Storing away their shaving cream and razors, members of the Andover faculty are growing mustaches for the month of November. Participants, who call themselves the “PA-Stacios”, are working in conjunction with the Movember Foundation to raise awareness for three facets of men’s health—mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer—by growing mustaches.
Scott Hoenig, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, and Mark Cutler, Instructor in Spanish, founded the PA-Stacios in 2012. Because Hoenig is on sabbatical during the 2019-2020 school year, Andrew Wall, Instructor in Chemistry, is spearheading this year’s participation.
Other members of the team include Michael Blake, Associate Director of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library, Peter Frank, Instructor in Chemistry, Howie Kalter ’07, Kenneth Shows, Assistant Dean for Scheduling, and Andrew Thomson, Head of the Office of Physical Plant.
Cutler said, “We had a couple years where [the number of participants was] really good. This year is kind of a small turn out, but I don’t know if there’s any particular reason. As I said, there’s a lot of die hard members who are sort of committed to the cause and want to do something.”
A regular Movember participant, Frank has been committed to growing a mustache to increase dialogue about how self-care is instrumental in maintaining physical and mental wellness.
Frank said, “I decided to get involved because I think it’s very easy for men to not take [care of] themselves. Self-care is very important, especially in a high performance environment like Andover. It’s easy not to take care of yourself and end up with a lot of health issues, so being able to bring awareness to this… and raise funds to support research as well as other issues around men’s health is why I decided to participate.”
Since 2003, the Movember movement has advocated to increase men’s wellness and health research. By 2030, the foundation aims to reduce the amount of premature male deaths by 25 percent, according to the Movember website.
Frank believes that working alongside a national organization helps students and faculty connect with greater issues.
“I think our campus community does a fairly decent job [during Movember], but nationally, supporting an organization like this helps better spread awareness across the campus,” said Frank.
Troy Keller ’22 supports the faculty’s participation in Movember on campus.
“Often, you see a lot of stuff being done for breast cancer, like athletes wearing pink headbands or putting on pink paint for football which obviously is good. There should be breast cancer awareness, but the month of Movember is often overshadowed by stuff like Thanksgiving. It’s important to raise awareness for these male health issues. I’m not going to grow a mustache, but I am all for donating and doing things for the cause,” said Keller.
Harrison Wilson ’20 thinks that growing facial hair in particular effectively raises awareness for cancer and chemotherapy.
“People don’t think a lot about the ramifications of appearance that chemotherapy has. I think there’s just a lot of general insecurity of facial hair in general and how much you can grow and how little you can grow. If people just appreciate the ability they have to grow it, and they are not taking any sort of medication that impacts their ability to have hair, it fosters a general appreciation for being healthy,” said Wilson.
Although he is not partaking in the fundraising this year, Cutler chose to engage with the awareness efforts during previous years because he valued how the process of growing a mustache led him to have a confident understanding of his own identity.
“When I took [the mustache] off, it was revealing some other inner self in a way. That was kind of fun because as a Spanish teacher, I often ask my students to perform and put on a mask in a way and sort of push their limits and get out of their comfort zone… For me that’s what shaving my beard was and growing a mustache was. I don’t look great in a mustache. I don’t know that a lot of people do and so you really have to suck up a lot of your pride in order to do that,” said Cutler.
According to Shows, students can assist by pledging donations. The movement also encourages female support, according to the Movember website. According to Wall, women that encourage men to participate and help remove the stigma surrounding men’s health conversations are known as “Mo Sistas.” At Andover, the “Mo Sistas” and “Mo Bros” gather to commemorate their efforts in the challenge during a party at the end of November during which they eat pizza and elect “The Man of Movember,” the member of the team with the best mustache. According to Wall, in recent years the winners have been Faulk, Hoenig, and Cutler.
Cutler said, “[During the party] we have awards so everybody can vote on Man of Movember and Woman of Movember… We may have different categories that people vote on, so superlatives and things like that. It’s just kind of a fun time. All of the families get involved and there’s a super secret ballot and there’s a judge or judges so everybody gets a chance to weigh in on who’s performed the best over the month. That’s a lot of fun.”
Cutler hopes that more men will join the team next year, and former members such as Donald Slater, Instructor in History and Social Science, Brian Faulk, Instructor and Chair of Chemistry, and Theodore Parker, Abbot Cluster Dean, may consider rejoining.
“We’d like to… get people back in and get some of the old people back on the team… I think that’s my goal, is just to see a real strong turnout. We actually have a new guy this year, Peter Francis. That’s kind of cool to see a new guy. [In the future, I want to] build the team, rebuild the team, get some new people in. Drum up interest.”