The last time Dr. Carl Gombert remembers shaving his beard was in the early 2000s for a series of selfportraits. He remembers last cutting his hair when he applied for his current position at Maryville College in 1992. So, it may come as a shock to his colleagues and students when he soon arrives at work lacking both. Gombert, professor of art at MC, is faced with shaving his beard, after his daughter Anna introduced a fundraising campaign to finance her upcoming trip to Europe, after being accepted into the competitive Student Ambassador’s People to People program at her school. Gombert and his wife agreed that she would need to raise half the money to be able to go on the Student Ambassador’s trip abroad.
Anna Gombert, a freshman at Maryville Junior High School, has also been watching dogs and babysitting to earn money, as well as collecting used books to sell at bookstores. Although she has visited Greece and Costa Rica with her parents, this is her first trip abroad alone.
“My sister and my best friend both went on People to People trips, and they loved it and learned so much,” Ms. Gombert said. ”I just heard all about it and decided that I really wanted to go.” She realized that she would need a much bigger fundraiser to earn the bulk of the money, however. She came up with the idea on her own and her father agreed to the terms, even though it involved the beard he had been growing for years.
“It’s what one does as a dad,” Gombert said. Ms. Gombert and her father then started looking up ways to make the contest a reality. A friend recommended using Crowdtilt, a website that allows people to fundraise online. If donations reach the needed amount, referred to as if the donations tilt, the site then gives the donations to the person or persons raising the money.
Using this website, the Gomberts launched “Shave It or Save It,” with two competing fundraisers. Those who donated to “Save It!” were in favor of Gombert keeping his hair and beard, while those who donated to “Shave It!” were donating towards the other option. When the contest closed at 7:30 p.m. on Tues., Oct. 30, the final amounts donated were $965 to save it, and $1,388 to shave it. Gombert was expecting this result. “I am brave enough,” he said with a smile. “I can face the world hairless.” However, for the majority of the contest, it seemed that “Save it!” would win out. “I was really hoping that it would play out to where he can save all of his hair,” said Harold Nagge, a guitar teacher at MC.
“His hair has been an inspiration for a long time. He’s stepped forth. Not many people would wear their hair that long or wear a beard as he has. It’s a real inspiration and it gave me the courage to grow my own hair long.” Nagge said that he has known Gombert for many years, and might not even recognize him if he came in shaved completely. It was not until the last day of the competition that a flurry of donations pushed the “Shave It!” side to the front.
Gombert said that he and his daughter were also pleasantly surprised when Crowdtilt emailed them asking to feature their fundraiser on the main page of the website and on the site’s blog, as an example of the variety of things that the site could be used for. “The idea that they thought the idea was fun and are going to feature it as a creative way to use their site,” Gombert said. “That feels good.” He said he was also grateful for how much the people at Crowdtilt had helped, linking to the YouTube videos that he and his daughter had created to promote the fundraisers.
“I am thankful to my dad for letting this happen and for the donations,” Ms. Gombert said. “It’s much appreciated.” Gombert shaved his beard Tuesday night at Wild Wings cafe, while onstage during a show with his band, Pistol Creek Catch of the Day. The video of the event will be up on YouTube for viewing.