Obituary: Jacques de Villiers, 21​​​

​Despite cancer, De Villiers engaged fully in campus life

Washington University in St. Louis rising senior Jacques de Villiers died July 3, 2015, of cancer. He was 21 years old.

De Villiers

De Villiers was diagnosed with cancer as a high school student in Cleveland. But he arrived at Washington University ready to engage in campus life. He studied economics and biomedical physics, played club hockey, joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity and cooked elaborate meals for friends.

“Jacques was fighting so hard to be here with us,” said De Villiers’ four year adviser Nicole Gore, assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences. “He wanted to be here even if he could only take two classes each semester. He wanted to be part of this community.”

Gore said De Villiers rarely spoke about his treatments or the physical challenges he faced; rather, he stayed focused on his classes which ranged from French IV to physics of the heart. Ultimately De Villiers wanted to go to medical school.

“Jacques was just a lovely person who was interested in so many things – French and English and film and medicine,” Gore said. “He was planning for a great academic future that combined those interests in some way.”

SAE fraternity brother Daniel Sheinbein said De Villiers exemplified the fraternity’s motto – the true gentleman.

“His courage, his fight, his passion for life is everything we try to live by,” said Sheinbein, who was a member of De Villiers’ 2013 pledge class. “We treated him like a normal, healthy kid which, I know, brought him much happiness. And he brought us a lot of happiness too. Everyone who met him really liked him. He showed us how to be strong and face your challenges.”

And he was funny too, Sheinbein said.

“He was always cracking everyone up,” Sheinbein said. “Even when I visited him in May when he was really sick, he was still making me laugh. That was the one thing that never changed – his sense of humor.”

Sheinbein said the fraternity is planning a memorial for De Villiers in the fall.