When sophomore actuarial science major Mary Grace Sear pictured herself attending her organization’s Gamma Gala on April 9, she knew it would be a formal affair.
A shaved head was not part of her plan.
Even so, Sear didn’t shy away from her most recent charitable action through one academic fraternity in the Fox School of Business.
The Sigma chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma is a student professional organization in the Fox School of Business with more than 500 members that has connections with professionals in the industry. The group is primarily focused on risk management, insurance and actuarial science.
Thirteen Sigma members, including the president, senior Elizabeth Mattox, shaved their heads this month to show support and awareness for childhood cancer. Next year’s president, junior Steven Costa, also participated.
The 13 members raised $5,700 for St. Baldrick’s Foundation – a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to advancing research on a cure for childhood cancer – during the Insurance Society of Philadelphia’s Philly I-Day on April 9 in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“It was hard to picture myself all dressed up with a bald head,” Sear said. “But I think it’s such an amazing organization, and I was excited to be a part of something that would make such a large difference in these families’ lives.”
The students received most of their donations from Fox faculty members, as well as friends and family. Sear was the top fundraiser of the Sigma students who participated in the shaving event, raising $1,125 with the help of faculty and friends.
“[Sigma alumni and faculty] were very generous with their donations,” Sear said. “It’s hard to say no to children with cancer.”
Many group members said they had reservations about shaving their heads while keeping a professional appearance, but Mattox said she firmly believed that the impact the group could make with the symbolic gesture was greater than the superficial reasons holding them back.
“When I realized this – that as a chapter we could really do something great for such an outstanding cause – it was not a difficult decision at all,” Mattox said. “There was not a single person who did not support me.”
After graduating in two weeks, Mattox said she will begin working full-time at Trion, an employee benefit management firm, where she interns. Mattox said the company sent a mass email to help her fundraising. She said Trion’s support in her initiative for St. Baldrick’s Foundation made her feel confident in her decision to shave her head.
Anuj Patel, a freshman in the actuarial science program, said he wanted a change of pace from his small town, which led him to Temple. Patel was among the “shavees,” and said that he “couldn’t think of a good reason not to get involved.”
R. B. Drennan, chairman of the department of risk, insurance and healthcare management, is the faculty adviser for Sigma. Many of the members credit him with convincing them to become involved with Sigma.
“He is a huge help and offers a lot of connections,” Sear said. “He’s full of guidance since he’s been in this community for so long. He is a huge asset to the Sigma organization.”
Sear said students have been asking her about the fundraising event now that her head is shaved. Sigma will collect donations through the end of the year and continue to donate its proceeds to St. Baldrick’s.
Philly I-Day raised $80,000 total this year to fight childhood cancer. In the last year, $23 million has been raised throughout the country with similar shaving events.
“Being involved in this student organization has and will continue to help me grow professionally and personally,” Mattox said. “I am proud of the fact that I have chosen an industry to work in that is so dedicated and involved in giving back to the surrounding communities and charitable organizations.”
Sigma meets every Wednesday and holds fundraising events on Fridays like bake sales, date auctions and potlucks, from which proceeds go to its philanthropy for this year, another cancer research foundation called For Pete’s Sake.
Paige Gross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.