Students send their professor over the edge

Courtesy of Dave Parrish Photography
Hailey Spencer rappels from the SunTrust Center. Courtesy of Dave Parrish Photography
Courtesy of Dave Parrish Photography
Hailey Spencer rappels from the SunTrust Center.
Courtesy of Dave Parrish Photography

Mass communications professor Hailey Spencer’s public relations research class sent her over the edge.

In Spencer’s MASC 425 course, students gain experience with real clients to apply the research methods they have learned. The class’ client this semester is the Special Olympics of Virginia, the largest sports organization for people with these disabilities. As part of a fundraising event for their client, Spencer rappelled 25 stories down from the roof of the SunTrust Center in downtown Richmond on Oct. 22.

Special Olympics of Virginia public relations director Holly Claytor sent an email to Spencer asking if any of her students would be interested in interning with them. Senior public relations major Rachael Zilic accepted the offer and was instrumental in sending her professor down 25 stories.

The night before the fundraiser, Zilic and Claytor emailed Spencer to ask her if she would be willing to go over the edge.

“It was a long shot, considering we emailed her at 4 p.m. the night before, but it was a great way to raise awareness to VCU students about Special Olympics and the fundraisers they offer,” Zilic said. “She emailed back about two hours later and said yes. Our entire class, plus her husband and dogs, came to watch her rappel and we cheered her on the whole time.”

Spencer, who admits she is afraid of heights, said the experience was terrifying.

“I called my husband when he was on his way home on Friday and told him and he was like ‘Babe, are you serious?’” Spencer said. “He knows I hate heights. It was terrifying. Honestly I thought I was going to die, but I didn’t thank goodness.”

Although Spencer had previous rock-climbing experience, rappelling was much more physically challenging and she had no practice.

“It was a lot more physically challenging than anyone told me,” Spencer said. “I’m so small and
I’m not strong so every time I tried to pull up the lever wouldn’t work. That really made me anxious.”

After rappelling down 400 feet to the bottom of the SunTrust Building, Spencer was greeted by her class who volunteered at the event.

“They were all down there cheering me on so that was really nice,” Spencer said. “I just felt bad that it took me so long to get down. I got to the top, I looked at how tall it was and I just prayed that I was going to make it down to teach my students another day.”

The “Over the Edge” event raised approximately $100,000 for the Special Olympics of Virginia. For a calendar of upcoming events, go to

Article by: Logan Bogert, Contributing Writer

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply