Wheaton College’s annual Mastodon March is one of the College’s most established Student Orientation traditions.
Each year, upperclassmen don costumes and parade throughout campus to welcome freshmen and transfer students to Wheaton.
This year, an additional member of the Wheaton family—a “new guy” himself—will also be at the August 23rd march: Wheaton’s new costumed character mascot, Stertorous “Tor” Thunder. The mascot’s name, a synonym for loud, cacophonous noises, is a playful take on Wheaton’s official nickname, Thunder.
Tor, an eight-foot-tall, plush descendant of Wheaton’s iconic Ice Age Mastodon Americanus Perry Mastodon, is embodied in a two-person costume weighing 99 pounds. The costume was designed by artist Ellen Rising Morris and constructed by the Olympus Group of Milwaukee.
Morris collaborated with student government and Wheaton’s athletics department to conceptualize and design the character.
“We wanted something that had a significant presence, but was also approachable and fun,” she says. “The process of working with the students, athletics, and the Olympus Group to give Tor the right look and feel involved a lot of back-and-forth, and a lot of fun.”
In keeping with Wheaton’s liberal arts identity, students from multiple disciplines participated in Tor’s creation. Students from English professor Nicole Mazzarella’s creative writing class chose Tor’s name and developed his origin story, which reveals how a quest for knowledge about Perry drew Tor to Wheaton’s campus. Art professor Jeremy Botts directed students in illustrating the story, and Dr. David Gordon’s music composition class wrote a short theme song for Tor that incorporates Wheaton’s fight song.
Director of Student Activities Steve Ivester said involving as many students as possible was key to making sure they felt a strong connection with the new mascot. “We cast a vision to make a meaningful connection to the liberal arts experience,” he said. “Conceptualizing Tor together was a creative way of demonstrating the breadth and fullness of who we are as a community.”
“For a while now, the Wheaton community has been craving a rallying point—a mascot for someone to lead the charge of our athletics, of our events, and our social get togethers,” says 2011 graduate Ryan Buchanan, who, as student body president, led student government’s participation in Tor’s creation. “Tor is now that rallying point, and also something that embodies the community nature that Wheaton has.”
Ivester says Tor—who was introduced to upperclassmen last spring—was an immediate hit. “He’s already brought a lot of camaraderie, fun, and spirit to the campus,” Ivester says. Within two hours of his introduction, Tor had his own Facebook page and hundreds of friends—though not nearly as many as his famed forefather, who was moved into Wheaton’s new Science Center last summer.
In addition to making occasional appearances on campus, Tor will also appear at public events from time to time.
“I’m excited to see Tor become part of the community and a goodwill ambassador,” Ivester says.