By Melanie Conner, Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison and Charles Fout, AMU Graduate
On May 27, we celebrate National Gray Day. During this event, we encourage you to wear gray to raise awareness of brain cancer and the need for more research. It is also a day to honor those living with brain cancer, such as AMU graduate Charles Fout.
In a recent interview, Charles discussed his personal and professional accomplishments and his personal struggles, such as living with glioblastoma multiforme (brain cancer).
Serving in the Navy and the Government
Charles is no stranger to deployments. In his 21 years of serving in the Navy, he deployed three times to the Middle East on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Enterprise and the USS John F. Kennedy.
In the Navy, Charles served as a Chief Petty Officer. Some of his responsibilities included redirecting fires back to fire stations, linking the ship to the battalion and mapping out future fires for training.
Charles graduated with a bachelor’s degree in military management in 2002. After retiring from the military in 2004, Charles joined EDO Corporation, an organization he calls “outstanding.”
Charles later worked at the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Acquisition Management Administrative Office. He was responsible for the calendars for the deputy assistant and his deputy, maintained personnel and administrative files, and managed confidential correspondences.
In 2006, Charles transitioned to the Peace Corps Office of the General Counsel, where he became an executive assistant. He worked in this role for just under five years, leaving the Peace Corps in 2010.
In addition to managing the office, this role called for him to act as assistant manager of the agency ethics program. Charles notes, “I had a few ethics classes, “Ethics in Government” in particular, which were helpful. The Peace Corps is unique in that it has its five-year rule.
“All employees, except for safety and security, are hired with five-year term appointments. The idea was to keep Peace Corps from becoming just another DC bureaucracy. There were ways of extending one’s service beyond the five years, and I loved the Peace Corps. However, I really loved the institution of the five-year rule, so I began my job search again.”
Charles became a legal administrator in the Office of the General Counsel for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in 2011. He says that this job is similar to the role he had at the Peace Corps. At DTRA, Charles was the special assistant to the Director of Equity, Equality, and Diversity.
AMU Education and Ethics Training
Charles says, “The ethics classes from AMU have proven important. In practice, they make me a better person every day. Without a doubt, my “Ethics in Government” class with Dr. Carl D. Rehberg was life-changing for me.
“Hardly a day passes without me thinking about something we discussed. I was the only student for this particular class. I am still so grateful to AMU and Dr. Rehberg for continuing the class with me as the only student.”
Overcoming Professional Challenges
At the Peace Corps and the DRTA, Charles says that the biggest challenges for him have been keeping up with the enormous volume of work and the speed at which that work comes. He observes that managing the ethics program at DTRA required him to handle frequent phone calls for confidential money expenditures, meet tight deadlines and pay all the bills for the office.
Charles overcomes these challenges by compartmentalizing, prioritizing and delegating his workload whenever appropriate. For instance, he preferred to delegate some responsibilities to interns, because they helped with database entry and basic reporting.
Charles suggests that regardless of what field you’re looking to enter, networking is key. He says, “Invest in some business cards. It is so nice to be prepared to exchange business cards when the opportunity presents itself. I learned this while at the Peace Corps. Returning Peace Corps volunteers are so good at networking.”
Living with Brain Cancer and Celebrating Life
Charles notes that his greatest accomplishment to date is living, and living well, with brain cancer. Charles underwent a quick diagnosis of brain cancer, when he fell down the stairs on November 10, 2016. His cancer was discovered that day, and he had brain surgery on November 11, 2016.
Following his surgery, Charles went through radiation and chemotherapy for eight weeks, and his last treatments were in February 2017. Charles rang a ship’s bell on February 8, 2017, which is tradition for cancer patients to ring a bell after finishing treatment. He says, “When it was my turn, I rang that bell as if I was an old sailor calling away a fire.”
Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer, as it is not a curable tumor. Charles continues maintenance chemotherapy and will do so for the rest of his life. Maintenance chemotherapy consists of taking the medication for five consecutive days every month. Charles receives yearly MRI scans to monitor his glioblastoma multiforme.
He says, “I truly am an outlier. My surgery was on Veterans’ Day in 2016. My wife, my medical team, my support prayer warriors, judo, and the grappling community worldwide have been so important to me.”
Charles has a lot to celebrate in his life. He and his wife recently celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary. He also competes in several local and regional judo tournaments, and he’s received medals (one silver and two bronze) at three United States National Judo Championships as well as a bronze medal at the East Coast Sambo Championships.
He has also continued his education. In 2018, Charles completed the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) from the College of Business at James Madison University and attended the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School for his job at DTRA. In 2020, he had the joy of watching his daughter, Elizabeth, graduate from George Mason University with a double major in Russian and international politics.
Charles is active in politics as well. In 2021, he began his campaign to run for Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia and United States Representative for Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District.