be the best he or she can really be. And you spend your time living not thinking about dying. Death will take care of itself,” Jones said in an interview posted on the university’s website.
He plans to go to law school next and possibly medical school after that.
“I want to study law. I have no intention of being an attorney; I simply want to go to law school for the knowledge, and I’m sure there will be students in the class who think I’m nuts, but so what?” he said.
“I suppose if a medical school would accept me I would attend, I’m going to be a student as long as I have the mental and physical capability. When I expire, if you will, I’m sure I will be a student,” Jones said.
Jones was born in Mississippi and became a Marine when he was 18. He was deployed to Vietnam as a squad leader.
He said that he still keeps his body in shape and his mind sharp.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine. I still engage in physical activity. I work out Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, and those three days I do over a thousand push-ups, 300 jumping jacks and I run 3 miles each day, so 9 miles a week, I do that every week,” he said. “That’s my routine and I feel guilty when it rains and I don’t get a chance to do it.”
Jones took advantage of correspondence courses while in Vietnam and after finishing his deployment, earned a degree in sociology from the University of Hawaii.
Jones received a master’s degree in social work from Louisiana State University (LSU) in 1975 and was just nine hours short of getting his doctorate when he got a job offer from the Department of Corrections; he accepted and retired as the warden for a women’s prison 25 years later.
“Having a family and young children, I took the job and that’s how that turned out,” Jones said. “And as a consequence, I ran out the required seven-year time period that they give you to complete their doctorate. So I had to start all over again from scratch.”
After retiring, he started over but a serious health problem caused another setback just as he was about to receive the doctorate.
A professor intervened this time, helping Jones get an extension that allowed him to complete his dissertation without having to start over.
“My dissertation was about racism and religion and specifically the perceptions of racism and the stress that black families experience as a result, and how religion serves as a coping strategy,” he said.
Jones said other students enjoyed having him in class, and that many of them were amazed that he was there.