James worked tirelessly in many forgotten areas and was fearless in his commitment to making the world a kinder, more peaceful, and more equitable place whether it was in Iraq, Uganda, Somalia, Mali, Libya, Tunisia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, or Sri Lanka. James was there, on the ground in all those dangerous places, working to protect people who could not protect themselves. James loved local people, local music, local food (always eating camel), learned new languages, and drank all the homemade Rakia he could.
Raised primarily in Southern California, James took advantage of different opportunities, had a variety of interests, and had an adventurous spirit, e.g. frequent trips in high school to Tijuana, surfing, ice hockey, "car surfing", and wrestling. Our parents fostered his love for international travel from an early age. A constant thrill seeker, I remember exploring a hotel in Mombasa late at night, bars in Hong Kong, and a little village in York, England with him. From the beginning, he wanted to meet local villagers, explore the gritty side of town, and always broke a few rules.
James was a man of extremes. He could be wild, intense, and always offered hysterical commentary albeit often inappropriate. He either ate street meat or dined at 5 star restaurant, rarely anything in between. He ordered two espressos and a Rock Star by 7am and on vacation, he often ordered a bloody mary, double, hold the tomato juice at 9. A minimalist with few possessions and little need for most material things, with the exception of Brooks Brothers shirts and Burberry baby clothing for his sweet nieces. He always drove too fast, yelled too loudly, and gave so generously. A liberal , green peace environmentalist from Orange County who also did ROTC (although he hated it). He knew Columbia University was ideal for him the moment he stepped on the campus for the first time at age 18. He learned so much about life, love, and international work in NYC. The Peace Corps experience in Bulgaria was also a pivotal for James and fostered a love for not just international travel, but for working internationally on a local level.
James passed away in his sleep in Copenhagen from heart failure (atherosclertic coronary artery disease complicated by acute thrombosis) on July 25, 2017. His loss has been shocking, painful and unimagineable, but we hope to continue his work through this scholarship.
** GoFundMe has asked to post additional information for their review process and to protect against fraud. This page was created by Kristin (Stephenson) Tosi, James' sister. I live in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The trustees of the scholarship will be our parents, David and Frances Stephenson in Danville, CA. The funds from this campaign will be awarded to a Columbia University (SIPA) to provide an annual scholarship(s) for students with peace corps background and interest in development. The exact amount of the scholarship will depend on the amount of money raised from this GoFundMe page. The student can choose to use the money for books, coursework or living expenses while in school. My parents will continue to fund the scholarship annually as well. My parents will work with Columbia University to establish this scholarship and invite students to apply. **
- Kim Telep
- joe harwick
- Christina Stephenson
Organizer and beneficiary
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