Justin Hughes ’03 once had “the sweetest gig at the university” as student manager of the men’s golf team. In addition to getting to know the players, he says, attending the yearly tournament was a highlight.
Hughes recently made a new connection with the University of Arizona at another golf tournament, the Cologuard Classic in Tucson. He and his wife, Lowry Hughes, met University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins — although it took some time for them to realize who it was.
“It’s a story I’ll probably tell forever,” he says.
The Hugheses had VIP access at the tournament, which supports colon cancer awareness, and were following pro golfer and fellow Wildcat Jim Furyk ’92. Robbins also was following Furyk, and the couple started chatting with him. But, Hughes says, he didn’t recognize Robbins, who was not only masked but also bundled against the day’s bitter cold.
Finally, when Hughes admired the friendly stranger’s UArizona Nikes and was offered a pair, Hughes asked if he was speaking with a university staff member, and Robbins introduced himself.
Hughes attends and supports the tournament because he’s a colon cancer survivor. He was diagnosed at 34 and spent a year and a half undergoing treatment. He’s now been free of cancer for five years and looks for opportunities to spread the word about prevention and detection, he says.
“Once I learned how preventable it is and how widespread it is in younger people, it made me want to be a delegate for colon cancer awareness and the advances that have been made in the past 15 years.”
It took some time for Hughes to seek testing and treatment.
“You have to listen to your body. I didn’t at first, and I want to help people not make the same mistake. I got lucky.”