SAN DIEGO – Father Joe Carroll is legendary for helping the poor, particularly homeless men, women and children. What’s not known is the fact that he had an “ABD,” as he joked, having completed “All But the Dissertation” to earn a doctorate degree.
As of May 17, he can legitimately use “PhD” after his name. The California State University Board of Trustees conferred him an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters “in recognition of his profound and lifelong dedication to the underserved communities of San Diego.”
Trustee Adam Day presented “Father Joe” the degree during the packed Commencement ceremony at San Diego State University for the College of Health and Human Services, whose graduates gave him a rare standing ovation.
The CSU system awarded its first honorary degree to then-President John F. Kennedy in June 1963, at SDSU. Recipients “have demonstrated excellence in areas that benefit CSU campuses, the state, nation, world and/or humanity.” Its newest honoree is another Irish Catholic, Father Joe.
“It’s the only degree I didn’t have to work for or study for,” he joked at a reception held afterward. “Unless you count my 37 years of slave labor.”
Dozens of family, friends, fellow priests, community leaders, and past and present staff members of the organization Father Joe once led turned out to celebrate the milestone with him. Four of his seven siblings traveled from New York, Philadelphia and Orange County to accompany him.
Father Joe developed the St. Vincent de Paul Society (later renamed Father Joe’s Villages) into a social-services powerhouse that has been helping the poor get back on their feet in the San Diego region.
“I would not be here without you,” the newly minted “Dr. Joe” told the crowded reception. “Father Joe’s Villages would not be here without your support all these 37 years.”
Then he announced “now I need a Pepsi” and returned to posing for pictures with loved ones, continuously smiling.