Contributed by Director of Editorial Services Ken Arnold
Anthony Dozier could have just given up. He had plenty of reasons.
As a teenager in the early 1970s, Dozier was among the first group of black students in Wichita to be bused from their neighborhoods to predominantly white schools in an effort to integrate the public school system. He was sent first to Truesdell Intermediate (now Middle) School, then to Wichita South High School, both of which were, in Dozier’s words, “turbulent, violent” areas of racial unrest. He eventually transferred to Wichita North because, as he put it, “I was not learning. There were too many distractions.”
Then, when Dozier was a sophomore, his parents divorced. Dozier and a younger brother stayed with their father, who after about six months abandoned the boys. Dozier and his brother lived in the house about seven more months, trying to fend for themselves and stay in school. Ultimately, the utilities were shut off for lack of payment and the brothers had to leave.
Although they were fortunate to be taken in by a local family, Dozier continued to struggle. Because he didn’t have a reliable way to get to school, he was tardy so often the administrators at North were on the verge of expelling him. With all the transitions and turbulence in his life, Dozier was also living his experience at South High all over again. He wasn’t learning anything in school.
Yet Anthony Dozier didn’t give up. Through sheer will and effort, he graduated from high school. Since that time, he has married and raised two daughters. He has become active in his church and worked hard at his job. He joined an organization designed to provide positive black male role models to Wichita adolescent and teenage boys. And in the year 2000, he went back to school part-time to work on a degree in business administration.
On May 10, more than three decades after graduating from high school, Dozier was among the 349 candidates for graduation who took part in the Newman University Commencement exercises. Anthony Dozier could have just given up. Instead, he counts himself among the fortunate few.
“I always knew there was something in me that I could achieve, even in the face of discouragement and extreme racism and things like that,” Dozier said. “It was just by my faith – I held onto that and it helped me through. There were some victories back then, and a lot of disappointments, but I never gave up my faith and hope.”
Giving – and getting
Dozier, 52, is one of many adult, non-traditional students who attend and graduate from Newman University each year. In some respects, he shares the same challenges other adults returning to college face. Yet in other ways, his story is unique.
Like many people in Wichita, he went to a public institution right after high school. Not having learned many skills in high school, however, he did poorly. Dozier said he spent a period lacking direction in his life until he met the woman who would become his wife, LaDonna. Since then, he said, he has devoted himself to being a good husband and a good father to his daughters LeAndra, 21, and Brittany, 18. He has also devoted his life to the Lord.
He is a member of and has worked “very diligently” in the Chisholm Trail Church of Christ, where he is the deacon over Benevolence, an office that provides aid to individuals and groups in need. Dozier said the office has provided relief efforts to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Hugo, and of a tornado in Oklahoma City, in addition to other activities.
Dozier is also an active member of the Boys and Girls Club, and for the past 14 years has helped organize and work on the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon. He also volunteers as a tutor for U.S.D. 259, and is a member of “Real Men, Real Heroes,” a mentoring program that brings positive adult male role models to young people across Wichita. Dozier has appeared at career fairs, classrooms, Exploration Place and various other venues to show young people the benefits of being responsible, contributing members of the community. He said that in taking part in such activities, he gets back more than he gives.
“From what I’ve learned spiritually, life is about giving – not just offering but giving back with care and compassion to help the generations to come,” he said. “Life is not about all the silver and gold you can acquire, but the good works you do in this life and how those works will follow you when you’re gone. When we do the right things spiritually and in the community and have contact with others and give part of ourselves, in a sense we have immortality because we’ve given something of ourself to other people and they will remember those moments and those values. Doing these kinds of works brings joy to your soul. And that type of joy lasts a long time.”
Catching the train
For the past 15 years, Dozier has been employed at Case New Holland, where he has worked his way up from the assembly line to a quality control position. He said he is grateful to the company for helping him with tuition costs.
Dozier added that when he decided to return to college he chose Newman because, “Newman gave me an opportunity where other institutions would not. My grandma had a saying, ‘Son, if you miss this train, I don’t know when the next one’s coming.’ I wasn’t about to let it get away again.”
Although his performance at his previous institution meant that Dozier was on academic probation at Newman for some time, the university offered Dozier what he needed – a support system of people who truly cared.
“Being at Newman has been very challenging, but also very supportive,” he said. “God puts people in your life to help you, and you need to open your eyes and see them. The faculty and staff at this university are jewels.”
Dozier said he made the most of his opportunity as well. He sat on the front row of every class for the eight years he was at Newman, and didn’t miss a day of school until this year, when he took six days off to visit his mother in Oklahoma City, who had suffered a heart attack. He also studied hard, he said, trying to make up for what he missed in his younger years.
‘The best is yet to come’
Dozier said now that he is graduating he hasn’t decided on a different profession or looked for a new job. For the short term he plans to continue working at Case and doing his volunteer work. Now that he has more time, however, he wants to learn to play guitar, and continue painting pictures, which he hopes to leave to future generations along with various writings and college work so that his progeny can know something about him when he’s gone.
For now, he’s happy to be attaining a goal he has had for many years, and grateful to those who helped him reach it.
“The Lord has blessed me and protected me,” Dozier said. “He brought me to this institution, because they were going to give me an opportunity. Now I have the tools and know how to use those tools to make things happen. With that and with the Lord, it’s going to be done. I believe the best is yet to come.”