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Michael Isenhour Dies After Battle With Leukemia

June 14, 2002

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech basketball player Michael Isenhour passed away Thursday following a nine-month battle to overcome acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Isenhour, 23, who was originally diagnosed with the illness last October, died at Emory Hospital, nine days after undergoing a bone marrow transplant. He is survived by his father, Charlie, his brother, Mark, and his fiance, Lori Pendergrass.

The viewing for Isenhour will take place from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, June 15, and the funeral will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 16, both at Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Inc., 3705 Highway 78 W, Snellville, GA, 30039.

“Everyone in the Georgia Tech community suffered a personal loss yesterday when Michael passed,” said head basketball coach Paul Hewitt. “He inspired us with his unselfishness prior to his illness, and his spirit and attitude when faced with cancer touched us all. I ask that we all be there to support the people who love Michael most, his father Charlie, his brother, Mark, and his fiance, Lori. As friends, teammates and coaches, we are all thankful for the time we had with Michael.”

“I will remember Mike as a great person who was like a brother to me,” said Tony Akins, a senior point guard on last year’s team. “We used to spend hours hanging out and playing video games. He would always talk to me about things I could do to better myself. It was a great inspiration to me and my teammates to see him fight the way he did.

“One of the toughest things for me was something his brother, Mark, told me. Mark said that one day this spring, when Michael was in bed and really sick, all of a sudden he jumped out of bed and got on the computer. Mark asked him what he was doing, and Mike said, ‘I think Tony was at a camp this weekend. I’ve got to see how he did.’ For him to care about me when he was fighting for his life, that tells you what kind of person he was.”

Isenhour graduated from Tech in December with a degree in mechanical engineering and was scheduled to begin graduate studies this summer. He was a member of Tech’s student-athlete advisory board and spearheaded an effort to conduct a toy drive at the Yellow Jackets’ football game against Georgia last Nov. 24.

A 6-8 center, Isenhour played in 39 games in two seasons at Tech (1999-2001) and was expected to contribute significantly to last year’s young squad. In the 2000-01 season, Isenhour was an integral part of Tech’s 10-player rotation in Hewitt’s first season on the Flats, playing in 27 games and averaging nearly 10 minutes a game and helping lead the Jackets to the NCAA Tournament.

The Lawrenceville, Ga., native graduated from Shiloh High School and attended the Air Force Academy for one year before transferring to Tech to be near his mother, Cheri, who passed away from cancer in May of 2001.

“We are all saddened by Mike’s passing,” said Tech director of athletics Dave Braine. “He was a leader and an inspiration not only his teammates but everyone in the Georgia Tech family with his positive disposition throughout his battle with cancer. We pray for strength for his father and brother to deal with their great loss.”

“Our deepest sympathies are with Michael’s family in the wake of their loss,” said Georgia Tech president, Dr. G. Wayne Clough. “Michael was a great representative of the Institute as a model student-athlete and a leader for his team. His bravery in battling his illness should be an inspiration to us all.”

Isenhour was first diagnosed with the leukemia in late October, 2001, shortly after pre-season practice began. After a six-week hospitalization and an intensive chemotherapy treatment, Isenhour was released the week of Thanksgiving and attended several Tech basketball games throughout the 2001-02 season, including the Yellow Jackets’ Senior Night victory against Wake Forest on Feb. 27.

He was admitted again to Emory and underwent a bone marrow transplant on June 4.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford on the passing of Georgia Tech’s Michael Isenhour “We are all deeply saddened by the passing of Michael Isenhour. His battle with leukemia was an inspiration to everyone. I’m sure I speak for the entire conference and its fans in extending condolences to Michael’s family and the Georgia Tech athletic program.”

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