After four rounds of chemotherapy at a Northern California hospital, Eric Kenyon ’89 was navigating the next steps in his cancer treatment. “[While I was] in remission, they said they did not have a lot of options left,” recalls Kenyon, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in November 2017. “They kind of gave up on me.”
With the support of his wife, Julie, Kenyon ultimately chose to go to City of Hope, a pioneer in bone marrow and stem cell transplants in Duarte, California. In response to a social media update, Chi Sigma Chi fraternity brother Bryan Carlson ’90 recommended they reach out to fellow Bulldog Robert Stone ’90, the renowned cancer center’s president and chief executive officer. Unbeknownst to Carlson, Stone had been Kenyon’s first-year roommate in Anderson Hall.
“We had already made the decision [to go to City of Hope], but at that time I had no idea Robert was a fixture here,” says Kenyon, who is next to participate in a clinical trial at the hospital. “I chose City of Hope for the same reasons I chose Redlands—both are intimate and warm, and we felt strongly that I would be well taken care of.”
When Kenyon emailed Stone, the roommates had not been in contact for 30 years. In the meantime, they had pursued different paths.
Kenyon, who had majored in English, had gone on to earn a master’s degree at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. His subsequent career spanned architecture, marketing, and hospitality. “Redlands prepared me for the courage and fortitude to do something with which I was not familiar,” Kenyon says. “That’s the beauty of a liberal arts school—it gave me a lot of options to find myself.”
Stone, a political science major who had played basketball and baseball at U of R, attended law school at University of Chicago. He started on City of Hope’s legal team in 1996 and has since held numerous leadership positions. He cites President Emeritus Jim Appleton and Basketball Coach Gary Smith as Redlands leaders who inspired him. “Both set examples of how to bring people together for a common cause, how to put community and team first, how to hold people accountable, and how to motivate,” says Stone. “They had a profound impact on me, and I still rely on all the lessons they taught me.”
When Stone received Kenyon’s email, he was quick to respond and set up a time to visit.
“Cancer touches everyone, and people are united in the fight to eradicate the disease,” reflects Stone. “This was one of those touches that came a little closer to home. I was elated to reconnect with Eric, but wished it had been under different circumstances.”
Visiting with Kenyon at Hope and Parsons Village on the City of Hope campus was an experience Stone treasures: “We spent hours sitting outside, talking about life,” Stone says. “I interact with patients and families who are going through this battle every day, and Eric is a more personal reminder of that. He is humble, positive, and an inspiration.”
Kenyon credits his support system, including his “No. 1 Bulldog,” Julie, with contributing to his positive attitude. His hospital room walls are filled with photos of family and friends “so I remember what I am fighting for.”
Kenyon is also grateful to Stone for the chance to reconnect, as well as to the dozen Chi Sig brothers who have visited him in the hospital. “When you go through something like this, it is nice to feel normal. … Redlands was a special place for all of us for different reasons, and their support has made such a huge difference for me in this fight.”
Editor’s note: Eric Kenyon passed away on July 16, after the summer 2019 issue of Och Tamale magazine went to press. Our editorial team is grateful to be able to share his story with the Bulldog community. We offer the Kenyons our deepest condolences.