Professor raises over $100,000 for Ferguson with Manhattan swim

Amelia Ma | Contributing Reporter

A professor looking to fundraise for youth education in St. Louis went the distance this summer, swimming 27 miles around Manhattan Island.

Henry Biggs is currently an adjunct professor at the law school and was formerly an associate dean at Washington University. In addition to swimming to raise funds, Biggs is also actively involved in other ways of giving back to the community, one of them being the Big Brother Big Sister program, which he joined 35 years ago in his freshman year of college.

His 27-mile swim has now raised over $100,000, the majority of which will go towards the endowment of two scholarships for students in Ferguson and the North St. Louis County area.

When it comes to the current situation in Ferguson and the North St. Louis area, Biggs noted that people should each contribute according to their abilities. Although swimming isn’t Biggs’ favorite activity, he has experience and ability in completing lengthy events.

“In fact, I don’t like swimming much,” Biggs said. “When I was 25, I swam the English Channel for 15 hours and after that I never wanted to swim again. But this opportunity came and I thought it was time for me to do it once more…I’m very glad to swim to bring some greater good. ”

In order to accomplish the feat, Biggs went through an intense training process, spending up to 11 hours in the water at a time. He completed the swim in eight hours and 32 minutes.

“The weather wasn’t sunny, which means you won’t get your back burnt,” Biggs said, “And the tide helped a lot. The eight hours is in some way misleading since you were actually getting pushed by the tide. When I finished I felt pretty good because I expected that it might take 10 to 11 hours, but I spent only eight and a half.”

During the swimming, his wife was in a small boat following him and made sure he was fed every 45 minutes.

The donation was open to the public and for the first $5,000, an anonymous donor matched every dollar raised. The amount of raised money was displayed as $105,472 dollars on the Can He Make It website specifically designed for the swimming event, but Biggs mentioned that another donation recently brought the total up to $117,000.

All funds are being collected and managed by United Way of Greater St. Louis and most will be used as startup of two scholarships for kids in the Ferguson area. Another part goes to the New York Swim, the organizer of the event to support swimming tutoring, and the rest is reserved for another fundraising event next year, which is still being planned.

“My biggest concern is that I give money to the Ferguson area maybe for two years, and then it’s gone,” Biggs said.