First-year law student remembered for friendly demeanor, willingness to help

Media Credit: Photo Courtesy of McFadden Family
First-year law student James McFadden went into cardiac arrest May 1 after choking on food at dinner, and was kept alive on life support until last Wednesday. His mother said he was kind and always looking to help.

James McFadden didn’t have much time for hobbies, his mother said. He was always too busy helping out anyone who asked.

James McFadden, a first-year law student from Olmsted Falls, Ohio who went by Jim, died last Wednesday. His mother, Lisa McFadden, said the 27-year-old went into cardiac arrest May 1 after choking on food at dinner, and was kept alive on life support for about two weeks.

She said he had a wonderful sense of humor and was always willing to help friends and family, especially his younger sister, with whom he shared an especially close bond. He is survived by his parents, sister, aunts and uncles.

“Whether it was reviewing an essay for [his] sister, helping a friend to try and coordinate a fundraiser, he just did the gambit,” Lisa McFadden said.

James McFadden studied government, the history of science and Spanish at Harvard University, graduating in 2010, according to his LinkedIn page. During his senior year, a cheating scandal had hit campus and he and a few friends decided to make T-shirts in support of the student being accused of faking his way through Harvard. The story of the shirt, with the student’s mug shot on the front and fake resume on the back, waspicked upby Boston Magazine.

At GW, McFadden was a member of the International Law Society and the Korean American Law Students Association, according to his LinkedIn page.

In 2010, he received a Fulbright grant and traveled to Naju, South Korea, where he taught middle school courses for a year, according to his LinkedIn page. He was offered a job with the Fulbright program for the next year, where he helped run its work in North Korea.

Lisa McFadden said James McFadden was “very proud” of his work in South Korea and his family traveled abroad to visit him.

“He made so many friends through that program. That’s what’s amazing,” she said. “He had his high school friends and then his friends from Harvard and then his friends from Fulbright, and he managed to pull all three groups together.”

Blake D. Morant, dean of the law school, sent an email to law students and faculty on Saturday, expressing his condolences to James McFadden’s family. James McFadden is the third law student to die this academic year.

“I know that everyone joins me in mourning the loss of our dear friend,” Morant said in the email. “Members of the University staff have spoken with Jim’s family and have offered our deepest sympathies and our desire to provide whatever support is necessary.”

A GoFundMe campaign started during James McFadden’s hospitalization has raised nearly $45,000 of its $50,000 goal to help cover medical and funeral costs.

Starting in early 2013, James McFadden also spent a year and a half as communications director for Aravella Simotas, a New York State assemblywoman.

Simotas said in an email that James McFadden was a “brilliant writer, witty spokesman and fiercely loyal friend.”

“His love for life, dedication to his family and infectious personality were his most endearing traits,” she wrote.

Simotas said during a lunch they had before McFadden left for GW, he shared his excitement to learn about shaping public policy.

“In Jim’s mind, we all have a duty to help humankind. We can all learn something from the example Jim set during his relatively short life,” she said. “I am so very grateful to have known Jim, and pray that he rest in peace.”

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