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December 19 , 2006
DH 06 JH93
Contact: Joanie Harmon-Whetmore
CSU Dominguez Hills Advertising Class Designs Campaign for Alum Who Needs a Bone Marrow Transplant
Carson, CA - 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 his 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 a national 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.
“Each student was responsible for creation of those final concepts, and every student contributed in some way,” says their instructor. “Somebody wrote a line of copy, someone else made a decision on a visual element. Everybody got their two cents in, to make the work as good as it could be.”
When the final concepts were 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 Carson.
Russo marvels at the selfless way that Williams is approaching the search, not just for a donor for himself, but to bring awareness to the public of the difficulties that people of color have to overcome to find a cure for the incurable.
“Jerome has 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. He says that no matter what happens to him, he is concerned with what happens to others in the future.”
CSU Dominguez Hills - University Communications & Public Affairs
1000 E. Victoria Street
Carson, CA 90747