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Have your pie and eat it, too

D1 Professor Pie Fundraiser

From left to right: D1 fundraiser
organizer Lizzy Dyer; D1 Nikki Partee;
biomedical sciences Assistant Professor
Dr. Bruno Ruest; Professor and Director
of Orthodontic Research Dr. Peter
Buschang; and D1 Rachel Zimmerer.

Photo by Steven Doll

Four professors, three students, eight whipped-cream pies. The mess was a given. What happened next was anyone’s guess.

At first the D1s couldn’t decide what kind of pies would be best. Organizers debated asking their willing participants if they had a preference. Just what was the merit of Key lime over cherry? Then it hit them: whipped cream.

“It offers maximum mess at a low cost,” says Lizzy Dyer, D1 social chair, who organized the event with classmate and co-chair Anthony Villarreal. Plus, it kept peace with Dr. Bob Hutchins, professor in biomedical sciences, who agreed to the ordeal under one condition: no pecan pie.

The idea

The D1 Professor Pie Fundraiser, created to raise money for an interprofessional school mixer with Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine students, was brilliant in its simplicity: Get eight professors to agree to the prospect of having a pie thrown in their faces. Then separate them into four pairs. During the day, have students vote on which professor from each matchup should get ‘pied.’

Getting faculty on board for the event was a surprisingly easy task.

“We came into it knowing Dr. Spears would definitely be on board,” says Dyer.

They weren’t so sure about Dr. Peter Buschang, professor and director of orthodontic research.

“He was not only really thrilled to be a part of it, but he called Drs. Opperman and Svoboda and recruited them,” Dyer says.

When the students randomly popped into Hutchins’ office with the request, Dyer says he had a three-word response for them: “when and where.”

Perhaps the professors knew something spectators and would-be pie throwers didn’t.

Pie, anyone?

As the college closed its doors for the day on Feb. 23, Dyer and Villarreal read the results to a crowd spanning five stories. Spectators flooded the basement atrium, jumping over plants to get a better angle. Dozens more had stadium-style seating, peering down from vantage points on the first floor. A select few enjoyed a bird’s-eye view from spots on the second, third and fourth floors.

Others strolled in sporting purses and briefcases on their arms, on the way out for the day but unable to resist the spectacle.

Laughter echoed through the atrium as four lucky ‘winners’ began accessorizing with protective eyewear, scrub caps and smocks. Regents Professor Dr. Kathy Svoboda, along with Buschang, Hutchins and veteran pie-eating champ Dr. Bruno Ruest took their seats in front of the crowd. Drs. Allen Honeyman, Brendan Wong, Opperman and Spears could breathe a sigh of relief.

As organizers lined the graham cracker crusts with whipped cream, the audience began a slow clap in anticipation. Hutchins was the first to get hit. When it was Svoboda’s turn, D1 Steven Solis appeared to gingerly bring the pie to her face, but then made sure to rub a bit of it in for good measure.

Afterward, fundraiser organizers orchestrated one final ruse. There was a surprise in store for D1 pie throwers Rachel Zimmerer, Nikki Partee and Solis as they were assembled with professors for a photo.

Just as the shutter snapped, the students had wide-eyed looks of shock through a layer of whip cream. If you weren’t there to witness the second pie throwing of the evening, or like many others, had already filed out of the atrium and didn’t get to see what happened next,  this slideshow captures the moment.

A closer look at how students voted:

  • Dr. Kathy Svoboda vs. Dr. Lynne Opperman
    61 to 51
  • Dr. Bruno Ruest vs. Dr. Brendan Wong
    84 to 58
  • Dr. Bob Hutchins vs. Dr. Robert Spears
    129 to 56
  • Dr. Peter Buschang vs. Dr. Allen Honeyman
    129 to 104