American Cancer Society Scholarship
Kevin is applying for the American Cancer Society Scholarship and needed a letter of recommendation. He asked Dr. Bendel and Sheila Nelson, his SJU Honors Symposium professor, to write one for him. Kevin shared the letters with me, and they were both great. But when I read Sheila's letter, it made me cry. She has captured the essence of Kevin in her letter. I did receive permission from both Kevin and Sheila to post her letter on this site to share with all of you who are following Kevin's progress. By reading it, you will understand more fully Kevin's outlook on cancer and life. His courage spirit will allow him to prevail and come out the victor in the grueling battle ahead!
I am writing to recommend Kevin Fuchs for the American Cancer Society Scholarship. I cannot imagine that there could be anyone more deserving of this scholarship than Kevin. He was a student in my First Year Symposium course last semester, a required class designed to orient students to college and to provide them with the reading, writing, research, and critical thinking skills necessary for them to succeed in college. The first speech assignment I give to students is to prepare a formal talk about something they feel passionately about and which will tell the class something significant about themselves. These are usually a lot of fun, and a great way to learn about each other and build a learning community that students can rely on for feedback and support as they think about new ideas, struggle with papers, study for exams, and do all the things that they are expected to do. Kevin chose to speak of his cancer. He explained his cancer, how he was diagnosed, the aggressive treatment he underwent as a high school junior and how that impacted his schooling. But most of his talk focused on how this encounter with such a serious illness changed his approach to life and his priorities. He spoke so articulately about how facing death caused him to think about the things he regretted having done or not having done. He resolved never again to make a choice that he would regret. He spoke of the importance of living each day intentionally--of taking advantage of each moment, each opportunity for goodness that life offers. I am 55 years old, and I was so profoundly moved by Kevin's philosophy of life, his eagerness to live life and not waste a moment, his clarity with regards to his priorities and values. I would never have expected such depth of insight in so young a man! The whole class clung to every word, listened intently and immediately moved into Kevin's camp. At that point, Kevin thought the cancer was in remission, though he spoke also of the likelihood of it returning, and of his determination to stay positive and do whatever it would take to fight it again if and when it did reoccur. Kevin did not present himself as a hero or as someone who was in any way extraordinary; he wasn't asking for sympathy or complaining about the hand he had been dealt. He was simply talking of what he had learned from his experience. He wasn't morose and his presentation didn't leave us depressed--just somewhat awed by his courage and wisdom. He made it clear that he didn't mind talking about his cancer, and that he would be open to answering any of our questions.
It was a shock and an extremely sad day for me when Kevin e-mailed me during our Christmas break to say that he was in the hospital again and undergoing treatment because the cancer had reoccurred. He e-mailed the class to thank us for being such a great class. Once again I was amazed. Here he was, having just had surgery to remove part of a massive tumor in his chest, having complications to the surgery and having had fluid drained from his chest... and he was e-mailing us to explain he wouldn't be able to return to class for the Spring Semester but he wanted us to know how much he appreciated our class.
The immediate response of the class told me how much Kevin has come to mean to all of us. Within minutes students were writing from home, asking what we could do to support Kevin, whether we could visit him. Normally when I write recommendations for scholarships, I focus on the academic potential of the applicant. Kevin is a very talented young man. He is in the Honors Program at Saint John's University, and he does very well. As you must have recognized from what I have already said, he is an articulate speaker. He writes well and in discussions he plays an active role, always having insightful things to contribute. He is a great student, and deserving of this scholarship. But since this scholarship is from the American Cancer Society, I feel it is important that you realize what a powerful spokesperson and fantastic ambassador he already is for the cause your organization serves. I could not be more certain that Kevin deserves this scholarship and I recommend him wholeheartedly!
Sheila Nelson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Sociology