Saint Rose student Garth Joseph turns heads on campus, and not just because he stands 7-foot-2. Joseph was a student here from 1994 to 1997, a basketball standout who made headlines on the way to the pros.
Basketball, in fact, lured him away before he could graduate. Now, at 45 years old, Joseph is back to finish his degree.
“People have said to me, ‘Are you famous?” I say, ‘I’m just Garth Joseph,’’’ said Joseph, who constantly greeted and high-fived classmates from his usual spot in the Camelot Room.
A native of Dominica, West Indies, Joseph earned an associate degree in that country but wanted the opportunities a bachelor’s degree made possible. Dominica had no four-year schools. Scholarship opportunities overseas were slim.
“I loved school so much I sometimes slept there, and I’d help my fellow students,” he recalls. “I just wanted to go further, do more, and I never stopped trying.”
Joseph got his chance when then-Saint Rose basketball coach Brian Beaury met him during a goodwill visit to Dominica and decided to offer him a shot at college (and basketball). Joseph fell in love with his Saint Rose classes, particularly philosophy and religious studies.
“He was a bright young man, and I was always struck by his concern for others, his strong moral compass,” said Professor Joanne Powers, Joseph’s former academic advisor, who at 4-foot-11 asks him to sit while she stands so they can talk at eye level.
A Career on the Court
The College also helped Joseph hone his skills as a basketball center. His team headed to three NCAA tournaments, and Joseph became the Golden Knights’ all-time rebounder and shot blocker, despite playing just three years. Then, he made the wrenching decision to grab perhaps his best shot at pursuing basketball professionally.
In 1997, he started what would be an 18-year career. After stints in Greece and back in the United States, he made it to the NBA, playing for the Toronto Raptors and the Denver Nuggets during the 2000-to-2001 season. His NBA career was cut short by injury. But he continued on, in China, Iran, Egypt, and France.
Along the way, Joseph married and had four children. He taught and coached in Dominica and repaired his mother’s house there after it was battered by Hurricane Maria. He now lives in Ilion, near Utica, with his children and wife, Alicia Joseph, whom he met at Saint Rose. Last spring, he circled back to campus to restart his education.
Back at Saint Rose
His first time at Saint Rose meant acclimating to weather that felt too cold even in August. This time, Joseph is a U.S. permanent resident accustomed to the climate and culture. But he faces the financial stress of attending school full-time while supporting his family and coaching basketball at Bryant & Stratton College. There was also the challenge of structuring a degree all these years later.
That’s where his Saint Rose supporters stepped in. Among them were Powers and Beaury, who made it their business to advise him. They learned that Joseph needed 30 credits, that the credits he’d earned didn’t fit a particular degree, and that requirements had changed. Collectively, they crafted an interdepartmental degree in math, religion, and philosophy approved by Saint Rose.
Earning it means a heavy load of classes, a portfolio, and a College Level Examination Program (CLEP) test to earn credit.
“He’s determined, and I’m determined,” said Powers. “I would like him to be whatever he wants to be.” Joseph has returned to a campus with a lot more buildings and a much more diverse student body. He has been inducted into the Saint Rose Athletics Hall of Fame but doesn’t mention his history unless classmates ask.
Coming into the final semester this spring, Joseph carried a 4.0 average and was considering his next chapter – a career in management, coaching, or education. He also planned to take in a Golden Knights game or two. He was right at home.