Every year, Whitman's Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority hosts a fundraiser in the form of thepopular Mr. Whitman all-male "beauty pageant," which showcases the eclectic talents of eight senior men. This year, student organizers chose Semilla Nueva as the event's beneficiary. Based in Guatemala, Semilla Nueva is a nonprofit founded by Whitman alumnus and Davis Projects for Peace Award recipient Curt Bowen '08.
"We thought that the group's strong ties to the Whitman community made them a great option," said Sara Graham '14, a math major from Boulder, Colo. and philanthropy chair for Kappa Kappa Gamma. "Semilla Nueva is a well-planned, well-researched nonprofit with many amazing goals, values and practices. Our efforts will make a huge impact on the operating budget, which will allow them to expand."
The event raised a total of about $36,000, which will help Semilla Nueva promote sustainable and organic agricultural practices to farmers in rural Guatemala. Much of Guatemala's land has been severely degraded and many farmers do not receive the support they need from their government. Semilla Nueva attempts to find farmers in the community who are willing to try new technologies and then work with them to learn about new tools.
The theme for this year's pageant was "Robin Hood: Men-In-Tights," and the eight candidates strutted their stuff before a packed crowed in Cordiner Hall. Fan favorites included such performances as an interpretive "forest dance" by Nik Hagen '13 and his fraternity brothers and a soulful rendition of the Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" by Adam Brayton '13. Bowen served as a judge at the event, in addition to Robert Street '07, assistant director of admission, and Elyse Semerdijian, associate professor of history.
But competition for the coveted title of "Mr. Whitman" began long before the curtains opened on the big night. Since the winner of Mr. Whitman is determined by candidates' fundraising efforts, all eight candidates were hard at work months before the event hosting barbeques, auctions, and a benefit concert during parents' weekend. Brayton, a rhetoric and media studies major from Aptos, Calif., offered compliments to bystanders for one dollar each.
In the end, the judges chose Jack Lazar '13, a global health major from Portland, Ore., as the 2012-2013 Mr. Whitman. Lazar raised $4,628 by asking students, staff and faculty to support his campaign by ordering On the Rock & in the Nude, a book of artistically risqué photos featuring Whitman rock climbers. He also sent letters to friends and family asking them to donate to the cause. At the pageant, Lazar received a standing ovation for his rendition of "Casimir Pulaski Day" by Sufjan Stevens.