MSU Alumni Association executive director combats 'Go Blue' skywriting in positive way
MSU football fans who attended last weekend’s home game may have noticed, and were perhaps infuriated by, the “GO BLUE” message written across the sky. But hundreds of Spartans are responding to the skywriting in a surprising way — donating thousands of dollars to ovarian cancer research.
The idea came from MSU Alumni Association Executive Director Scott Westerman, who had a sense of what skywriting costs based on his experience as a private pilot.
“I don’t fault the Michigan fan who did it, but it felt like it would make sense to take our rivalry to a more productive level,” Westerman said. “When I saw the skywriting, it felt like I could ask Spartans to match what was spent on a ephemeral five-minute display of Wolverine cheerleading.”
Westerman has called on Spartans to pledge small donations to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance, or MIOCA, an awareness organization based in Ann Arbor. More than $1,800 dollars was raised in the first 48 hours, Westerman said, with more than 300 participants making donations.
Westerman, whose wife is a two-time ovarian cancer survivor, was inspired by an MSU and University of Michigan matchup that has nothing to do with football. He said he credits his wife’s survival to the treatment she received at the U-M Cancer Center as well as the cancer drug Cisplatin, invented by Dr. Barney Rosenberg at MSU.
Westerman also said he plans to ask his Steve Grafton, his U-M counterpart at the U-M Alumni Association, to match what the Spartans raise.
“The response has been overwhelming,” MIOCA Vice President Marcie Paul said. “This (Tuesday) morning I saw about $2,000 and then the next tally was $4,000. It doubled in just one day.”
Spartans Fighting Cancer President Annah Bravo said she was thrilled to see such a fast response.
“It takes an army to fight this disease,” Bravo said. “So to see so many Spartans get together to do something like this, in such a short amount of time? It’s amazing.”
Spartans Fighting Cancer is discussing potential ways to raise more reproductive cancer awareness at MSU this year, Bravo said.
Meanwhile, MIOCA President Pam Dahlmann is excited to put newly incoming donations towards ovarian cancer research.
“There are so many ideas we haven’t been able to do, or had to put on hold because of a lack of funds,” Dahlmann said. “This opens a lot of doors.”
Dahlmann, who lost both her mother and grandmother to ovarian cancer, said she hopes to put a lump sum of money towards research for ovarian cancer detection.
“In the last 40 years, there’s still hasn’t been a test developed for detecting ovarian cancer,” Dahlmann said. “And with ovarian cancer survival rates, there aren’t enough living survivors left to generate the kind of fundraising or publicity that breast cancer does, for example.”
Westerman said he was thrilled at the philanthropy and what it means for the university.
“What’s more important is the message that Spartan alumni can come together to tackle the world’s biggest problems,” he said. “Who wins a football game on Saturday may be consequential in the athletic history books, but I like to think that perhaps one of those many $5 contributions will be the tipping point to help eradicate this horrible disease.”