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Reframing Sixty

Toledo native Joyce Brown has spent her life challenging norms— and herself.

Joyce Lathan Brown is a native Toledoan who knows who she is. She achieved that self-knowledge on her path to becoming Ms. Texas Senior America. Joyce’s accomplishments echo the goal of the pageant, which “seeks recognition of the achievements of senior women, motivating and encouraging them to utilize their full potential.”

The path to finding her full potential was fairly direct for Joyce. After graduating from Scott High School in 1975, she worked in Toledo for a year before her best friend suggested Joyce join her at Alabama A&M University. There, she earned a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology. Although no one from her family had been to college, she came from a strong family, with parents who taught her it was important to work for what she wanted.

Joyce has enjoyed a rich and successful life. including a thirty-eight year career in engineering and management with Texas Instruments and Abbott Laboratories. Happily married to Lennel Brown for 35 years, she is a proud mother of two daughters, and boasts a granddaughter and grandson as well.

“Sixty is not going to define you”

Joyce found a challenge in aging gracefully. “Turning 60 was difficult for me,” she said, remembering her outlook just two years ago. “I thought, I’m really old now. I don’t see much potential beyond the rocking chair. And I that’s when I decided to make a change.”

Her first transformation was physical. She started by working out and eating better, and lost 30 pounds in four months. As a result of her impressive physical transformation, people started asking if she was a personal trainer. “That was significant for me,” she said.

Next, she told herself, “You’re going to define 60. Sixty is not going to define you.” She stayed focused on her career and family life while looking for ways to stretch herself further, finally deciding to enter the 2018 Ms. Texas Senior America Pageant. She didn’t place that year, but competing was a positive change. “I still felt I was a winner,” Joyce said, “just by challenging myself this way.”

Renewed focus

She entered the 2019 pageant with renewed focus. The 61-year-old put her new physique to good use by assembling a jazz dance routine for the talent competition, and sought advice from a pageant coach who encouraged her to explore her own sense of identity more thoroughly.

“When I went into the interview with the judges last year (2018),” she said, “I couldn’t answer the questions the way I should have because I didn’t know who Joyce was.”

Her coach suggested she start a journal. “Everybody should do this,” Joyce advised. “It is so important for us, whether we have careers or not, to see the value of our own work as women. You need to know who you are and what your values are and what you stand for. When you put it all down (on paper), you see that your accomplishments are pretty substantial.”

Becoming a role model

Joyce notes that when she went to college, there weren’t role models telling her she should pursue engineering, or even that she should get an education. “I got that engineering degree when there weren’t many women doing that. When I went into management positions, there just wasn’t anybody who looked like me in management at that time” she said. “That was okay because I was able to create my own path. I became a role model for the people who came after me.”

Joyce returns to Toledo occasionally to visit family, and she recently attended the all-class reunion for Scott High School. She will continue challenging herself when she travels to Atlantic City for the Senior America national pageant, October 20-24. But she’s used to that now.

“We all have possibilities that we haven’t imagined yet,” she says, “I want to use my experience to empower, inspire, and motivate women.”

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