Note: The following appears in the Louisville gameday football program
Being a mother is a major time commitment requiring a large amount of hard work. It is a challenge, as is being a nurse. This year’s mother-of-the-year, Joni Davis, knows the efforts and challenges of both quite well.
The choosing of the mother-of-the-year is a generations-old tradition long stewarded by Tiger Brotherhood, who has now entrusted the Student Alumni Council to carry on.
Originally from Columbus, Ga., Davis came to Clemson in 1980 as a student. She studied engineering at first, but she later switched to nursing. Davis loves to help people, so nursing was the perfect fit for her, and she has been a registered nurse for over 33 years.
Although she is not currently working as a nurse, she keeps her license current, having worked as an adult daycare administrator with Senior Solutions until approximately four years ago.
Nursing has never really felt like a job to Davis. She describes her experiences in the field as “tremendous,” and it has always felt more like a ministry and a calling than a job.
Davis does not just help people through nursing, she also works to help people in the Clemson community through ministry. Davis and her husband, Jeff, a former Tiger linebacker, pastor FreeWay Church in Clemson. Davis works in the management and administration of the church, which is the second church that Joni and Jeff have founded and pastored.
Serving in ministry for more than 30 years, her favorite part is helping people.
“I love to help people in any way that I can, because I’ve been so blessed over the years to have access to resources, and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today had someone not helped me. I really enjoy the opportunity to help folks.”
Davis has had numerous responsibilities during her life. Outside of nursing and ministry, she has also shouldered the responsibilities of motherhood.
Davis is the mother of six children, four girls and two boys, the youngest of whom are twins J.D., and Judah, graduate linebackers at Clemson. Raising six children was a challenge for Davis, and it is a challenge that requires sacrifice.
“It’s making sure everyone’s basic needs are met, but also working hard to make sure that they end up being the very best people they can be. As a parent, and I know it’s hard for people to accept, your life is not your own. You have to do everything in your life in view of what your children’s needs are, and the majority of the time, you have to put their needs first. That’s a difficult thing, but when you really love someone, it’s not hard to sacrifice.”
All six of Davis’ children are college graduates, with five receiving a diploma from Clemson. The sixth is currently in graduate school at Clemson. Davis takes pride in seeing her children grow up and find their own successes in life, but it’s also “bittersweet” for her.
“I’ve been blessed. I have great kids, but it’s bittersweet, especially when you’re someone who loves to take care of people and loves to be intimately involved in people’s lives. It’s hard to let go and understand they are adults, and they don’t need the same level of parenting they needed when they were children.”
She is proud of all of their accomplishments, but she admitted it is difficult to stay back and let them work through their own struggles.
Davis has touched numerous lives for decades. Her dedication to helping people, from her own children as a mother to in the community as a nurse to ministry, is what makes her this year’s mother-of-the-year.