DALLAS — Chances are, Edward Johnson, Sr. broke away from his post in heaven, peeped through the clouds, then smiled at what had unfolded last weekend.
That’s because his baby girl, during a pre-graduation celebratory gathering that was comprised of a gallery of family members, friends and close acquaintances, was just days away from making some family history, of sorts.
“I think he would be so excited,” Vernice Johnson, during a telephone interview with Making Headline News Wednesday morning from Memphis, said of her late husband, when asked how she thought he would have reacted had he lived to witness the forthcoming graduation of their daughter, Gayle Johnson Morrow. “I think he would be beside himself to see his baby daughter.”
The youngest of 15 children, Morrow will be amongst a throng of candidates for diplomas when she earns her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resources during the University of Phoenix’s commencement exercises Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis.
For Morrow, while earning a college degree will come as virtually no surprise to anyone, considering the 1992 Memphis Northside High graduate was a fixture in making the honor roll “from Kindergarten through twelfth grade” according to her mother, such a milestone undoubtedly is a long time coming.
As Johnson explained, for years, her daughter — although her academic track record was such that she was equipped to adjust to and master college life — essentially had put off enrolling in college, in large part because she was often labeled a nerd for as long as she could recall.
Consequently, Dr. Rebecca Guy, a former University of Memphis professor and close friend to the Johnson family, often encouraged Morrow to strongly consider pursuing higher education because, according to Morrow’s mother, she had “all those brains.”
The rest, as they say, was history.
Years removed from having filled out an application and being granted admission, years removed having declared a major, years removed from having earned her first A, years removed from having endured sleepless nights to study for mid-term and final exams, Morrow is just a few days away from earning higher education’s most covenant prize — a college degree.
MORE ON UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX: https://www.phoenix.edu
“I thank God that she had a mind to go and to have the mind to go and be blessed,” Johnson, who turns 80 August 17, said. “Dr. Guy once said, ‘Gayle, you have all those brains and I don’t know why you won’t go to college.’ But I thank God that she had a mind to go after having two children.”
That Morrow and her siblings were raised in a mostly Christian-oriented environment where assigned responsibilities were strictly enforced has contributed mightily to her academic success, Johnson acknowledged.
As for the constant “nerd” name-calling that essentially delayed Morrow’s quest for adding a college degree to her notable academic resume, come Saturday morning when her name is uttered through the loudspeakers by the dean of her college, such trash talk will have become a distant memory.
Given the festive, exuberant turnout last weekend during Morrow’s pre-graduation celebration, it’s safe to assume it already has.
“She said, ‘I’m so sick of these children (calling me a nerd),’” Johnson said. “But she was tired of just being a high school graduate. She wants to make more money, and there were a lot of things she wasn’t qualified for. She knew she needed to go (to college). She was determined. She wouldn’t give up.”
That Morrow’s celebratory event took place on what would have been her father’s 91st birthday was another reason Johnson couldn’t fathom taking a rain check after an exhausting week in which she had attended church each night.
“I was so excited,” Johnson said. “I was so tired. But I couldn’t miss that event and miss my baby child, who made it through.”
If Morrow’s father was alive, chances are he would have echoed those sentiments, her mother said.
“He would have kind of wanted to stick his chest out,” Johnson said.
Considering what is about to take place on Saturday, that her father likely broke away from his post in heaven, peeped through the clouds, then smiled surely was the appropriate response toward his baby girl, who is on the brink of making some family history, of sorts.
MAKING HEADLINE NEWS SALUTE TO GAYLE JOHNSON MORROW:
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Andre Johnson is Founder and Publisher for Making Headline News. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism and a former reporter of sports for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.