From Special Needs Student to PhD – Got 99 Things You Can Call Him, but Dumb Ain’t One of Them

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From Special Needs Student to PhD – Got 99 Things You Can Call Him, but Dumb Ain’t One of Them – Assume for a moment you were placed in a learning environment that bombarded you with biases that slowly and methodically destroyed your interest for learning.  What would you do?  What do you do when teachers tell you it’s your fault that you can’t complete your homework, have a rotten attitude, have a learning disability, and can’t spell your name?  Do you fight on? Or do you succumb to the the “Drop- off Syndrome?”  Studies show that by the fourth grade many black boys have already fallen behind in the classroom and had it not been for sheer drive and a sincere passion for learning, Dr. Joseph  Handsome would have fallen behind along with many other black males.

Joseph Handsome was born in rural, GA and was the youngest of seven siblings. At an early age, Joseph wanted to excel in his studies, but struggled. During one exercise, one of his teachers stated he would be taken out of the special needs groups if he could spell the word by or was it bye or was it buy or was it bi? After the teacher used the word in the sentence, Joe spelled the word bye. Unfortunately it was wrong. Despite struggling during his early years, Joe flourished as a student and an athlete.

Before High School, he had been a Scholastic All American, A member of Who’s Who, a member of the Beta Club, the math team, the captain of the basketball team and the captain of the football team. However, his real passion was knowledge. During high school, Joe had an exceptional basketball career leading the state in scoring during his senior season. This netted him a full scholarship at Albany State University. While attending Albany State University, Joe realized his passion wasn’t basketball. His passion was the pursuit of knowledge. After a lackluster two years at Albany State University and sores from warming the bench for a few games, Joe transferred to Valdosta State where he excelled as a student making the dean’s list for 6 straight quarters. After graduating from Valdosta State, Joe moved to Maryland.

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Now, he was truly a country boy in the big city. His first task was teaching in a Washington D.C. suburb. His assignment was teaching 3rd grade at John E. Howard in Capital Heights, MD.  Joe’s southern heritage allowed him to flourish as a disciplinarian and a solid teacher. After a year of teaching, Joe decided to ride the technology bubble that was building at the time. He completed certification courses, got certified, and applied for several jobs eventually landing at AT&T as an associate NT Administrator.

After one year as an Associate, Joe was the manager of the entire department. Joe eventually went back to school and earned his Master’s in Computer Information Systems and PhD in Management Information Systems from Walden University. Currently he is a Sr. Technical Director at AT&T, managing a global team. In his spare time, Joe is also a private pilot. He received his pilot’s license in 2014 during a white knuckle storm and is currently building an experimental airplane in his garage. His motto is “to be a lifelong learner and forever a student of life”.


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