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Black Entrepreneur Who Repeated the 9th Grade Twice With a 1.3 GPA Just Earned His Ph.D.

Ron Lewis, Jr., Ph.D.

Jacksonville, FL. — 37-year-old Ron Lewis, Jr. was once a two-time high school freshman with a 1.3 grade point average, but now he holds three college degrees. In June 2024, he will be awarded his Doctorate in Business Administration degree from the International University of Leadership during their official Spring Commencement Ceremony in Morocco, Africa. The program is a Top 20 DBA program that focuses on leadership and entrepreneurship. He is also now a successful entrepreneur, real estate agent, and motivational speaker.


Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Ron struggled throughout high school like many African American students. Fortunately, he was never placed in Special Ed, but he had to repeat the ninth grade nonetheless. But the lowest point for Ron was at age 22 when during two semesters at Florida Community College (now Florida State College at Jacksonville), he earned straight F’s — eight in all. He became so discouraged that he dropped out of college, shut down his thriving promotional products printing company, and joined the U.S. Army.


In the Army, Ron began following motivational speaker Eric Thomas and motivational speaker and former Ohio State Representative Les Brown, and Ron himself became a “motivational conference junkie.” Frequenting motivational conferences, he surrounded himself with others who were just as determined to stay motivated.


He began reading books like The Secret to Success: When You Want to Succeed as Bad as You Want to Breathe by Eric Thomas, and that’s when things began to shift. “That was the first book I ever read from front to back, and I was 27 years old,” Ron says. “Thomas wrote, ‘If you can look up, you can get up,’ and something in me shifted. When I learned it took Thomas twelve years to earn a four-year degree, I could relate to that. I also realized a Bachelor’s degree is still a degree. The amount of time it takes to earn a degree doesn’t matter.”


With that in mind and now as an Army veteran, Ron returned to college. This time, he enrolled at the University of Phoenix and tapped into the subject matter he was passionate about–Business classes, creating a marketing strategy, a business plan, branding, and other creative aspects of Business Management.


Concentrating on the coursework that he enjoyed allowed him to thrive, and nine years after starting his collegiate career at Florida Community College, Ron became the first person in his family to earn a college degree. He then applied to the University of Phoenix’s MBA program on academic probation. He says, “I had four classes to prove I belonged at the MBA level.”


By the time the four courses were complete, Ron had something he had never had in his life: a 3.0 GPA. Now fully dedicated, he became a motivational speaker in his community. Ron says, “If you focus on yourself, you don’t mind losing. When I focused on my community, my goals became bigger than just me. That made me determined to complete the journey.”


Today, Ron speaks to students all over the country – including a recent assembly of over 1,000 students at the community college where he once earned eight straight F’s. “I show up and approach the conversation with full transparency, and I share how I learned to hold myself accountable. I may be the doctoral candidate walking across the stage in June, but failure is a huge part of my success story. When I explain that, it helps students recognize that they have the same potential, no matter their background, and even those struggling right now can relate.”


“Some of these students need tutoring to help them connect with the material sooner or a stronger support network at school or at home,” he says. I aim to help them understand that they have the power to turn this all around if they just keep trying. I am a living, breathing example of that.”


Now, as a Doctoral candidate, Ron is a Dean’s List student and a Delta Mu Delta International Honor Society member maintaining an academic standing only a few points shy of a perfect grade point average. He has also successfully defended his dissertation entitled “How Learning Entrepreneurship at an Early Age Could Possibly Reduce Poverty and Homelessness.”


With so much focused conversation around learning gaps, facts, and stats surrounding underperforming Black youth and the school-to-prison pipeline, Dr. Ron empowers students and gives them something else to think about — considering advanced degree programs for themselves. He comments, “Failing is not losing! Failure is actually a part of success. It’s a process. You only lose when you quit.”


Dr. Ron Lewis, Jr. is available for speaking engagements, encouraging middle schools, high schools, colleges, church congregations, and audiences at community-based organizations.

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