Nov 262012
 

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Published: Nov. 24, 2012

Fisher surprise graduation


Jeffrey Fisher starts to celebrate a little during his surprise graduation ceremony at the Swansboro Rotary Civic Center. Chuck Beckley/The Daily News

Swansboro resident receives surprise graduation ceremony

By AMBERLY POZZI – Daily News Staff

It was the No. 1 item on his bucket list after being diagnosed with cancer in 2010.

Now Jeffrey Fisher, 23, of Swansboro has his bachelor’s degree.

After being diagnosed with a Stage 3 brain tumor October 2010, he defied all odds in completing his education at East Carolina University and receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Anthropology while still undergoing treatment at Duke University.

“It’s great to see that Jeff has finished,” said Marieke Van Willigen, chair of the Sociology Department and Fisher’s faculty advisor and professor at ECU.

When he was initially diagnosed with cancer, Fisher was enrolled in one of her classes at the time.

“His major concern was finishing his degree,” she said.

Fisher enrolled in ECU’s online classes, competing with other students to enroll in the high demand classes.

“ECU stepped up to help Jeffrey do what he needed to do,” said Van Willigen. “Professors raved about his performance, saying that he made the online classes better for everyone. He was always the first post, always constructive, and always commented on others posts. He kept pushing through it all, even when he was undergoing treatments.”

Two years after being diagnosed, Van Willigen presented Fisher with his diploma in a surprise graduation ceremony Saturday afternoon at the Swansboro Rotary Club.

With hundreds of guests in attendance, it was clear that Fisher has made an impact on all in attendance, including family, friends, former teachers, coaches from the Swansboro community, as well as his Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brothers, professors, advisors and friends from ECU.

“For the community to come together for our family really means a lot,” said Debbie Fisher, his mother. “No one in attendance is simply an acquaintance; everyone is a really good friend. Jeffrey just naturally draws people to him; he’s a people person.”

The private graduation ceremony was planned in a week, as a result of his brain tumor becoming active again three weeks ago and prompting his quick return to Duke to continue both radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

With the Swansboro Rotary Club decked out in purple and gold, he was presented with his cap and gown at the door, where he believed he was picking up cooking supplies with his friends Jake Brown and Casey Weaver.

“This is pretty awesome,” said Jeffrey Fisher after receiving his diploma and getting over the initial shock of the surprise ceremony. “It’s amazing to see the impact I’ve had on people in both our small community of Swansboro and the large community of ECU.”

With his diploma in hand, he looks forward to focusing on his health, with plans to start his career. He had previously dedicated his time to working with both the Peace Corps and the American Cancer Society, where they raved about his dedication and work effort, claiming he worked twice as hard and accomplished more than anyone else they had, had at the Hope Lodge in Greenville.

“I want to continue to give back and help others,” he said.

In addition to receiving his diploma, he was also awarded the Melvin J. Williams Academic Excellence Award, a prestigious and competitive award from the Department of Sociology at ECU.

He also received a football signed by the ECU football team, as well as special video recorded messages from the team, including Dominique Davis, ECU football player who was drafted by the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons, encouraging him to keep fighting.

“He’s amazing,” said Carol Tolin, his grandmother. “He’s worked so hard and we are all very proud of him.”

Contact Reporter Amberly Pozzi at 910-219-8467 or amberly.pozzi @jdnews.com.

 

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