Alumnus crafts glass figures to fight cancer

In 1982, alumnus Jerry Burnett and his wife Bobbie co-founded Caring Collection, Inc., a nonprofit that raises money for cancer research. When Burnett was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999, his cause took on a personal meaning.

Burnett and Bobbie, a former art teacher, create stained glass designs with proceeds going to provide equipment for cancer research at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. and patient care at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md.

Burnett has now been in remission for 14 years and is excited to see the company’s latest project: a stained glass Sebastian the Ibis. The couple have been making stained glass angels for more than 30 years.

“It really makes me appreciate the efforts a lot more of what the volunteers do in buying the equipment for the hospital,” said Burnett, who graduated from the College of Engineering in 1960. “It’s used by patients like myself and it’s tremendous. It brings tears to your eyes.”

Bobbie Burnett made her first glass angel for a friend who had leukemia in 1982. By word of mouth, the company grew and raised more than $1.1 million to date.

Savvas Pantelides, a UM alumnus who is currently working on his master’s degree and works as the program coordinator for the School of Business, thought of the Sebastian design. He has volunteered with Caring Collection since he was in high school in 2002 after his grandmother passed away from cancer.

“I’ve always been a strong advocate of giving something back to the community,” he said. “This is another way for us to spread the word about how we can advocate for cancer research and promoting of the well-being of others.”

As his department planned the Business of Healthcare: Bending the Cost Curve Conference 2014, a conference that looked at ways to bring together business leaders, policy makers and healthcare providers to share diverse perspectives, Pantelides knew what kind of gift he wanted to give the panelists and speakers.

He felt a stained glass Sebastian the Ibis was a perfect way to give a specialized gift from the university and also incorporate the theme of health, since all the proceeds benefit cancer research.

“It’s just something that’s a nice touch and it’s really different,” he said. “They really just put a smile on people’s face.”

He worked with Bobbie Burnett on the idea and set out designing and planning every detail over the phone and email.

“It’s been very special to do this project with them and it’s been a really exciting thing, and I think that the people who have received the ibis have been very pleased with them,” she said.

To date, the School of Business has donated almost $5,000 to the Caring Collection, according to Pantelides. Various departments like the programs in the Center for Health Sector Management and Policy, real estate and events management team have all placed orders.

Depending on the number of items ordered, the stained glass Sebastian the Ibis costs about $40. The cost mainly covers the materials needed to make the stained glass ibis, Burnett said. There are also no labor costs. More than 50 volunteers dedicate their time and effort to the cause.

Since 1982, Bobbie Burnett has created more than 45,000 angels and is glad to design Sebastian the Ibis.

“The angels have controlled my life and now the ibis are,” she said. “After 45,000 angels, I just need new mental challenges. It’s nice to have the project for the university and be able to make something different and still contribute to oncology.”

Jerry Burnett is excited that his alma mater supports the mission of the Caring Collection. He hopes to one day create a larger ibis to place in a window of the alumni center.

“I think it’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” he said. “I’m just thrilled that they heard about us and are buying the ibis from us because it just gives you a tremendous feeling.”


For those who want to volunteer or learn more about the Caring Collection, visit


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Ashley Martinez
Ashley Martinez is a senior majoring in journalism and psychology, which have sharpened her people-watching skills. She has worked as a staff writer, copy editor, assistant editor and is now the Edge arts and entertainment editor at The Miami Hurricane. She serves as the president of UM's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Her work has been featured in The Hurricane, Distraction Magazine, The Communique, Gables Home Page and The Miami Herald. When she's not working on a story, she loves going to the theatre and singing show tunes.