WRITTEN BY Linda Gauger Elsnerin conversation withJoy A. Jordan, DDS
This is a father/daughter story - not just any father and daughter - two dentists, Dr. Eugene Jordan and Dr. Joy Jordan. Two presidents of the National Dental Association. Two political devotees, humanitarians, and dreamers extraordinaire.
The proverb, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” springing from their deep faith and abiding love of family, has long been a guiding principle in both of their lives.
Dr. Joy, as she is known by her patients, constituents, friends, and peers, was the 80th president of the National Dental Association. Not only has she followed in her father’s footsteps with the tradition-steeped organization - he was the 69th president - she has also created giant shoes of her own that will be difficult to fill. Firmly grounded in faith and family, she honors her father this week for setting her on the right path - not only because he is a wonderful parent, but also for his dedication to the dental profession and his passion for making his community and the world around him a better place.
“It is an honor to be pictured with my father on the cover of Woman Dentist Journal,” she said. “My father is the standard by which all other men in my life have been judged. My dad encouraged me to do anything I wanted. I am more like my father than my brothers are - we share a love of politics, travel, the arts, reading, writing, and going to church... My dad is a giving person, and so am I.”
That may be the understatement of the year. Dr. Joy is passionate about giving. With no natural children of her own, she has created an extended family of godchildren, neighborhood children, inner-city children - any children in need. Within a year of her graduation from Howard University’s School of Dentistry, she took a dozen socio-economically disadvantaged kids from East Cleveland on a field trip to Washington, D.C., to see the monuments and be inspired by our nation’s history. She did this alone, with her own money, and never looked back. Today, children often accompany her on her travels, and she has taken groups of them to Cavaliers basketball games in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
She currently serves as president of the East Cleveland City Schools Board of Education, introduces Cleveland Job Corps kids to the political process in Cleveland, and volunteers with the local chapter of the Junior League. She is a member of the Coalition of 100 Black Women and the 2004 YWCA Women of Achievement awardee.
“I am emotionally fulfilled in so many ways,” she likes to say. And she always adds, “Life is good.”
It all started with her father’s proverbs. Her earliest memories of him include one special proverb, which he quoted often as the family sat around the dining table. “Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make their dreams come true.” He said it so often, and lived it so well, that she couldn’t help but believe ... and achieve. Dr. Joy is the eldest of three children who all became doctors. She and her brother Martin went into dentistry, like their father, while Michael became a psychiatrist. But it is really Joy who is most like “Dr. J.” Their histories are not only parallel in their similarity, but in their capacity to inspire.
“The first generation prepared the second generation to do the things they didn’t quite do,” Dr. Joy says. Just consider...
Eugene Jordan and his four siblings were raised by a single father, a widower, who was a maintenance worker for the City of Columbus. The young Eugene never considered himself to be an over-achiever, yet he was number one in his middle school class, where he first dreamed of becoming a doctor. He was later captain of his high school basketball team and dreamed of playing in the NBA, but instead did a lot of bench-sitting while with the Ohio State University team. Finally, after a stint in the Army Medical Corps, he set out to make his dreams come true. He loaded up a Volkswagen and a rented U-Haul truck and headed for Howard Dental School, even though he had neither funds for tuition nor a place to stay.
The dean of the dental school must have seen a spark of future greatness in the young Dr. J, for he gave him an emergency loan to pay three months’ rent on a subleased row house. Dr. J went to school full-time and worked 16 hours each Saturday and Sunday as a security guard. He and his wife (now retired from teaching) had three children while he was in dental school, each born just 13 months apart.
Still, the dreams continued. Dr. J’s new dream was to return to the inner city to start two dental practices to serve the disadvantaged as well as the middle class. He did better than that; he eventually opened two dental centers. All the while, he never stopped peppering Joy, Michael, and Martin with the familiar philosophical quotes. He insisted that they at least sample “vast aspects of life” - sports, science, politics - and urged them to be the best at everything they did. Eventually, they did just that.
Joy is not “only” a dentist; she is currently the secretary of the Black Women’s Political Action Committee and was chairperson for the NDA legislative day activities. She was the youngest person ever to hold the dental directorship for the Cleveland Job Corps. She is a member of the American Association of Women Dentists, the National Dental Association, and the American Dental Association.
Last year, Ohio Governor Robert Taft appointed her to the Dental Student Loan Advisory Board. Her father was the first African American to serve on the Ohio State Dental Board of Examiners, appointed by former governor Richard Celeste.
Dr. Joy cares deeply about education and was the youngest member ever elected to serve on the East Cleveland School Board. Her father was an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University and Lorain Community College Dental Hygiene School.
Dr. Joy testified before the Congressional Black Caucus on Dentistry and spoke at the ADEA Women’s Leadership Conference in Gôteborg, Sweden. Her father represented the U.S. government and the National Dental Association at the World Health Conference in Nigeria.
Dr. Joy has been honored in many ways, including the youngest person ever to receive the Howard University Distinguished Alumni Award. Her father was presented with the Omega Man of the Year Award by Omega Phi Psi Fraternity, and both were recently honored in the traveling exhibit about noted contributions of African Americans to dentistry from the Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, Md.
Dr. Joy knows the meaning of giving back, receiving the NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Community Service. She learned this from the mentoring of her father, who has been known to spend his lunchtime every day for a month soliciting funds for 300 Christmas baskets for needy families. He also spent 20 years on the Executive Board of the NAACP and received that organization’s highest award, the Freedom Fund Award.
Like father, like daughter - the list goes on. Somehow it seems only right to honor these two legends in their own time on Father’s Day, together. Their unfaltering energy, compassion, dedication, and commitment to bettering their communities are wondrous examples for young people everywhere, all because they dared to dream and had the courage to pay the price to make their dreams come true.■
Joy A. Jordan, DDS
Dr. Jordan has a private general practice in Cleveland, Ohio. She is doing the works of both her parents - a teacher like Mom and a dentist like Dad. In May, Dr. Jordan was appointed to the dental advisory board for Church & Dwight’s Arm and Hammer Oral Care Division. She currently represents the Greater Cleveland Dental Society with the Ohio Dental Association as an alternate delegate. A past president of the National Dental Association, Dr. Jordan remains active in various dental organizations. She enjoys mentoring young boys and girls in her community. The photos on the cover and in this article were taken at the Junior League. You may contact Dr. Jordan at [email protected].