His senior photo says it all: Cliff Foster ’11 really is ‘winning.’ The triumphant 22-year-old is set to graduate from Oglethorpe next week. And, through hard work in his classes and giving it his all at his internship at Ernst & Young, one of the top four auditors in the country, the accounting major has landed a coveted permanent position at the company. But that’s not the whole story.
As quiet and focused as he is, Cliff will tell you that finishing up his undergraduate career while working was no cake walk. Last year, as a junior, Cliff was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a cancer of the white blood cells that—surprising to Cliff—is very rare in young people.
“I didn’t know what it was at first, but I could tell that something was wrong,” relays Cliff. ”I had flu-like symptoms all the time, I had lost my appetite, energy, and passion for things I liked to do—like working out and playing tennis.”
Throughout his treatments, Cliff battled the cancer with the same tenacity he gave his schoolwork, and is proud to announce that his cancer is now in the first stage of remission. Inspired by his experience, Cliff became driven to do all that he can to help find a cure for cancer—especially in young people.
“During my treatments [at Emory] I hated to see little kids going through so much pain…children shouldn’t suffer at such a young age. I’m much older so I can handle it, but to see a six-year-old little girl and her parents try to get through these treatments, it’s heartbreaking.”
Each year, Oglethorpe’s resident assistants hold an Open Mic Night to raise money for a charity, and this year Cliff suggested CURE Childhood Cancer, a nonprofit organization with the mission to fight childhood cancer through education, research and support of cancer patients and their families. After selling about 200 raffle tickets, petitioning the administrative offices at Oglethorpe, and receiving a sizable match from an anonymous donor, Cliff and his fellow R.A.s raised over $2300. His initial fundraising goal was $500.
“I know from personal experience how difficult it is to fund these treatments, and I wanted us to make a sizable donation that would really make a difference,” said Cliff. “The thing I like most about CURE is that it strives to help the families and fund research for a cure. I was certainly surprised by the generosity by the OU community—financially and emotionally. Many of the administrators visited me in the hospital last year. They really came together for me and for the children that this money can help.”