Bahn: Former Razorback Jonathon Modica Earns Doctorate, Provides Inspiration For Athletes

by Chris Bahn  on Tuesday, May. 17, 2011 11:45 am  

Former Arkansas basketball player Jonathon Modica recently received his doctorate in higher education from the College of Education and Health Professions. (Photo by Mark Wagner)

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Athletic careers rarely end on the athlete’s terms.

It’s not often a basketball player, for example, will hang up the high tops before injury or diminishing skills force retirement upon him. Athletes find their worth in competition and often struggle to see purpose beyond their athletic accomplishments.

Which makes what Dr. Jonathon Modica has accomplished even more noteworthy.

Yes. You’re reading that right. Dr. Jonathon Modica.

Modica, the 12th leading scorer in Arkansas basketball history, participated in commencement exercises at the University of Arkansas on Saturday. He earned a doctorate in higher education from the College of Education and Health Professions.

Essentially, Modica was done with basketball before it was done with him. He could have followed the path many of his contemporaries, toiling in a minor professional league somewhere until long after his skills had eroded.

Instead, Modica focused on education and developing a real career. It’s something he knew would serve him long after his playing days ended.

Securing a doctorate has allowed the Smackover native to do that.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Modica said. “I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue my education, get a doctoral degree. And the fact it’s from the University of Arkansas means so much to me.”

Modica didn’t just complete his coursework and dissertation. Like he did as a player, Modica approached his pursuit of a doctorate with passion and hard work. His dissertation on the “perceptions of career advancement of African-American research university faculty” was recognized nationally and gained some attention on campus thanks to a review committee that included Chancellor Dave Gearhart.

Gearhart makes it his goal to be part of a handful of review committees each year, but has to be selective with this time. He said he had no reservations about helping Modica, who came to the chancellor and expressed higher education aspirations shortly after beginning work on his master’s in journalism.

“We started talking with each other off and on, he would keep me up to date,” Gearhart sad. “He did it all with that incredible smile he has. He’s a great guy, a great athlete and academic. He’s the total package. He is just an incredible person in every way. I can’t tell you how much admiration I have for him.”



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