A love story
Photos courtesy of Erica Cohen Finamore and Haley Richter Photography July 14, 2020
Jon Marc Finamore '11 Scholarship honors late alumnus
For the longest time, Jon Marc Finamore knew he wanted to study the brain. It amazed him, and he was curious to learn more about how it worked.
Yet he was more than a scientist or researcher. Throughout every aspect of his life, he brought both his brain and his heart, balancing intensive pre-med studies as an honors student majoring in biology and neuroscience at the University of Delaware with time spent playing board games or exchanging inside jokes with friends.
“He was definitely the wittiest person I ever met,” recalled his wife and fellow Blue Hen Erica Cohen Finamore. “I like to think that I’m pretty quick, but Jon put me to shame.”
The two met through the magic of being randomly assigned to the same residence hall as first-year students and became part of a tight-knit circle of friends. As a future magazine editor and a future doctor, they came from different academic tracks, but eventually became a couple.
Their friendship evolved in the way those relationships sometimes do, without one pivotal moment that brought it all together. After graduating from UD together in 2011, Jon moved to Philadelphia, where he attended medical school, and Erica pursued her career in New York City, where Jon eventually joined her.
They married in October 2017. Four months later, Jon, then a neurology resident, decided to get a checkup in response to a recent spate of memory loss and headaches. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
As a neurologist, he understood the diagnosis he was up against. He and Erica held out hope he might beat the odds, but also wanted to make the most of whatever time they had together. His illness, Erica said, reinforced there’s no certain “life trajectory, as much as you want to have one.”
Months passed. They traveled to the Cliffs of Moher on the Irish Coast and Miami, indulged in fancy dinners in New York City and relaxed with friends at their apartment. There were hospital visits and medical appointments. They did all they could together, packing what should have taken place over 50 years of marriage into just two.
Although Erica said that Jon did not like to talk about the possibilities of a future without him, she knew that he trusted her. In December of 2019, she began the process of establishing a scholarship fund in his name at UD with his family. As part of a family of Blue Hens — Jon’s father and brother both attended the University — they saw it as a way to both continue Jon’s legacy and give back to the place that meant so much to all of them.
After Jon died on April 17, 2020, his family announced the creation of the Jon Marc Finamore '11 Scholarship at the University of Delaware. Because of the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, his larger circle of friends and family are still waiting to have a full memorial service. Instead, many have honored him by giving to his scholarship. By creating the scholarship in his name and inviting others to give in his memory, they hope to honor his time at the University and support future UD students who have an interest in the medical field.
“The way he carried himself he was incredibly mature and focused and, as an adult, it’s amazing to look back and see how dedicated he was to things, without anybody pushing him. He had this internal drive,” recalled his friend and former roommate Kevin Murphy, a 2011 graduate of the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. “Hopefully, someone with the same drive as Jon will benefit from the scholarship and can really make a difference.”
Following Jon’s death, friends and colleagues from every corner of his life reached out to his family to share stories and memories, including Anna Klintsova, a professor in UD’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. During his undergraduate career, Jon conducted research in Klintsova’s lab. It was a challenging and stressful place to be, but Klintsova recalled he conducted himself with a quiet sort of leadership.
“When everything goes right in research, you kind of take it for granted,” Klintsova said. “Sometimes, you remember the problems more. With him, everything went smoothly.”
One personal memory that stands out for Klintsova was the camaraderie of Jon and his peers in the lab, who rallied around her when she went through chemotherapy treatment following a cancer diagnosis herself. Upon arriving in the lab one day, she was touched to discover all her undergraduate assistants had either shaved their heads or covered up their hair with hats in solidarity. Jon was among those who chose to shave off all his hair.
His compassion for others — from his friends and family to his patients — is something his close friend Kristen Moran, a 2011 graduate of the College of Health Sciences, will remember. Like Murphy, she befriended Jon during their first year and learned to count on him for advice and friendship.
“Jon was such a kind person, he was welcoming. His room was the one we would always go hang out in,” Moran recalled. “What was really cool about Jon was he was incredibly smart — top of his class — and yet the most humble person I’ve ever met. He was easy to talk to and he always laughed at my jokes, even though they were never as funny as his own.”
Ultimately, Jon’s friends and family hope his leadership, dedication and compassion will inspire the next generation of doctors and researchers and allow them to pursue their academic goals through the support of his scholarship. They want others to learn from both his enthusiasm for the medical field, as well as the ways in which he created a full, meaningful life for himself and those who knew him.
“Being a doctor is such a challenging career, especially right now, as they put their lives at risk for us every day,” Erica said. “It takes a special person to go into that, and anything we can do to help the next generation of people who are innately that giving and kind is important. Now more than ever, we need doctors who care so wholeheartedly about the world.”
To learn more about the Jon Marc Finamore '11 Scholarship at the University of Delaware, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Gifts can also be made through www.udel.edu/makeagift by selecting the “Other” designation and searching for the Jon Marc Finamore '11 Scholarship.