Donor Story

A Legacy of Living in the Now

Mom Establishes Memorial Scholarship at UNM School of Engineering in Son’s Name

By Anna Adams

Posted September 9, 2014

“For 31 years he taught me how to live, and in the end, how to die,” said Judy Anderson of her late son, Shane Anderson. “Not one of us has the promise of tomorrow.”

Shane Anderson

Shane Anderson

At 25, while a chemical engineering graduate student at UNM, Shane was diagnosed with advanced melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

“When a mother hears that, she thinks, no, this can’t be true,” said Judy.

Disbelieving, the family sought a second opinion on the diagnosis, which was sadly confirmed. Only 5 to 10 percent of patients in Shane’s condition survive, doctors told the Andersons. Despite the odds, his doctors promised to never give up on him.

Giving up was the last thing on Shane’s mind. For six and a half more years, he survived. It was more than survival. Shane began studying for his PhD in chemical engineering at the University, determined to beat the cancer and to make the most of each day.

“He was willing to do anything,” said Judy. “He so wanted to live. And he forged ahead. He believed he would beat it until the very end. It was three days before he died that he accepted it.”

In addition to his mother, Shane is survived by his father, Col. Jerris C. Anderson, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1989 and lives in Colorado Springs, and his sister, Courtney Anderson Bowers, who graduated from UNM in 1997 with a BA degree in English.

An “adventure freak,” Shane did everything from rock climbing to bungee jumping. At St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque he participated in track and football, forming friendships that continued into a fraternity at UNM and that are still a part of Judy’s life today.

“After Shane died, his friends took me under their wing,” said Judy. “They said, ‘You don’t have Shane, but you have us.’”

It is now 17 years later, and his friends still tell her that they miss Shane.

“It’s a phenomenon how he touched people,” she said. “One of them said to me recently that he thought, ‘Why isn’t Shane here?’”

If Shane were here, he would be enjoying each day.

“Nothing is worth more than this day. He taught me to live in the now,” said Judy, and that she has.

Since Shane died, Judy has become well known in the international runner community. She started a bed and breakfast and began housing elite road racers and marathon runners who come to Albuquerque from all over the world to train.

“Runners are interesting, high energy people,” she said. “No matter if they have an injury, they have a positive attitude.”

Nearly seven years ago Judy began training for a half marathon herself, to see if she could do it. Not long after she began training, Judy had a stroke while on vacation in Maui. In good shape from her half marathon training, she recovered.

“The runners would say that I was on the shelf,” said Judy of her stroke. “It’s a positive term.”

Five years after the stroke and now 73, Judy has chosen to honor her son by funding the Shane Anderson Memorial Scholarship, which benefits students at UNM’s Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering.

“He loved school,” she explained. “And now, because of this scholarship, there will always be somebody who knows about Shane.”


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