CSU Dominguez Hills Advertising Class Designs Campaign for Alum Who Needs a Bone Marrow Transplant
When Chris Russo, lecturer, Communications, came up with the final project for his Advertising Copywriting
class, he hoped to bring more to the drawing board than just another ad campaign for a material world.
After reading a story about alum Jerome Williams (Class of ’91, B.S., Business Administration/Computer Information
Systems) in the CSU Dominguez Hills student newspaper, The Bulletin, he was inspired to take the lesson to another
level, and have his students design a campaign for a cause. Williams, who is in the accelerated stages of leukemia,
has been told by doctors that they are not sure how much longer he will live without a compatible bone marrow donor.
“I‘m African American, French and Native American,” Williams said in an interview last year. “I went through my
family members and no one was a match. I went to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and no one has been a
match so far. Due to my unique racial heritage, someone of Caribbean or a black and Hispanic mix would most likely
be a marrow match for me.
“If you have an unrelated donor, your chances of survival are lessened,” he says. “But when you compare it to having
no donor whatsoever, it’s a much better chance.”
The former Los Angeles Fire Department employee was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in February 2003
after visiting the doctor for what he thought was acid reflux disease; an enlarged spleen due to the leukemia had
pushed him stomach out of place, causing discomfort. Since then, he has spearheaded several bone marrow drives, two
of which have taken place on the CSUDH campus, to find a cure for others and himself.
Russo’s students were split into teams to create concepts for an awareness campaign for the National Marrow
Donor Program, to encourage college students of all ethnicities to be tested for donor eligibility. The four best ideas
were then fine-tuned into the final product by the entire class.
“The students all felt like they owned a part of those final concepts, they all contributed in some way,” says their
instructor. “Somebody wrote a line of copy, someone else made a decision on a photo. Everybody got their two cents in,
to make the work in progress as good as it could be.”
When the final presentation was finished, the class presented it to Williams, who visited his alma mater to meet with
them. Several of Russo’s students have expressed the desire to stay with the project, assisting industry professionals
whose help he was able to enlist. David Hinesley, senior (Communications) says he “really liked working on something
that was worthwhile, other than just trying to sell something and make money. It’s good to have the ability to work on
something a little more meaningful. It was nice that Jerome gave us so much of his time, especially since he might not
have a lot of it left. He was dedicating what could be his last months to trying to help others in his situation.”
Williams has contributed his story to Breaking the Silence: Inspirational Stories of Black Cancer Survivors by Dr. Karin
Stanford (Lancaster: Gazelle Book Services, Ltd., 2005).
“Dr. Stanford is trying to dispel the myth that black people don’t get cancer,” notes Williams. “When the doctor told me,
I was shocked. I told the doctor that diabetes runs in my family, not cancer. I later found out that cancer does run in
my family, my grandfather died of it two years ago, and his siblings also died of cancer.”
This is not the first time that Russo has applied a humanitarian effort to his advertising class. In 2004, the final
project was to build a campaign for the Peace and Joy Care Center, a shelter for the victims of domestic violence in
Russo marvels at the selfless way that Williams is approaching the search, not just for a donor for himself, but to
bring an awareness to the public of the difficulties that people of color have to overcome to find a cure for the
“For a guy who doesn’t know how much longer he is going to live, he’s got such a positive message,” says Russo.“He provided the class and me with so much inspiration. It’s beautiful how he doesn’t put his own situation at the
forefront. No matter what happens to him, he is concerned with what happens to others in the future.”
- Joanie Harmon-Whetmore
Photos above: Chris Russo's Advertising Copywriting class developed a campaign to build national awareness of the need for bone marrow donors for patients of color. Alum Jerome Williams (front row, second from left) visited the class to view their concept and tell them about his mission to save others in a similar situation.
Advertising students split into teams to come up with the class' final concept.
Back row, L-R: Sally Ramirez, senior (Communications), David Hinesley, senior (Communications) and Sean Soto, senior (Digital Media Arts)
Front row, L-R:
Brittany Perlin, senior, (Communications),
Laika de los Santos, senior(Communications), and
Nasbah Hill, senior (Psychology)
Photos by Chris Russo