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Students Hold 'Beardoff'

It started with one man’s spectacular facial hair.

“We all came back from our summer internships and had a happy hour with all the new MBA students and second years,” said Jon Finley, a University of Iowa MBA student. “One of the guys who came back was sporting a pretty cool mustache. So the epiphany hit me: We should make a contest out of this.”

Finley and a group of MBA students recently hosted their first “beardoff,” a month-long facial hair growing competition to raise money for the Kiva microloan program managed by MBA finance majors. Sixteen students participated by growing their best beards and mustaches to raise money and win prizes at a final ceremony, which took place Tuesday at UI’s Pomerantz Center. Prizes were awarded for People’s Choice, Best Mustache, Longest Time Without Shaving and Least Amount of Change from Nov. 10 through Tuesday.

The contest raised more than $300 for the microloan program, Finley said. Winners of each category were given cash prizes, and all were given Scotcheroo bars for participating.

Finley said the impetus for hosting the contest in November came from the popular “no-shave November” movement.

“No-shave November tends to go for men’s health issues,” he said. “But due to the amount of money we’d raise, it would go much further for a microloan versus a health cause.”

Ben Sparks, a first-year MBA student who participated in the event, said he grew what he called “a hair helmet” for nothing more than a good cause.

“It’s easy not to shave, and if it helps someone, then why not?” he said. “We raised a decent amount of money to give a few more people access to help themselves.”

A.J. Honore, also an MBA student, won the award for People’s Choice. As someone who said he actually has a degree in pogonology—the study of beards—and who has named his beard Chester A. Arthur after the 21st president of the United States, Honore said he would have been crushed had he not won the award.

“I have always had some sort of facial hair since I was 16. Even before the ‘no-shave November’ trend, I was rocking something,” he said. “So I had no choice in the matter but to participate.”

Luca Di Palo and Kyle Bogler, also MBA students, grew facial hair for the first time for the competition.

“It was weird wearing a mustache,” Bogler said. “When I was riding the bus, I’d put my head down.”

“It’s for fun,” said Di Palo, who won the award for least amount of change. “It helps the community, helps the businesses (who need microloans).”

Both Bogler and Di Palo said the amount of money raised exceeded their expectations. They said they plan to participate again next year.

“The goal is to have more participate and more money raised,” Bogler said. “Jon did a great job, started a great foundation.”

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