AEPi at Mizzou ready to get “Rocking” again in fight against cancer


Edan Goldfarb takes his seat as Rock-A-Thon 2019 kicks off!

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

It takes a certain kind of person with a specific kind of drive to be willing to sit in a rocking chair for 63 consecutive hours. Sam Shellist, a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia and a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, is just such a person.

At 6 a.m. on Thursday, April 20, Shellist will climb onto a stage set up at the corner of 9th Street and Broadway in downtown Columbia, Mo., in front of the Binghams Traditional Clothing store. He will then sit down in a rocking chair made in honor of Aaron Colwell, a member of AEPi from 1999-2003. Colwell was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016 and passed away in November 2021. The chair was a donation and memorial from members of the 2003 graduating class of AEPI Mizzou.

Sam Shellist, 2023 Rock-A-Thon Rocker

In the Colwell chair, Shellist will begin his journey to raise $200,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Continuing The Tradition

It all started in 1969, when Jack Fishman read about a Rock-A-Thon at East Carolina University that had raised over $900 for the March of Dimes. Soon, Fishman and rocker Gary Panitz spearheaded a campaign that would raise $3,205.29 for the March of Dimes.

Jack Fishman (standing) and rocker Gary Panitz. Image courtesy of AEPi.

52 years and over one million dollars raised later, they still rock every other April and the Rock-A-Thon has become the largest single Greek philanthropy in the nation.

Former AEPi president and Rock-A-Thon Co-Chair Josh Thorpe emphasizes how important a passionate brotherhood is to making this event possible. “Sadly, every brother of AEPi has a connection to cancer. With over 100 members in our organization, we have the manpower and commitment to make this Rock-A-Thon a special one.”

This year’s Rock-A-Thon is dedicating its efforts to brain cancer head, and neck research through the American Cancer Society.

“Rock-A-Thon raised over $180,000 in 2021, bringing our donation amount over $1.2 million. We are thankful for our partnership with ACS and plan to break more records this year,” said Noah Grimsley, the chapter president.

And Thorpe believes they have just the right man in the chair in Sam, who grew up in Vernon Hills a northwest suburb of Chicago.

“Sam is the kind of guy who loves all the members of AEPi and cares deeply about this event for personal reasons as well as for the traditions that have been passed down to us after so many years of this event,” said Thorpe. “Sam is a determined caring man and has strong opinions he is willing to fight for. He also has so much knowledge of the event and is extremely excited for the weekend of the event and has already been a huge help in the planning process.”

How the Rock-A-Thon Works

While Shellist rocks, his brotherhood will support him by “canning” for donations across Missouri.

“My brothers will be going around raising money while I sit there and I will also have people staying on the stage with me at all times,” said Shellist.

Supporters can also support Sam by making a donation online.

“I will not be standing up for any reason whatsoever,” said Shellist, who understands what that means physically, and will make some adjustments.

To prepare, Shellist has been communicating with past rockers to get advice on what it will actually be like. As a result, he has developed a few strategies for his own success.

“I don’t have to be rocking the whole time but probably will a lot just to stay moving,” said Shellist.

The entire fraternity knows the importance of the Rock-A-Thon and says they will be working hard to raise money while Shellist is in the chair.

“I am honestly incredibly proud to be a part of such a great cause and event,” Shellist said. “It’s something that I always wanted to play an integral part in, and I can’t wait to get started.”