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The PFM Effect: Pennies for Martha

Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the winter 2017-18 issue of Berry magazine.

Abby Thomas in DC wearing Pennies for Martha shirtA force took hold last fall as Pennies for Martha, a campaign rooted in Martha Berry’s century-old birthday celebration, spread across the country. 

Alumni sporting Pennies for Martha t-shirts were sighted across the map – from our nation’s capital to Disney World and from San Jose to Boston. 

Was it simply that Berry alumni love tradition and welcome the opportunity to give back in a way that reminds them of their own days as students dropping pennies into the basket at the bottom of Lavender Mountain during the famed Mountain Day Grand March? Or was it possible that the source of the magic was the power of … (cue background music) … Pennies for Martha Man? Whatever the motivation, 2,280 Pennies for Martha gifts were made by alumni, students, parents and faculty/staff. 


There is no doubt that Vikings across the country love Berry traditions and the school’s strong sense of community. 

“Being able to give back in the form of a Mountain Day gift really brought back the joy and excitement that Mountain Day always provides to students, alumni and anyone who calls Berry home,” said Jordan Hester (12C). 

“I’m grateful to be a part of a school that puts so much emphasis on giving back and keeping strong connections with your alma mater.” 

That thought was echoed by Colleen Curlee (16C), who worked in the alumni and e-communication offices as a student and understands “the value of giving back to Berry.” 

“I think the Pennies for Martha campaign is a great way to engage the entire Berry community in giving during Mountain Day!” she declared, adding, “It’s what Martha would have wanted for sure.” 

The superhero effect

One thing Martha Berry never could have foreseen was Pennies for Martha Man, the strange yet somehow magical superhero who showed up on campus last fall, starring in a number of videos and making a Mountain Day appearance. 

PFM Man’s place of origin is unknown, although it’s rumored to be a small, coin-shaped planet 3 million light years to the right of Krypton, the birthplace of Superman. His goal in appearing for Martha Berry’s birthday was to spread the word about the importance of all alumni giving even the smallest amount to Berry each year and to stress the super power of those collective gifts.

Oddly, several on campus noticed that unassuming Connor O’Sullivan, a first-year biology major who hopes to become a doctor, seemed to drop out of sight whenever PFM Man appeared in public. Once, O’Sullivan startled several walkers and a small herd of deer as he appeared to search frantically for a telephone booth. 

In an interview with Berry magazine, PFM Man refused to comment on O’Sullivan’s noted disappearances. He did, however, emphasize that his work at Berry was a lot of fun on behalf of a great cause … and that he would make a return visit whenever his powers were needed.

“It was a great time and a bucket of laughs for a good cause,” PFM Man stated. “Berry’s annual fund supports scholarships and student work, and those are two super important things that define what Berry is.”

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