Getting to Know: Engineering staff members make the cut for childhood cancer research

June 5, 2017

Donald Lee and Ian Wixson know how to host a fund-razor.

In just a few weeks, the pair raised more than $1,200 for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a national nonprofit committed to helping fund research to find cures for childhood cancer. Lee (pictured, being shaved), supervisor of the College of Engineering’s Engineering Help Desk, and Wixson (pictured, doing the shaving), an Engineering Help Desk student assistant, embraced what St. Baldrick’s calls the “bold act of baldness” and shaved their heads to raise funds and awareness for the cause. The pair invited donors to wield the clippers in the College of Engineering lobby.

Lee began supporting St. Baldrick’s six years ago when a family friend lost their three-year old daughter to leukemia. At the time, he donated enough hair to make two wigs for children battling cancer.

“Part of my goal in life is to raise awareness for the need of cancer research focused on saving children,” Lee said. “Every two minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer and more than 90 percent of all cancer treatments are designed to treat patients over the age of 65. Those numbers just don’t add up.”

Through its signature, volunteer-led head-shaving events, St. Baldrick’s Foundation has enabled the funding of more than $203 million in grants supporting childhood cancer research. The foundation has funded more of these grants than any organization outside of the U.S. government.

Lee has remained committed to the cause, shaving five times so far, and jokes that he’ll support St. Baldrick’s until he runs out of hair. He doesn’t think that will happen any time soon.

“I have my grandfather’s hair. It just kept getting thicker as he got older,” he said. “I’ll help as long as I can, in any way that I can. It’s important to seize opportunities to help others, especially children who are facing something as awful as cancer.”

Lee’s passion inspired Wixson, a senior majoring in computer science, to get involved. In addition to buzzing his hair, Wixson agreed to shave his beard if donations exceeded $100. That goal was met quickly. 

“It’s an easy cause to get behind, and I wanted to join Donald because his passion for it was so obvious,” Wixson said. “I hope to have the same impact and inspire others.”

Lee and Wixson intend to coordinate a campuswide St. Baldrick’s event in the future.

“The people at Wayne State are a very caring group,” Lee said. “This isn’t just a workplace; it’s one great big family. People here have hearts of gold.”