Zach! Zak! Zack! U's newest student club pledges humor, hope during pandemic

Bring people together on campus and have some fun? Ex-Zac-tly

University of Minnesota students Zach Faith (left) and Zach Uter
University of Minnesota students Zach Faith (left) and Zach Uter, seen here at a Gophers football game in 2019, are part of the "International Zach Council." Faith created the group as a light-hearted way to lift spirits on campus amid the pandemic.
Courtesy of Zach Faith

As students return to campus in the middle of a pandemic, a new social group has arrived at the University of Minnesota: “The International Zach Council.”

It’s the brainchild of pre-med junior Zach Faith.

Last week, Faith, who has jokingly billed himself “president of the Zachs,” and his “ex-Zach-utive” team drafted an email for every Zachary in the school’s directory as part of a running joke in their friendship. The email went to 719 students, staff and alumni.

An email from a U of M student, Zach Faith, to other Zachs.
Zach Faith, a junior at the University of Minnesota, sent this email to more than 700 other Zachs in the U of M's directory, inviting them to join the International Zach Council.
Courtesy of Zach Faith

In the first hour, Faith received 40 responses and about 70 “Zach-pplications” total, leaving many non-Zachs desperate to change their name.

“We’ll get people that are like ‘I’ve been graduated from college for 12 years and this really really made me smile,’” Faith said. “From alumni, we’ve gotten emails from professors, Ph.D. students, people in their everyday jobs saying ‘This is awesome how can I be a part of this even if I’m not an undergrad student?’ So we created our board of alumnus.”

Despite the initial controversy, the group is now accepting of all types of Zachs, even when spelled “Z-A-C” or “Z-A-C-K,” Faith said. 

A number of Zachs from across the United States, and even internationally, have reached out to Faith to join the group. One Zach said he hopes to start his own “Zach Chapter” at the University of Alabama. And the current “Zach-ratery of Defense” is stationed in Africa. 

Another Zach who responded to Faith’s email said: “Zachs and Zacharys alike, this is the start of something special. And I’m honored to be a part of it.”

The name “Zachary” coasted in the top 20 boys' names between 1999 through 2002 —  just about the same age group as current college students. Faith said Zachs share a bond that is almost impossible to describe. 

“Kind of the love, the humor and the personalities we have all seen has been kind of funny. My roommate from my freshman year is also in my fraternity and we were just going through comments and emails and he was like, ‘Why do all Zachs have the same personality as you guys?’” Faith said.

The initial purpose of the council was to spark a laugh, indulge in “zach-tivities” and have a choice intramural team. Now the following is much larger than expected and Faith sees an opportunity to turn the council into something more.

“I’d really like to start looking for children with the name Zach that are suffering from terminal illnesses. Specifically, cancer would be something that is very touching to me and then try to raise money for them through our organization,” he said. 

The Zach Council has launched an online merchandise shop to raise money for children with cancer. Faith is also planning to partner with the school and a children's cancer organization for a large fundraising event in the future.

Faith said he hopes his group will lift campus spirit during this unprecedented school year.

“Everyone’s been really used to isolation. I think it’s been hard on a lot of people just not having these social connections,” he said. “I kind of thought this group would be a bit of a distraction from the difficulty that average life is bringing right now.”

The “Zach-thletic” chair and director of “Zach-ademics" are just some of the essential roles to be filled in the upcoming “Zach-lection.” Other positions came creatively and with initiative from the Zach-pplicants, as one might expect from a Zach. 

“There were a lot of people who sent me resumes for specific positions,” said Faith. “What I am looking for is who is the most enthusiastic and who is willing to put in the work.”

The group of Zachs has been receiving an overwhelming amount of support from their community, Faith said — except for a neighboring rivalry from a group of Carters. 

“I think it’s going to start a name group movement,” said Faith. “Obviously we were kind of the original for this time.”

Faith hopes for “Zach” celebrity guest appearances throughout the school year.

Professional golfer Zac Blair is scheduled to speak at the first group meeting. A 2-mile Zach Run around campus and a group picture are currently being planned for the first events, the dates are yet to be determined. 

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.