• Volume 18 Number 2
    Spring 2009


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John Cleland, BS ’74
 Zionsville, Ind.  •  Profiled: Spring ’06

High school biology teacher

John Cleland knows he is lucky to be alive. And he wants to tell as many people as possible about his good fortune.

Cleland was diagnosed with testicular cancer during his undergraduate years at Purdue. Six weeks short of earning his undergraduate degree in animal sciences, Cleland’s doctors said the words no one wants to hear.

“We’ve done all we can do.”John Cleland

Cleland survived only by submitting to a revolutionary drug protocol that had as much chance of killing him as it did of curing him. In fact, the only two cancer patients who had agreed to the procedure prior to Cleland had both died.

A quarter-century later, the research physician who developed the treatment, Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, would become famous for using the same procedure to save the life of cycling superstar Lance Armstrong.

Admittedly a man of few words, Cleland chooses them carefully when warning students at Zionsville High School to pay attention to cancer’s warning signs. He has taught biology at the school since 1981.

“Each semester I speak to our health classes, which total about 450 students each year. I speak to other groups and classes when asked,” Cleland says.

But he’s equally likely to speak to them about Purdue University and Purdue Agriculture.

“I have always been very proud of my Purdue education and degree,” Cleland says. “Even more than the degree, the relationships and friends that were created are most important to me. The wisdom and kindness of many of my professors is still valued today.”

And so is his good health. Cleland has now been cancer free for 36 years.