Cancer Survivor Focuses on Assisting Freshmen, Staying Fit

While there are many faculty and staff members at SUNY Oswego, none are quite like Minetto resident Jay Button.

Although he is much older than the average member of SUNY Oswego’s Cooper Fitness Center, you can often find Jay working out with his personal trainer, Ryan Kelly to continue to stay fit.

“He’s definitely older, but he comes in every day looking to better himself just like everybody else,” Kelly said.

How old, you may ask. Button will turn 82 on April 27. Although most of the students he works with would never have guessed this unless Button were to answer his usual question to students “how old do you think I am?”.

Button retired after working as a professor for 29 years in 1998, but SUNY Oswego wasn’t willing to let him go so easy. Button received a phone call asking if he would serve as Faculty Master, an advisor, of sorts, to first year students.

“I was ready to retire and do I don’t know what, but I came back because i know that I really enjoy working with young people,” Button said.

Not only is Button happy to be working with the students, but the students can’t get enough of him!

“If you need anything, want to talk to somebody, someone to have a joke with, you just go to his office and within 30 seconds you’ll be dying of laughter,” Freshman student Cui Sussoni said.

Student resident mentors (RAs) also say working with Jay is a real treat.

“He acted as a mentor for me, a real encouragement when I first started working and was really nervous,” Resident Mentor Marisa Farmer said.

Button served as faculty master at Johnson Hall at SUNY Oswego for the past 17 years, even when life events impeded on his life.

“I had a brother who died of lung cancer, my wife has had cancer, then I had stomach cancer,” said Button.

While many would focus on taking care of himself during cancer, Button still worked while carrying his chemo pack on his side. He said even though his job was to help the students, they were also helping him.

“I know that being here has kept me young,” said Button.

Button also uses fitness to help him stand up against cancer. He also sets goals for himself which would be difficult for anyone, let alone a man in his 80’s.

In Relay for Life in 2013, Button stood up to cancer by doing a handstand for 80 seconds on his 80th birthday.

Last year for his 81st birthday, Button attempted to do 81 jumping jacks in a minute, but due to the high altitude in Italy, where he was vacationing last April, he was unsuccessful.

This year for his 82nd birthday, Button will try to be successful again by attempting a 164 second plank. Kelly said that 82 seconds was too easy for him, so they doubled the time, which means Button will be planking for about two minutes and 45 seconds.

Button will also be attending and speaking at Relay for Life on April 25th in the Marano Campus Center Arena.