By Naomi Elias
While his son recovered from his first brain surgery, Daniel Fowkes registered him for a Livestrong Challenge several months away. Fowkes had just read Lance Armstrong's memoir, It's Not About the Bike, a book that his son, Jimmy, who was battling pediatric brain cancer, would later credit with inspiring his work for the Livestrong Foundation. As a youth campaigner, Jimmy provided support to survivors often twice his age and, with help from his sister, Molly, raised $250,000 for the foundation.
James Daniel "Jimmy" Fowkes, '14, died February 16 after an eight-year battle with medullablastoma. He was 21.
Fowkes was first diagnosed on January 11, 2006, at the age of 13. Two weeks later, he rejoined his classmates at Oregon's Waluga Junior High School (now Lakeridge), a young man on a mission. Eager to give back to the hospital where he'd been treated immediately following his diagnosis, Fowkes organized a party where 27 people shaved off their hair to raise donations and collect toys for adolescent patients.
Most children with Fowkes's diagnosis succumb to the cancer in a matter of months; his doctor advised that college would be out of the question. But Jimmy beat the odds. The son of two Stanford alums, he had his eyes set on the Farm and worked diligently in high school, pushing through bouts of cancer to become an honor student and, eventually, a Cardinal. Fowkes is the sole four-time recipient of the National Collegiate Cancer Foundation scholarship, a program established to provide support to young adults whose lives have been affected by cancer and who continue their education during treatment.
"People gravitated towards him," says Cari Costanzo, his undergraduate academic adviser, noting that she too was inspired by his unyielding spirit. A loyal sports enthusiast, Fowkes joined the basketball team's 6th Man Club and was a key presence at football games—sitting in the Red Zone, the most raucous section inside Stanford Stadium—and his sister's softball games. When Fowkes died, Armstrong sent a Twitter message to his 3.8 million followers: "RIP Jimmy Fowkes. You have forever touched my life as well as millions others. I will miss you. #jimmystrong."
"Jimmy was one of the only people I knew who spoke poorly of no one," says close friend Griffin Price, '14. "Except maybe LeBron James, and the last time I talked to him, he had even forgiven LeBron."
Fowkes is survived by his parents, Daniel, '83, and Margo Miller Fowkes, '83; grandparents, William, '59, and Lois LeCount Fowkes, '60, MA '62; and his sister.
Naomi Elias, MA '14, is a writer in Los Angeles.
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