While reading the latest issue of my St. John’s University Alumni magazine, one story jumped out at me. It was about 2010 graduate Joan Renee Cloutier shaving her head to support the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money for childhood cancer research.
The reason that struck me is because many young women spend time making their hair look beautiful, but Joan Renee did something beautiful by cutting all her hair off. It was a compassionate gesture by an impressive young woman who credits St. John’s with helping her develop as a Christian leader.
Here are some excerpts from the article about her:
Some hairdos are meant to make a statement, and that’s certainly the case for Joan Renee Cloutier ’10C.
This outgoing young alumna recently came back to the Queens campus to shave her head as part of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charity that collects donations to fund research to cure childhood cancers. Cloutier raised a total of $5,800, exceeding her goal of $5,000 and, in the process, showing solidarity with those battling cancer.
“Cancer has affected my family and so many other families out there,” noted Cloutier, who is currently studying to receiving a Clinical Doctorate in Audiology at Syracuse University. “To think of a child suffering with that disease is truly heartbreaking, so if I could give back by shaving my head – well, that’s a worthy cause I was glad to support.”
There’s no doubt that service has always been important to Cloutier, but it became an even more prominent part of her life while studying at St. John’s. As a freshman, she donated 16 inches of her hair for Locks of Love – an organization that creates wigs for cancer patients – and she also participated regularly in Midnight Runs and other on-campus service opportunities.
“St. John’s allowed me to develop as a Christian leader,” she explained. “The smaller, more local kinds of service made me want to expand my commitment to the international level. Thanks to the University, I was able to participate in a Panama Plunge, traveling and working with fellow students to paint churches, build agricultural gardens and get to know the people in the community there. It was eye-opening to see how much love they possessed, despite how little money and resources they had. I’m so grateful for that transformative experience.”
Indeed, Cloutier has consistently embodied the Vincentian mission on a global scale. As a student, she participated in an organized pilgrimage to Lourdes, France and has since attended twice more as an alumna. She also represented St. John’s at the 2008 World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, joining 500,000 other individuals from across the world to see Pope Benedict XVI.
“I plan on continuing to live my life with the Vincentian values,” she noted. “In fact, I think that’s what’s so great about St. John’s – it’s a very nurturing environment, one that promotes our mission through every facet of campus life.” …
…Not surprisingly, the future looks bright for Cloutier. In addition to pursuing her Clinical Doctorate, she was recently commissioned as a Captain in the United States Air Force and will soon be spending three years as an active Air Force Audiologist. She’ll likely be stationed in the United States, but could also be assigned to an installation in any number of foreign countries.
“Wherever I end up, it will be an adventure,” Cloutier noted. “I’m especially excited because, simply put, I like being with people and I like giving back, and this will be a profession that perfectly combines those two things. I feel very blessed and grateful to have gotten my foundation here at St. John’s.”