Seeing purple: Campus leaders dye hair to raise funds

By Nathan Pauls ’21

GC faculty and staff who dyed their hair for Together Goshen Day.

On May 4, a group of Goshen College faculty and administrators, including President Rebecca Stoltzfus, revealed their un-“dyeing” love for the college.

They dyed their hair purple.

All 11 of the employees showed off their new purple hairdos on a Zoom video call.

President Stoltzfus started off the call with a pun, “You’ve been dying for it, and we’ve been dyeing for you.”

The employees who dyed their hair were John Roth, professor of history; Todd Yoder, vice president for institutional advancement; Jodi Beyeler, vice president for communications and people strategy; Duane Stoltzfus, professor of communication; Kathy Meyer Reimer, professor of education; Jason Samuel, assistant professor of communication and WGCS general manager; Brenda Srof, professor of nursing; John Ross Buschert, professor of physics, Caleb Longenecker Fox, annual giving and advancement coordinator; Kevin Miller, major gift officer; and President Stoltzfus.

President Stoltzfus and her husband Kevin Miller.

It all started with Together Goshen Day, a fundraising initiative by the advancement office. The college’s goal was $125,000, a thousand dollars for every one of Goshen’s 125-year history.

But then something unexpected happened.

“We started the day…and we’re almost at goal…by 11 o’clock” in the morning, said Yoder. “It was very clear that everybody was excited.”

To continue the push for donors to keep giving, Beyeler suggested the hair-dye challenge.

All they needed now were participants, so the advancement office started calling employees.

“It was Jodi Beyeler who called at 4:50 who said she needed a decision by 5 o’clock,” said Roth. “She said that Duane and Kathy had already said yes. So in a kind of unreflected moment, impulsive decision, I said ‘yes.’”

With willing participants in waiting, the college released the challenges.

The college announced that if donations reached $215,000, the vice presidents would dye their hair purple.

That goal was quickly reached.

If the donors reached the $235,000 goal, six professors would join.

The donors were up to the challenge, meeting the goal and leaving the college with no choice but to play their final card: the president. If the donors reached $250,000, double the original goal, President Stoltzfus would dye her hair purple. Her spouse, Kevin Miller, joined her in the fun.

John D. Roth

Once again, the donors answered and by the end of the day, over 1,200 donors had given over $357,000.

Longenecker Fox said the financial outpouring from alumni and friends was so frequent that the advancement office “had to lift the transactions-per-hour limit on the website” where donations are made.

Those who had their hair dyed weren’t the only ones impacted. Many have spouses, children and grandchildren who witnessed the change in hair color.

“My family was really supportive,” said Srof. “My six-year-old granddaughter followed up with having her mom cut her hair like ‘grandma’s’ and dying her hair purple too.”

Before getting his hair transformation, Roth had concerns about the effect it might have on his grandkids.

“I was worried that my grandchildren, ages 3 and 1.5, would be terrified when they saw me with purple hair,” said Roth. “but their first response was to laugh. Clara, our youngest, just wanted to touch it and giggle.”

Caleb Longenecker Fox

Longenecker Fox’s new hair color prompted comparison with Dr. Seuss characters.

“My dad compared me to a picture of Thing 1 and Thing 2,” said Longenecker Fox, who led the planning for the Together Goshen Day and decided to join the purple hair dyeing in solidarity with the other employees. “Maybe I should have worn red to match?”

For many faculty, this was their first experience with dyeing their hair.

“I think with only one or two exceptions, this wouldn’t be what we would normally do,” said Srof. “We’re not wild and crazy like this and I’m glad to get the [wild] side out for a lot of us.”

This was a first for Duane Stoltzfus as well.

“This was my first experience with hair coloring,” said Stoltzfus. “I was surprised at how quickly having purple hair seemed normal on a Zoom screen: testimony to the power of community.”

Despite the faculty being physically separated, they were all united by their new hair color. The willingness of the faculty to dye their hair purple was a testament to the support the college has, even during difficult times.