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Rev. Joe R. Gant, Jr., Reflects on His Time at LSUS and How It Gave Him His Foundation

July 27, 2017

When it comes to the life changing impact LSUS has on its students, alumnus Rev. Joe R. Gant Jr. is grateful for his experience at the university. Rev. Gant’s educational journey began in the 1970s when desegregation began taking place. As an African-American student attending a predominately white university, he was faced with a culture shock.

“I’d never been in a white environment educationally before. So, when I made the choice to go to LSUS it was a culture shock for me. I never had any white teachers, I never sat in a classroom with whites,” Rev. Gant said. He recalls the school having a small population of black students. During this time black and white students would gather in the snack shack to mingle, which is now the radio station. He describes his experience as being a learning lesson that gave him his foundation.

“It gave me my foundation. It also opened doors for me because it allowed me to meet people in other parts of society that I would not have met. It also helped me to see things differently. Not through color, but because of the experience I had,” Rev. Gant said.

Rev. Joe GantFormer Chancellor Dr. Vincent J. Marsala is someone he describes as being very open and welcoming. He also stated his appreciation for Dr. George Kemp, former LSUS psychology department chair. “I think he is a tremendous guy and I think he was good at making me feel comfortable,” Rev. Gant said. While attending LSUS, he focused on his interest in sociology and psychology. “I was called to preach when I was 12 years old, and I knew that I would be doing something in ministry. Since I knew I would be doing something in ministry I knew that would give me the foundation I needed,” Rev. Gant said.

In 1968, Rev. Gant graduated from Union High School among a class of 180 students where he was number six in his class. However, his college journey was not easy. Rev. Gant flunked out of college, but it would turn out to be a learning experience. “When I went to LSUS, and especially in the English course classes, I’d get my paper back and it’d be red. I think some of the grading could have been different. I don’t use that as a crunch. I flunked out. Best thing that ever happened to me,” Rev. Gant said. It was shortly after that Rev. Gant was drafted into the military for 19 months.

While serving in the military he had the opportunity to gain interaction with a variety of racial groups and served in Germany. Serving in Germany granted him international exposure. After his time in the military he chose to continue his education at LSUS. He recalls the environment changing between the time he left and returned. Upon his return one of his focuses was making a difference.

“The one thing that I found when I was in the military was if you want to cause change the best way to do it is from the inside. So what I did when I got back to LSUS was I got involved in the SGA and other activities where I interacted with other students. It caused them to know Joe Gant, who Joe Gant really was. Not because of the color of my skin, but because of the person. It allowed me to know them,” Rev. Gant said. He was elected representative of his class and served two years as Student Government Association representative. During his time in SGA the students were fighting for more facilities and student activities. “Where there’s a problem, you define the problem and you work on a solution.”

After obtaining his Bachelor of Psychology, he went on to pursue his calling in ministry. Rev. Gant has been a pastor in Shreveport for 43 years at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. With so many years of preaching under his belt he is on his way to becoming senior pastor in Shreveport. Rev. Gant currently spends his time staying involved in the community. He also serves as the chairman of Southern University at Shreveport’s Board of Supervisors where he is the only person to have served as chairman three times. Serving as chairman is important to him due to his deep belief in historically black colleges and universities and he believes there is still a need for them. “HBCUs were always intended for those kids who were falling through the cracks,” Rev. Gant said.

Rev. Gant has much appreciation for Chancellor Larry Clark and his willingness to bring together Southern University and LSUS. “I’m thankful for the new chancellor. I think he’s doing a tremendous job. I think he’s going to make a big difference. One of the first things he did when he came here was visit southern and he said to our chancellor that we’ve got to work together.” To see universities come together within the Shreveport community is one of Rev. Gant’s desires. One of the ways that LSUS and Southern work together are through the SUSLA at LSUS program.

Rev. Gant is the first to obtain a college degree in his family, and believes LSUS showed him a new perspective. “It allowed me to look at the humanity of people, and realize God create all of us as one. If we are going to live on planet earth together we’ve got to appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Rev. Gant said. Not only did he learn the humanity of people, but he realized the importance of education at LSUS. In his spare time he enjoys preaching on street corners and positively impacting others’ lives.

He is heavily involved within the Shreveport community. He is an advocate for getting involved in problems that you want to see fixed. His biggest focus is on mentoring young men through Kingdom Men, his local mentoring. He wants to teach them to set long-term goals and not settle for mediocrity, as well as learning the cost of something versus the value.

“You don’t see me in the foreground as much. I’m more in the background now because I try to push. I’m more of a mentor,” Rev. Gant said. He is a strong believer in empowering others. Instead of giving others a hand down, he wants to lift them and give them hand up.

Whether it’s mentoring or preaching, he wants to pass on his wisdom and leadership skills. “I think there comes a point in life where you have to realize where you are and a great leader always prepares somebody to continue to lead when they’re gone. You shouldn’t want to stay in a leadership role until you die and you should welcome other people when they are coming along,” Rev. Gant said.

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