Mother’s Day Commencement Ceremony special moment for Dalton State’s Very First Graduate and Granddaughter


Mother’s Day is a special holiday for many to honor their family matriarchs. For Joy Cox, formerly Joy Adams, the first student awarded a diploma during Dalton Junior College’s first commencement ceremony in 1969, this Mother’s Day was also marked by the celebration of her granddaughter’s graduation from Dalton State.

“I thought, ‘What a blessing this is. What a present for Mother’s Day, for a grandmother to see her granddaughter walk across the stage’,” Joy said.

Joy’s granddaughter, Carson Cox, graduated recently with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a secondary certification, following in her grandmother’s footsteps to pursue a career as an educator. Carson also served as the commencement speaker.

“I’m grateful I got the opportunity to not only graduate, but to be a speaker at the commencement ceremony with her there,” Carson said. “Knowing she was the very first graduate, she was a first-generation college student and she went on to have this legacy was a very special moment for us both, and I’m glad we got to share it together.”

Joy’s legacy is one of empowerment according to her granddaughter – one that shaped her granddaughter’s academic career goals from an early age.

“She was a woman getting her degree in the 1960s as a first-generation college student, and she was the very first graduate of Dalton Junior College. How empowering, how amazing is that,” said Carson.

After graduating from Dalton Junior College in 1969, Joy Cox went on to receive a B.S. in Business Education from West Georgia in 1971. She taught at Cass High School in Bartow County for eight years before returning to West Georgia to obtain an Educational Specialist Degree. In 1979, she began her career in the Murray County School System as a media specialist for 31 years.

It was during Joy’s time in the Murray County School System that her legacy took hold, leading her granddaughter to pursue a degree and career in education.

“She's really the one that got me into the field of education. She was always at the library, and I would always visit and be surrounded by the books while doing my homework,” Carson said. “I always knew that she was so passionate about school, and that's really what inspired me to become an educator as well.”

Carson will begin her career as an educator in the Fulton County School System in August as an English Teacher at Taylor Road Middle School.

Although their academic journeys took place more than 50 years apart, Carson and Joy shared similar experiences during their time at Dalton Junior College/Dalton State. And although the campus has changed quite a bit since 1967, one aspect remained the same – supportive faculty.

Joy and Carson both worked while pursuing their degrees. Joy as a proofreader at a local carpet mill and Carson as a resident assistant (RA) in Residential Life on campus and as a student teacher. According to both, juggling employment and academics was challenging, but they credit the enduring support and encouragement they received from faculty.

“I was not the best student. I worked too many hours. Sometimes I worked 40 hours a week,” Joy said. “But I had some outstanding professors, and Dalton Junior College prepared me to continue my education. That’s a quality of the college that has been passed on throughout the years. Carson has really had some outstanding professors, and she has gotten a lot of opportunities that have helped develop her leadership skills.”

In addition to working as an RA and student teaching, Carson also participated in undergraduate research opportunities. She most recently presented at the National Field Experience Conference alongside peers and faculty members, Jacquelyn Mesco, chair of the School of Education, and Mellanie Robinson, assistant professor in the School of Education.

“I feel like I’ve had so many opportunities, not only within my education, but also being a student leader on campus as well,” Carson said. “But It’s hard balancing work life, being a student and a student leader, so whenever you have those professors that are so supportive, it really helps. Professors Sharlonne Smith, Robinson and Mesco have all been so impactful to my education. They’ve been so understanding and wonderful leaders to have on campus.”

Margaret Venable, president of Dalton State, took a moment to acknowledge Joy during the Spring 2023 commencement ceremony, saluting her as the institution’s very first graduate.

“This is a wonderful circle of life moment,” Venable said.

Joy said if she hadn’t attained her degree from Dalton Junior College, her life would be very different.

“The opportunity to go to college opened up so many doors in my life that would have not been possible without my degree,” Joy said.

Carson echoed her grandmother’s sentiments.

“I’m stepping into her shoes and passing down a tradition. She got an amazing education here,” Carson said. “I began in 2017, and I can’t be more grateful for receiving such a good education. It’s just really special to see everything come full circle.”