Sam Novey ’11 is trying to raise $100,000 for Citizen Schools and will be running the Boston Marathon in April in a hamburger costume as part of his fundraising.

Campus & Community

Running his buns off

4 min read

Sam Novey ’11 is a mild-mannered student, until he morphs into Burgerman

Harvard students are a pretty passionate bunch. The campus is home to a staggering variety of orchestras and dance troupes, political clubs and debate societies, newspapers, and satirical rags. For instance, we just celebrated Housing Day, in which students passionately defend and promote a residence hall into which they were randomly assigned.

Like other Harvard students, I have my passion. Burgers. I love them. Beef. Turkey. Veggie. Extra pickles. Caramelized onions. Double tomatoes. Hold the mustard. Nothing picks up my day like a well-made burger.

But the passions that we have for everything from chamber music to Big Macs are not just endearing quirks. They create incredible energy that can be channeled toward other ends. And when you look at certain intractable problems that face American society, these energies seem like a vast potential oil field with no wells, possibly lucrative source of ideas and inspiration that can be leveraged into resources.

This spring, I’ve teamed up with Citizen Schools and the Harvard Square restaurant b.good burgers to channel my passion for burgers to help kids. Citizen Schools is a nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for low-income children across the country. It engages volunteers to share their energy and expertise with middle schoolers who are thirsty for fun, engaging learning projects. Every Thursday, I work with 12 sixth-graders at the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown who are designing an addition to b. good’s menu.

Teaching a class like this makes you see the power of channeling the energy and passion of citizens to help kids. And that’s why I’ve started a movement to inspire others to do the same. That’s why I’ve become Burgerman.

You see, in addition to burgers, I also love running. Having experienced the power of channeling my love for burgers to help kids, I wanted to tap into my passion for running as well. And wouldn’t it be doubly powerful, I thought, if I tapped into both of these passions at the same time?

On April 19, Burgerman will run the Boston Marathon in a burger suit to raise $100,000 for Citizen Schools.

The campaign seems improbable? How can a 22-year-old from Baltimore come up with $100,000?

The answer comes in the words of Robert F. Kennedy: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls.”

These ripples are already starting to spread. Christi Morrissey, a senior from Hawaii, has signed up to run the marathon in a fry suit and raise $10,000 by mobilizing Delta Gamma sorority chapters around the country. The Harvard Outing Club has engaged national chains REI and L.L. Bean to donate a bike and a boat to be raffled off among outing clubs throughout New England.

Sehe Han, a high school senior in Duluth, Ga., heard about our movement on Facebook from a post by her high school friend. She will tap into her passion for music and hold a concert in April to raise funds.

What are you passionate about? I am challenging you to channel that passion and energy to help inspire middle school students and your fellow citizens.

If you’d like to learn more, send me an e-mail at, or visit the Burgerman site.

When people get together, they can access the greatest untapped resource to aid education in America: the energy of American citizens.

If you’re an undergraduate or graduate student and have an essay to share about life at Harvard, please e-mail your ideas to Jim Concannon, the Gazette’s news editor, at