Dr. Julia Ponquinette Joyner, 1st African-American student admitted to Spring Hill College, dies in Virginia

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 5:30 PM CST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WALA) - Dr. Julia Clementine Ponquinette Joyner, M.D., the first African-American student admitted to the Spring Hill College in Mobile, passed away Jan. 7 in Richmond, Va., the college announced Thursday. She was 88.

A Mobile native, Joyner graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary School in 1952, and went on to Loyola University in Chicago, intending to pursue pre-law. After two years, she changed her course of study to a pre-med curriculum. She returned home to Mobile in 1954, where she transferred to Spring Hill College.

During her time on The Hill, Julia was inducted into the National Honor Society for Biology, SHC officials said.

After graduating from Spring Hill in 1958 with a degree in biology, Joyner went on to attend Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., earning an M.D. in 1963. The following year she moved to Washington, D.C., in 1963 when she was offered a position as a resident in psychiatry at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, according to a statement from Spring Hill College.

During her 23 years at St. Elizabeth’s, Joyner earned a reputation as an outstanding clinician and a capable division director. She rose quickly from staff psychiatrist to hospital superintendent (chief executive) of this facility that housed some 8,000 patients, according to SHC.

In 1979, she and her family moved to suburban Clifton, Va. Eight years later, she retired from St. Elizabeth’s and established a private practice in psychiatry in Alexandria, Va., and worked at a state-run mental health clinic in Springfield, Va. She retired from her practice in 2014 at age 80, according to SHC.

“We fully appreciate that Julia was a trailblazer at Spring Hill, opening doors to the transformative experience of higher education for women and people of color across the south and the United States,” said Mary H. Van Brunt, Ph.D, Spring Hill’s 39th president. “As a student, her example taught an infinite number of people the importance of acceptance in our communities. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family. We are grateful for Julia for being a part of our lasting legacy of providing academic excellence to all people.”

Services will be held in Henrico, Va., on Friday, Jan. 20, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 9505 Gayton Rd., in Henrico Va.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Mental Health America or Habitat for Humanity, two charities that embrace Julie’s spirit of compassion and beneficence, SHC said.

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