Finding Faith and Purpose Through Struggle
Issue   |   Fri, 05/18/2018 - 11:22
Photo courtesy of Reece Foy '18
Foy’s time at Amherst has been marked by a deep commitment to faith, as seen in his time with the Amherst Christian Fellowship.

Growing up in Hawaii, Reece Foy says the spirit of aloha was “just ingrained in the culture.”

“It doesn’t just mean hello or goodbye, but it’s also a way of life — it’s a way to perpetuate love. In that sense, you come and show aloha to everyone, no matter where you are or who you are,” he said.

In this environment and culture of love, in which Foy viewed everyone as family, he dedicated himself to sports, focusing mainly on football, baseball and basketball.

“He had a curious spirit and lived life to the fullest and did not leave a stone unturned. His actions, intended or not, had an impact on most around him,” his mother Terry Foy said.

Now, after four years in Western Massachusetts, Foy leaves Amherst College having enriched the lives of those around him through his dedication to service, faith and football.

A Life of Faith
Raised in a Catholic family, Foy spent every childhood Sunday at church. But it wasn’t until his teenage years that Foy began to have a personal connection to his family’s faith.

“I was in my eighth-grade year when I really began to investigate faith for myself, and probably officially my sophomore year of high school when I began to take claim faith for my own,” Foy said.

Foy’s relationship with God deepened after a religious retreat he attended his sophomore year, which motivated him to become the leader of his high school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The retreat was a “special time for me and definitely was my first personal encounter with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and [I] felt His love in my life,” Foy described. “The retreat wasn’t easy either; there were times when we were crying together, we were celebrating and we were praying. Through all of it I felt the newness of Christ.”

However, not until his sophomore year at Amherst did faith become “the center — the most important thing that my entire life revolves around.”

Following Football
Like faith, athletics has also long been a part of Foy’s life. Since the age of four, he has played a wide variety of sports, starting with football. This passion was fueled primarily by his family, who advocated for athletics for the life lessons they teach.

Thanks to a stellar high school career as quarterback, Foy was recruited by several colleges, ultimately deciding to attend University of San Diego on a scholarship and fulfilling his dream to play football at a Division I school.

During his first year, Foy went from fifth-string to second-string, but received a concussion during the spring game. The head coach asked Foy to switch positions due to the injury and incoming quarterback recruits.

“[The conversation] left a sour taste in my mouth,” Foy said. “It just showed that they didn’t have faith in me, and I wasn’t even sure I would have a spot on the travel roster once the season started.”

While back home in Hawaii that following summer, Amherst football coaches called him daily after hearing about his unhappiness at San Diego. “I ignored the calls every day because I thought that I’m not going to play Division III,” Foy said.

Foy eventually answered out of respect for his brother, who was close with one of the coaches. Knowing little about the school, he applied to Amherst that June with the encouragement of his father.

After getting accepted a few weeks later, he sat down with his prayer mentor and asked God where He wanted Foy to go to school. In his prayers, Foy had a vision of a bird’s-eye view of the college, receiving his answer that God had plans for him in Amherst, he said.

By chance, his football locker during his first year was next to that of Chris Gow ’16, who had been praying for more Christians to arrive at the college and help grow the Amherst Christian Fellowship.

During his junior year, Foy tore his ACL and wasn’t able to play his second season at Amherst. The injury served as a lesson to look at his life beyond the spotlight or leadership of being quarterback and instead reaffirm his faith in God.

Recently, Foy tore his ACL a second time, and instead of despairing, began to rejoice because “perseverance actually makes our faith more complete.”

“The things that we think are going to be insurmountable, with Christ are actually very surmountable, because my true joy, my true fulfillment, doesn’t come from football or even from my health,” Foy said. “My true joy [and] fulfillment comes with Christ and having a relationship with Him.”

Translating Service into Academics
This fulfillment is clearly visible in the kinds of community service projects in which Foy has participated from a young age. When he was in ninth grade, Foy created a club that raised over $50,000 for refugees in Darfur.

Once at Amherst, Foy complemented his interest in service with his academic pursuits — he is a political science and architectural studies double major — to deepen his understanding of social issues and inequalities. In a class with Professor Gabriel Arboleda of the architectural studies department, Foy learned more about housing issues in the Darfur refugee crisis as well as the barriers that inadequate shelter place on social mobility. In political science classes, Foy pursued material on the practical impacts of policy implementation.

“Quite frankly, in this world you can’t get much done unless you have some knowledge of the political realm,” Foy said. “If I want to go and work in Darfur, there’s so many political strings attached to it, and especially in international work.”

“I want to really make a change in these lives,” Foy added. “I need to have both knowledge of their day-to-day living and political knowledge … like how does implementation between political policy correspond to the actual creation?”

Eleonora Mattiacci, a professor of political science at Amherst, has taught several classes and independent studies with Foy, and was impressed by his leadership qualities.

“He has a unique capability to bring people together, whether it is by engaging their thoughts in class with thoughtful and original contributions, facilitating group discussions or organizing group activities,” Mattiacci said. “He has a knack for communicating with others in a way that is both respectful and compelling.”

Mattiacci further noted Foy’s originality and creativity, highlighting the way “he has distinguished himself for his sharp, often counterintuitive takes on the material for the class.”

“He engages with the material in a uniquely thoughtful way, taking careful notes in class and seriously engaging both readings and assignment,” Mattiacci said.

Beyond his distinguished academic record, Foy spends much of his time developing and strengthening his relationships on and off campus.

“I think one of the most unique things about Reece is his ability to both be the life of the party by being adept and engaging in large group settings, but also how I’ve personally experienced his ability to show incredible care and respect for me in our individual relationship,” said Nathan Ives ’18, his roommate for the last two years. The two met during their first year at Amherst and became close friends after a spring break trip to New Orleans called ServeUp, which brings college students together to serve in areas affected by natural disasters and engage in dialogue about race, faith and social justice.

Bill Cooley, Amherst staff worker and member of the local church MercyHouse, which Foy attends,similarly attests to his compassion.“The genuine love that Reece has for others is rooted in his Christian conviction that God loves every person unconditionally,” Cooley said. “He is committed to reflecting that love in his own actions.”

This deep dedication to others has manifested itself throughout Foy’s time at Amherst. He helped launch Val Appreciation Day and organized members of the football team to work at Valentine Dining Hall. “I just love the people in Val, and I think it’s important that I can recognize what they do for us. It’s a thankless job,” Foy said.

Foy also volunteers his time for organizations like Amherst Survival Center, the Amherst Senior Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Hampshire County and MercyHouse.

The recognition Foy has received for all these contributions is not limited to the Amherst campus — Foy was named to the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and honored during the 2018 Sugar Bowl halftime ceremony.

After college, Foy plans on continuing serving Christ by working in ministry in southern California next year, with weekends devoted to training quarterbacks in the area.

“In all that he does, he invests his whole heart,” his mother said. “Although Reece is the epitome of ‘living life to the fullest,’ he also tries to get others to live their best life. Reece’s passion for people highlights his friendly spirit and determination to help and make a difference.”