Law School aids faculty member with liver cancer

Jamie VanGeest

Fatima Velagic fulfilled her dream of coming to the United States seven years ago with her two children after her husband was murdered in Bosnia.

The dream changed when Velagic, an accounts specialist at the Law School, was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer in May.

“We think she only has a few weeks left,” said Meredith McQuaid, associate dean of the Law School.

Velagic’s friends and coworkers have started a fund to raise money to help support her and her two sons – Vernes Velagic, a sophomore at the University, and Veldan Velagic, who will be a senior at Bloomington Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minn., in the fall.

Law School employees raised money for the Fatima Velagic Trust at a July 20 benefit that included an auction with items donated by faculty members, staff members and students.

Law student Jason Ahn offered to be a personal servent for a day, and McQuaid donated a one-hour motorcycle lesson. The auction raised $4,000 for the trust.

One event at the benefit, a raffle, raised $2,800. Participants could enter to win items such as iPods and Valleyfair tickets. The trust fund has also generated $3,000 in general donations, McQuaid said.

Fatima Velagic, who was an attorney in Bosnia, started working at the Law School’s finance office six years ago.

Diane Hornsten, Fatima Velagic’s coworker, said, “She is inherently enthusiastic about life, and her smile always reflected friendliness.”

Tricia Torrey, another coworker of Fatima Velagic’s, had to stop practicing law while she was in Bosnia because people with those positions were more likely to be executed.

While working full time and raising two boys, Fatima Velagic earned a master’s degree in law. Last fall, she received her U.S. citizenship.

“She managed to save up enough for a house Ö she is sort of the poster child for America,” Torrey said.

Law School staff members have been visiting Fatima Velagic at her home and bringing her lunch, Torrey said.

If Fatima Velagic’s situation deteriorates, her sons are going to live with her supervisor and friend Pam Wilson.

Wilson offered to take the boys when she found out Fatima Velagic does not have any relatives in the United States.

“The boys are devastated. I think in their heads they know, but in their hearts they’re still hoping a miracle will happen,” said Wilson, who has two sons and a daughter close in age to Fatima Velagic’s sons.