John Fletcher, an alumnus and visiting professor of government procurement law, died suddenly last month. He was 34.
Fletcher earned his Juris Doctor from GW Law in 2016 and has spent time as a visiting associate professor and graduate fellow in the government procurement law program since last April. He was also a veteran and served in the U.S. Army Special Operations.
Those who knew Fletcher said his sense of humor and positive attitude inspired them, and he is remembered for his perseverance and love of learning.
Maureen Meyer, Fletcher’s mother, said her son loved interacting with people he met at law school more than he enjoyed school itself. When she was packing up his apartment, she said she noticed “very little” belongings because Fletcher preferred to spend his money and time with others.
“From a very young age, John was all about connection,” Meyer said. “He didn’t care whether you were rich or poor, whether you had the right family, the right neighborhood. John just wanted to be with people who knew who they were and accepted that and were hard workers.”
She said throughout Fletcher’s time in elementary through high school, his teachers felt he either belonged in gifted classes or “at the bottom of the pack.” She said the comments frustrated her as a parent, but Meyer saw that her son would dedicate his energy in classes taught by teachers and professors he loved.
Meyer said she heard from Karen Thornton, the former director of the law school’s government law procurement program, that it was clear to her how hard Fletcher worked in her class.
“It wasn’t that he came in gifted, it was that he came in and worked so hard that the transformation she saw in his abilities from the beginning of the year to the end was remarkable,” she said.
Dayna Bowen Matthew, the dean of the law school, said in an email to GW Law community members that Fletcher will be remembered for his courage, compassion and “great sense of humor.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to all who had the honor and privilege to know him,” she said in the email.
Law school faculty organized a memorial service over Zoom and streamed over YouTube Nov. 20. The service included remarks from some of Fletcher’s colleagues at the law school, his colleagues from Wiley Rein LLP’s government contracts practice and some of his classmates.
Lisa Schenck, the associate dean for academic affairs and director of the national security law program in the law school, said she first met Fletcher when he was a student in 2014. She said they met through events from the National Security Law Association and Military Law Society.
Schenck said Fletcher was a “role model” for her students, especially those considering going into the military because he could offer them career advice. She said those students always wanted to hear about his experience in the military and his externship at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“He was very positive and used to say, ‘The highest calling that you can have is to serve your nation,'” she said. “And he would, without hesitation, encourage others to serve their country.”
Schenck said although Fletcher was in a wheelchair for many years, he was very “fit” and lived an active lifestyle. She said he was scuba certified, skied, traveled and lifted weights.
“He never complained, he always had a wonderful attitude, very optimistic, very strong – mentally and physically strong,” Schenck said.
Schenck said Fletcher helped her and others at the law school look at the “big picture” when they were stressed about school and “never complained” about anything in his life.
“Every time I go to say, ‘This is horrible, I just can’t do this anymore’ I think of him,” Schenck said. “He’s like a motivation. He’s the standard for pain and endurance.”
Thornton, the former director of the law school’s government law procurement program, said she met Fletcher in 2013 when he was a first-year law student in her legal research and writing class. She said he impressed her with his openness to learning, and she chose him to be her law fellow when he was in his third year of law school.
“Whether you were a struggling artist or a struggling law student or just facing any kind of struggle, John really moved people to be their best selves, and it’s just extraordinary how many people he impacted in that way,” she said.
Henry Carras, a third-year law student, said he first met Fletcher in a national security class they took together, where he shared a lot of “wisdom” with fellow students on how to pursue a career in the military. Carras said he talked about serious topics like national security with Fletcher, but he always managed to crack jokes.
“The school is really going to miss someone who has that sort of laid-back mentality but also the ability to give people words of wisdom in times where they really need it,” Carras said.
Allie Goebert, a student in the master of science in government contracts program who took Fletcher’s legal writing class two years ago, said Fletcher was a mentor to her. She said they both had experience serving in the military and connected over their similar professional history.
“He was really very open with students,” Goebert said. “He was very detail-oriented, happy to go through your work with you and ensure that what you were doing ultimately was fulfilling the main goal of why you were writing it.”
Goebert said she kept in touch with Fletcher even after taking his class, and they spoke on the phone just a few weeks before his passing.
“I’m really heartbroken that he’s gone,” she said. “He had mentioned to me that he was sick and dealing with some health problems, but we didn’t really discuss what it was, so it kind of came as a kick in the teeth when the law school dean sent out the email that he had passed.”
Fletcher is survived by his grandfather, Donald Meyer; his mother, Maureen Meyer; his father, William Fletcher; his brother; and his sister, according to his obituary.
“They, his mentors, professional colleagues, friends and the recovery community, will mourn the loss of a man who lived bravely and loved deeply,” Fletcher’s obituary states.