By Makayla O’Connor
The 2020-2021 school year is quickly coming to an end with the feeling that it just began lingering in the air. With that means retirement is quickly approaching for Flagler College President, Dr. Joseph Joyner, who reflects on the ups and downs of his past four years at Flagler.
Dr. Joyner has been working in the education department for 41 years starting as a teacher, then a principal in Orlando, then moving to Superintendent of St. Johns County School District. It has always been a passion of his to provide a great education for students, so they have the most opportunities to succeed in life.
Flagler College President was not something that Dr. Joyner was offered but rather found. He was asked to be a trustee at Flagler College and fell in love with the school.
“I almost feel like Flagler chose me because I became so attracted to what was going on here and didn’t really have any plans and felt like I had the energy and passion to continue to do work in education,” Dr. Joyner said. “I had been a trustee for about 3 years and fell in love with the core values, the students, and the atmosphere and decided to apply for President. I was fortunate enough to be chosen. I loved seeing the Flagler family and how it all works, and it made me very passionate about this job.”
Dr. Joyner attended FSU for his undergrad and UCF for his masters and doctorate which are two huge schools, almost opposite of Flagler College, but that is what caught his attention.
“I was made aware of the power of a small college environment and how you can impact student’s lives much more directly and positively in this type of environment. I really had gained an appreciation for the smallness and how important it was,” Dr. Joyner said.
Flagler College having about 2,500 students enrolled makes it easier to build relationships with everyone. Dr. Joyner appreciates the relationships he has been able to create with the students.
“Being a superintendent, I was overseeing 40,000 students which made it hard to really build relationships with them. Here I get to watch students perform and display their talents. One of my greatest joys is the honors day assembly. There are posters and projects there and I am able to interact with students a lot. Whether it be getting on the mechanical gator at destress day in front of my students or watching people perform it is so much easier to walk out the door and interact with students, which I love,” Dr. Joyner said.
Even with years of experience it is never easy being in charge of any school. Higher education environments are very similar to K-12, but there is more to learn. Dr. Joyner had to get used to overseeing residence life as well as fundraising, especially at a small private school in a public environment.
“I had experience in curriculum instruction, teaching and learning and HR and all the facilities but there was a little more I had to get used to. The differences in higher education were a steep learning curve for me, but it didn’t take long to get a sense for that. I hadn’t been back to college since I was in college, so it took a moment to get used to everything,” Dr. Joyner said.
Running a college is challenging enough; COVID-19 hasn’t made that job easier.
“COVID-19 challenged me in a number of ways. As president, one of the biggest challenges is keeping everyone positive and hopeful, trying to keep the morale up. It was a dark time for a lot of people physically and mentally when COVID first hit. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to stay open safely,” Dr. Joyner said. “I think the team here has done a remarkable job, because you know for instance, this spring we are 80% face-to-face and you don’t see that everywhere. COVID hit us financially pretty hard so the challenge of staying open physically was huge. At a private school, it is important everything stays open because it has a severe impact, if everything is shutting down. We needed to make sure incoming students were able to come and have housing and students who needed housing were still able to have that opportunity to keep students coming back.”
Flagler College has been lucky enough to function as similarly to before COVID. Dr. Joyner has made sure to give students the best college experience possible with the circumstances given. COVID-19 has lasted over a year and a half of his four years with Flagler and he has still managed to make the most of it.
Four years of memories, whether happy, sad or funny, Dr. Joyner has been given four years of memories with Flagler College and has given Flagler College four years of great memories in return. Dr. Joyner is most proud of his family, being a husband, dad and grandfather.
“These jobs I have had, take a lot out of you and your family. I love my wife and it is time for me to give back. She has been a great supporter and teacher, but I want to return to my family. I have been an administrator for 37 years and these last four years at Flagler College have been the most fulfilling, but I am ready to ride off in the sunset and spend time with my family,” Dr. Joyner said.
Dr. Joyner leaves Flagler College with some few last words.
“My hope for Flagler is that we do not stop making progress, I hope we continue to implement our strategic plan for the future. I really care for this school and I want the best for it. I am going to miss the students, the people, the energy, the enthusiasm and the challenges. I will miss the students more than anything and I mean that sincerely. This is what energizes me, and I will miss not having that every day,” Dr. Joyner said.