A Tale of Two Doctors
Joe Klis was born in Oak Lawn, the son of Polish immigrants, two late Cold War American Dreamers who emigrated in the eighties in search of opportunity. His twin brother, Thomas, came out five minutes before him.
“We’ve always been very competitive,” Klis said, “but it drives me forward and helps me to do well in my life. The way our parents raised us was to just put our best foot forward. Why try something and only give it half of your effort? Our parents gave us this amazing opportunity. To give anything less than 100% would dishonor that.”
On May 12, Joe—the first in his family to receive a degree period—donned the hood of a doctor. Earning his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Governors State University, he beat his twin to the title. Thomas will graduate with his Doctorate next spring in Ohio.
In Harvey, another doctoral candidate from GSU—Shaniqua Jones—lived her own experience. A mother of five, doubt propelled her journey. She faced obstacles that challenged her faith and her future, but like lemons to lemonade or water to wine, she took that uncertainty and made it her fuel.
“I’ve been through quite a bit, and I have learned what faith, hope, and resilience mean,” Jones said. “I know how to believe in myself, and I know that whatever I go through, I will overcome that obstacle.”
On the day of the hooding, Klis went through his day like any other. He ran some errands and studied. Jones worked her shift at the university, answering emails and fielding calls in the GSU Office of International Services and NPACE, the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education.
“I’m not really nervous,” Klis said. “I think that the full magnitude will hit me once I’m in my regalia.”
“I’m breathing easy right now. The work is done,” said Jones.
Jones and Klis are two of 69 candidates who received their hoods Thursday night, part of the largest doctoral class in GSU's history. Standing at a lectern in the Center for Performing Arts, GSU Board Chair Brian Mitchell spoke plaintively to the doctoral class.
“I cannot help but think about the many lives you will positively impact, the people you will help and the profound difference you will make. As educators and healers, you will improve the lives of many. Your actions can truly change the world,” Mitchell said.
Provost Deborah Bordelon took a moment to acknowledge the communal nature of learning, then placed the achievement in the recipients’ hands. “Your family and friends, your professors, mentors, and field supervisors all played a role in your achievements, but we all know that the success we celebrate today is all yours. Your accomplishments are the result of your dedication, hard work, and perseverance. You represent the best of Governors State University and we are proud of you.”
GSU President Elaine P. Maimon spoke of the symbolic aspect of hooding. “On Saturday, you will walk in the Commencement procession with your hoods already in place. Today, we devote a separate ceremony to the ritual of placing the hood on your shoulders, symbolizing the attainment of your doctoral degree. This ceremony is one of investiture… We, as holders of advanced degrees, invest in you the academic authority that we hold. By doing so, we celebrate the tradition of mentors passing on to students the authority of knowledge. We do so joyfully.”
College by college, the candidates proceeded to the stage. Their names were called, and professors—the mentors and guides to their academic journeys—placed the hoods over their heads and adjusted them on their shoulders. They entered as students and proceeded authorities. In the audience, family members applauded and dabbed at proud, stray tears.
At the reception, Klis beamed when a faculty member shook his hand. Jones posed with friends and mentors while her children watched. On Saturday, they and their classmates will walk across one more stage along with over 1,200 other GSU graduates, and the Class of 2016 will depart on their next journeys.