“Pi(e) a Professor” fundraiser for NOVAdance and childhood cancer research



Agnes Cho

Fun and philanthropy took center stage on Tuesday, March 21, as students and faculty gathered at the Oreo for the inaugural Pre-Health Pi Day Fundraiser hosted by the student-run pre-health organizations. This “pi(e) a professor” style event was conducted in support of NOVAdance and the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, with all proceeds benefitting childhood cancer research. Originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 14, or “Pi Day,” it was postponed to the following Tuesday due to snowfall and the closure of the University, though the organizers of the fundraiser were left undeterred.

“Given the beautiful weather that we had in February, we were certainly surprised when we saw snow in the forecast for the 14,” William Manolarakis, a junior biology major who was actively involved in coordinating the event, said. “However, we had come this far over the past several months and were determined to host the fundraiser because of how much we believed in the concept and in supporting pediatric cancer research.”

The event’s planning began back in November, as the student leaders of the pre-health clubs conceived of this fundraiser with the goal of generating funds for the charitable cause of NOVAdance, while also providing students and faculty with the opportunity to interact in a unique setting outside of the classroom.

“The Pre-Health Pi Day Fundraiser emerged out of a collective desire by the pre-health clubs to join forces in support of a great cause, as we all highly regarded the efforts of NOVAdance to benefit the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation and sought to contribute to them in any way possible,” Manolarakis said. “When we first started considering potential fundraising options last November, we discussed a number of ideas, but the one that really stuck was the concept of a “pie your professor” style fundraiser, for we wanted to conduct an event that would unify the whole Villanova community and bridge the faculty-student gap, and we felt that childhood cancer research was a cause that everyone could rally around. We recognized that the premise of the event was unconventional, but we passionately believed in its potential to have a positive tangible impact on the lives of children with cancer, and we worked diligently with the Office of Student Involvement and the Health Professions Advising Office over the past several months in order to make it a reality.”

Faculty members were contacted with the opportunity to volunteer for this event and sign up for a 15-minute slot, during which students would purchase raffle tickets to toss small pies of whipped cream or shaving cream on paper plates toward them, with the number of pies tossed per professor dependent on the pre-determined limit established by each professor with their registration. Approximately thirty professors volunteered to participate, and they were provided with hairnets, beard-nets (if applicable), goggles, and ponchos to ensure their maximum comfort and protection. As enthusiastic and intrigued students approached the fundraiser, many of them purchased raffles for a chance to toss a pie at a professor from a fair distance of ten feet, and due to both student and professor contributions, the Pre-Health Pi Day Fundraiser raised a total of over $600, all of which was donated to the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation and childhood cancer research.       

Since this event was the first of its kind, there was some initial hesitancy from both the students and faculty who were unsure about this new type of interaction. However, the organizers made their intentions clear: safety and comfort of the faculty took priority, and this event was in no way motivated by ill intentions. As the event continued throughout the day, both students and faculty expressed overwhelmingly positive responses.

 Jared Paul, PhD, Professor of Chemistry, expresses his appreciation for the work of the pre-health club students who “truly did a wonderful and professional job of organizing the event…You have helped show how faculty and students can work together in making our Villanova Community such a wonderful place to be…and you have done this for such a worthy cause as well…it’s my hope that you have started an event that will continue on for many years.”

 “The outlandish concept of a Pi(e) Day allowed for a fun student-faculty intertwined activity while raising funds for an incredible cause,” Morgan Sturgis, a senior biology and cognitive & behavioral neuroscience major who was also heavily involved in the development of the fundraiser, said. “Expectations were fulfilled and exceeded as students and faculty shared laughs throughout the day and we raised over $600 toward pediatric cancer research. I hope to see more events like this in the future, where students and faculty can unite to support philanthropic initiatives. I think it is pivotal to understand the difference just a few students and faculty can make, and in a fun way no less!”

Ultimately, this event was possible because, in addition to the great respect that the students at the University have for their professors, there is a unique bond between students and faculty—which stems from the Unitas that imbues the atmosphere at Villanova. The spirit of community at the University allowed the volunteers and participants to work in unison to advance a philanthropic mission, while also strengthening their relationships in the process.

Even professors who could not attend the event expressed their enthusiasm, with several donating to the fundraiser’s NOVAdance page as a show of support for the cause.

“I was honored to be invited to participate in the Pi(e) A Professor Day,” Vikram Iyengar, PhD, Professor of Biology, and Assistant Chair, stated. “Although I was unable to lend my time, I wanted to contribute to this worthy cause and sponsor this wonderful community event organized by Villanova’s selfless, hard-working, talented students.”

Many are looking forward to future Pi(e) A Professor days, including Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, Dean of College of Liberal Arts, Professor of History: “In my opinion, Pi(e) Day represents another inspiring example of the energy, initiative, and dedication to the needs of others that I regard as special characteristics of Villanova students. What was particularly notable about this event was the willingness of so many faculty to participate, and the playful camaraderie between students and professors that it created. I hope Pi(e) Day is held again next March, and maybe I will volunteer myself!”

Moreover, many of the faculty volunteers encouraged their own students to participate in the event, including Jim Emig, PhD, Professor of Accountancy & Information Systems.

“Many students missed an awesome chance to smack a professor in the face with a pie,” Emig said.

The philanthropic efforts in this event elevated the sense of community at the University, for it managed to balance professional respect with a spirit of lightheartedness and charity. Given the success of the fundraiser, the pre-health student leaders fully expect to host it again next spring, and they look forward to bringing students and professors together once more in support of an incredible cause.

(Disclaimer: No professors were harmed in the making of this event.)