Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Professional and Liberal Studies, Class of 2011
In his 20s, he cleaned Saint Joseph’s Barbelin Hall as a janitor. At 62, Jerry Sanders is returning to City Avenue to graduate from Saint Joseph’s University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Professional and Liberal Studies. Sanders, who retired as Chief Inspector after 24 years with the Philadelphia Sheriff’s office, took nearly 40 years to earn his degree, spending time at six local colleges and ultimately graduating from Saint Joseph’s.
Pursuing a career while raising six children — ages ranging from 16 to 42 — is challenging, but Sanders is candid about why it took him so long to complete his degree. “I nibbled at it from 1972 until now, when I finally stopped procrastinating.”
While on his path to his bachelor’s degree, he had some unique experiences.
“I actually was taking classes at Delaware County Community College at the same time my daughter, Jasmine, 18, was enrolled,” says Sanders. “I remember taking Spanish with some of her classmates. I tried to give her space, especially in the cafeteria. I didn’t want to impose around her friends, but she would come and sit with me anyway.”
After retiring as Chief Inspector from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s office on disability, he delved into community work. It was his role as a community leader that ultimately led him to Saint Joseph’s after completing his associate degree at Delaware County Community College.
Sanders is the current president of Reba Brown Senior Residence, Inc., and sits on the board of directors and is a past president of Mt. Zion Community Development Corporation, where he led a $9.9 million government grant-funded project to build the Reba Brown Senior Residence with co-sponsor Baptist Home Inc. He is also an associate minister at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Sanders’ dedication to the community is accompanied by a dedication to his family and spiritual growth. For a period of time, he home schooled his children and currently teaches at Higher Ground Bible Institute at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. His teaching endeavors have inspired him to apply for his master’s degree in elementary education at Saint Joseph’s.
“Honestly, homeschooling my kids for a year exhausted me,” says Sanders. But he also discovered a new love. “According to the Bible, everyone has spiritual gifts. We have to try things to see what we’re good at, and I think I have an affinity for teaching.”
In the end, Sanders credits God, his family and especially his wife, Juanita, for the support over the years. “Her name should be on the diploma, too,” he says.