Monday, April 28, 2008

Hopkins Sig Eps Raise Money for Prostate Cancer

For Hopkins students, a bald move
Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity braves clippers to raise funds for cancer foundation
By Nick Madigan Sun reporter

"Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair ... My hair like Jesus wore it, Hallelujah, I adore it."

That ode to flowing locks, from the 1968 hippie musical Hair, would not have served yesterday as a rallying cry for the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at the Johns Hopkins University. Instead of clinging to vanity and visions of Samson-like valor, a half-dozen SigEp brothers submitted, with only minor bouts of trepidation, to a good shearing for a good cause.

"It's going to be painful," said Christopher Viemeister, 20, the fraternity's philanthropy chairman, as he and his wavy brown mane prepared to go under the electric shaver. "I'm very attached to my hair."

But even as he sat down for his ordeal during the university's annual Spring Fair on its Homewood campus, Viemeister kept up his pitch for passers-by, offering them a chance to swipe the shaver across his head and contribute to the Prostate Cancer Foundation at the same time.

"One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer!" yelled Viemeister, a native of Lynbrook, N.Y., and a double major in film and economics. "Shaving your head sucks, but cancer sucks even more!"

Last year, Sigma Phi Epsilon, whose members tout the motto "virtue, diligence and brotherly love," used the same stunt to raise about $3,200 to support research for Crohn's disease. The fraternity chose to support prostate cancer research this year after learning that the father of one of their members is undergoing chemotherapy.

"In the big scheme of things, it's hair," said Doug Komoroski, 21, a junior who is studying mechanical engineering and who gamely suffered the indignity of having several of his fraternity brothers create silly shapes and tufts out of what moments earlier had been a perfectly respectable head of dark brown hair.

"It's getting progressively colder," said Komoroski as his pate emerged. He'd had his head shaved at Hopkins once before, about a year ago, when, as tradition dictated, Komoroski and other freshmen on the baseball team were forced under the razor by senior players, with the samehamfisted inventiveness.

"They'd give you a funny haircut and you'd shave the whole thing off later," said Komoroski, who grew up near Pittsburgh and whose grandfather is also being treated for prostate cancer. Yesterday, he took a look at his newly shorn cranium and declared, "I look pretty."

The girls didn't think so. One was Janna Turadek, 20, who had dropped some cash in the box while Komoroski was being shaved and yet declined to help remove his hair.

"I like him, but I'm waiting for someone I like a little less," said Turadek, an applied-math and economics student from Carson City, Nev., implying that she would enjoy the experience of making a fellow look like a billiard ball.

When Shivam Shah, 19, a biomedical engineering student from Edison, N.J., sat down in the hot seat, Turadek mischievously declared him a "mortal enemy" and went to work on his hair. She took turns with her friend Sarah Gutbrod, 19, from Newtown, Conn., who shares a major with Shah.

"It doesn't come off that easily," Turadek said, struggling to make an impression on Shah's hair with the whirring shaver.

"There might be a skill to it that we lack," Gutbrod replied.

"That's not reassuring," Shah said, looking up apprehensively from the black plastic trash bag around his neck that served -- ineffectively -- as a barber's cloth.

By the end of the three-day fair, Shah and his cohorts had raised more than $1,200 for their cause.

"I'm really happy about that," Viemeister said.
And his hair?

"It's gone, man," he said. "It's gone."
nick.madigan@baltsun.com