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Professor wears turkey costume to benefit educational charity

Professor Tim Flaherty teaches his Matrices and Linear Tranformations class in a turkey suit after winning a contest for a charity. (credit: Courtesy of Ariel Solomon) Professor Tim Flaherty teaches his Matrices and Linear Tranformations class in a turkey suit after winning a contest for a charity. (credit: Courtesy of Ariel Solomon) Credit: Courtesy of Ariel Solomon Credit: Courtesy of Ariel Solomon

Assistant teaching professor Tim Flaherty’s Matrices and Linear Transformations students were met with an unusual turn of events when they came into lecture last Friday: Their class was taught by a turkey.

During the preceding week, students were able to make a donation toward their choice of 10 professors donning the costume, with the one gaining the most donations being declared the winner. Flaherty was the winner, and had to teach his classes while wearing a turkey suit.

The event was run by Mortar Board, a national honor society for seniors, which annually organizes “Turkey for a Day.” The group uses the proceeds to fund its service projects, which includes the 24-hour Read-a-thon for Watchful Shepherd, a children’s advocacy organization.

The event also serves to raise awareness. “[It’s] something that really gets the name of Mortar Board out there,” said Ariel Soloman, senior finance major and president of the Carnegie Mellon chapter of Mortar Board. “And we try to target mainly underclassmen professors or professors that teach large intro courses.”

While over half the teachers who were asked to participate decided not to, of the 10 who did, Flaherty was among the most enthusiastic in his endeavor to win.

“He donated money into his own pot. He very much wanted to win,” said vice president of Mortar Board Laura Patzer, a senior statistics and creative writing major. “When we were tabling he would encourage people walking by to put money into his jug, so I’m really excited that he won.”

The Mortar Board team members were not the only ones to be excited by the outcome. Jung Byun, a sophomore math major, recounted her experience upon entering class: “I walked in, and I just laughed.”

Flaherty’s victory was also a source of pride for students. “I think it’s pretty cool that a professor would sign up and do something like this.... I’m very proud of this class,” Byun said. She said that Flaherty’s drive to win also inspired the students to participate.

Flaherty himself said that his day as a turkey was “a thrill.” He had won the event two years ago and said that he felt much less silly this time around. “The suit’s comfortable, and it got a little warm at times, and the beak would occasionally get in my eyes ... but it became just a normal class.”

Byun disagreed, saying, “He did a good job composing himself, but throughout the class I couldn’t help but laugh.”

Flaherty said that he was proud of his students for participating: “Any time students and professors can work together towards something besides the academic, it helps build a real rapport between students and teachers, and any time you can do that, it builds a real sense of community, and students become more comfortable around teachers, and that I think can only lead to good things.”