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A long-time coming: Wiley College president set to graduate from JSU’s executive doctoral program, continues to beat odds

An ice-cold Coke is what Herman James Felton Jr. wants after he graduates from Jackson State University’s Executive Doctoral Program on Friday, Dec. 7. “I stopped drinking Cokes a while ago, but I am going to get a very cold Coca-Cola after I walk across that stage,” says the president of Wiley College from his office in Marshall, Texas.

It has been an arduous, challenging and triumphant journey for the Jacksonville, Florida, native. One could say that statistically Felton was never supposed to make it out of Jacksonville, obtain a doctorate or become one of the youngest presidents of an HBCU for that matter.

A product of poverty, he was the third child born to a 17-year-old mother. Felton shared that his grandmother died when his mother was 13, and his grandfather, a Navy and World War II veteran, was left irretrievably broken.