It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s … a Chemical Executive

The Shard: Stands between charity donors and disadvantaged youth. Credit: Courtesy of Phenomenex

Some fund-raisers take the form of a bake sale or a chili cook-off. Such philanthropic endeavors, however, are child’s play to Phenomenex Chief Executive Officer Fasha Mahjoor, who last week took charitable spectacles to dizzying new heights by rappelling down Europe’s tallest building. The separations technology firm CEO rappelled down from the 87th floor of the Shard in London on Sept. 3 in an effort to raise money for the Outward Bound Trust, which champions outdoor programs that teach underprivileged youth valuable life lessons. “I’m speechless!” Mahjoor exclaimed just hours after his death-defying act. “I can’t explain what a thrill it was to stand at the pinnacle of the Shard and look down over a thousand feet of vertical glass to the miniature world below with nothing but a harness, a rope, and faith to help me defy gravity.” Obviously, it’s impressive anytime someone falls down a skyscraper and doesn’t die, but there are still a lot of other things to be impressed about with this story. For starters, Mahjoor was joined in his descent by 19 other philanthropists including the Duke of York, Prince Andrew (who was perhaps inspired to traverse the Shard after watching his mom, Queen Elizabeth II, engage in a similarly extreme activity when she jumped out of a helicopter at this year’s Olympics). In addition, Mahjoor is a complete novice at rappelling. “When Fasha accepted the challenge, he had never worn a harness before in his life,” Phenomenex spokeswoman Kari Carlson Kelly told Newscripts before her boss made his descent. “Minus a short practice run, he is a total rookie!” According to Kelly, Mahjoor’s decision to rappel down one of Earth’s tallest buildings made sense in the larger scheme of things. Mahjoor prefers “to ‘get his hands dirty’ for philanthropy as opposed to writing checks,” she said. What’s more, “having the opportunity to conquer his own fears by jumping off Europe’s tallest building very much reflects the mission statement of the Outward Bound Trust.” It’s a sentiment Mahjoor seconded after returning to solid ground. “Ultimately, overcoming my own fears and jumping from the Shard today very much reflects the essence of what this organization is about, and it feels so good to know that what we have done here will afford so many young people the same opportunity to help them overcome their fears and build self-confidence,” he said. Prior to his descent, Mahjoor set a fund-raising goal of $230,000 for himself, to which he donated the initial $32,000. All told, the efforts of last week's rapellers added up to $3,167,800 in donations, and through Sept. 28, there is still an opportunity to support Mahjoor’s campaign at “Family, friends, business colleagues, and distributors from so many different countries, and even complete strangers, have so generously supported me and the Outward Bound Trust,” Mahjoor said. “I am quite humbled.” But not too humbled. When asked if he would ever climb down a skyscraper again, Mahjoor crowed, “Next time, let’s try 187 floors!” Phenomenex has yet to release its footage of Mahjoor's triumph over gravity, but interested readers can watch the Duke of York fall down the side of the Shard in this video:

Author: Jeff Huber

Jeff Huber is an associate editor at C&EN. He enjoys finding peculiar news stories that make him laugh and/or tilt his head in a thoughtful manner. This hobby has served him well as a contributor to the Newscripts blog.

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