Vaughn "King Shakey" James gets his seventh degree- another PHD
You might say he's in seventh heaven, but that would be cliché, right? He laughs. In a boyish, affable way.
"Then I wouldn't be on earth." He laughs again. In a distinctively youthful and friendly manner, as if he were surrounded by family with halos hovering over their heads.
"It's cliché. It's cliché," he repeated, "but people would recognize it."
You might call it the equivalent of seven years of feasting, but that could be rather vapid.
"Seven years of feasting and seven years of fasting." This time he's emphatic. Still you can sense a boyish grin in his voice, the glories already secured.
Dr. Vaughn E. James, known by calypso lovers as Shakey or King Shakes, has achieved perfection, in a manner of speaking. James, a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church, recently earned his seventh degree.
"As Seventh Days Adventists, we (believe) that seven is the perfect number," he told The Sun in a telephone interview from Tennessee where he was teaching a Gratuitous Transfers course. James is a professor, attorney at law and director of the tax clinic at Texas Tech University in the United States of America.
"Years ago I told myself that because I am a Seventh-day Adventist, I should do things in sevens. Hence, I set out to get seven degrees in my life," he explained in an earlier email. Years later, he's blessed to the seventh degree, the start of his seven years of feasting. But earning these degrees didn't come easily as he had to endure the equivalent of seven years of famine.
"That's the going to school part. Working and going to school is never easy. That last PhD, it took me five years to get it. Going to school, working… that's fasting; that's fasting on sleep. It's a lot of hard work but if you're determined then you can do it and that is my seven years of feasting," he told The Sun, never once seeming to preen himself, never once losing his humility.
Over the years, King Shakes, who said he was "continuing to behave like a thermometer," – a suggestion that the number of degrees he earns rises with the temperature – has earned one bachelor's, two master's, one juris doctorate, one divinity doctorate and two PhDs. The most recent PhD is in Education (Administration Concentration) from Newburgh Theological Seminary in Indiana, USA, from which he graduated with a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average.
The desire to achieve the perfect seven in which his church believes isn't all that drives James.
"I like learning, learn as much as I can. That's what drives me," he told The Sun, giving credit to his father and his late uncle, the former Catholic priest, Edward Alexander, who both pushed him to never stop learning.
Blessed with this desire and drive, will he stop at seven?
"Seven is the perfect number why not get seven degrees?" he asked. But that was rhetorical. The urge to learn more, to achieve more, is strong.
"Now that I have seven I'm already thinking of the eighth," he said. At age 52, he has another 50 years or so to live, the former calypso king joked. "Surely, I can pick up another degree or two during that time," he said.
Of course, he still has his children's education to worry about – he has a five year old daughter and a 10 year old son – but that's in the future. In the present, he plans to take at least a year off chasing degrees, and, after that, who knows? He might choose to keep the count at seven. Then, again, he might keep going like the energizer bunny.
"I guess I'll keep doing it until I'm tired but I don't know if I'll (ever) be tired of it," James explained. "It doesn't take away (from my life) so I still find time to do stuff, I still play a lot of cricket. But it takes discipline. What I think I miss on is sleep. I don't sleep enough."
Sleep deprivation, apart, something deep within Vaughn E. James keeps nudging him towards degree number eight. And if he pursues it, it will be a doctorate in juridical science.
It would no longer be seventh heaven, but it sure would top perfection.