Changing the guard: new Tommy Titan

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Jeff Neukom, Managing Editor

September 25, 1965 is an important date in Illinois Wesleyan University’s illustrious history.

On that date, “The Wesleyan Titan” made his inaugural appearance, entering Wilder Field in a Roman chariot as Wesleyan’s football team was preparing for its game against the Illinois State University Redbirds. He was portrayed by Steve Reeser, a member of the class of 1969.

September of 2015 is notable, as it marks the changing of the guard for IWU’s mascot 50 years after his debut at IWU. The Tommy the Titan that we’ve grown so accustomed to will step aside, making room for a modernized and improved rendition.

The new costume features an emphasized plume and an almost all-white helmet, giving Tommy’s iconic helmet a new look. His torso is emblazoned with IWU’s modernized I-Wesleyan logo, and his muscular arms are much more emphasized with his cape pulled back over his shoulders.

Having debuted in the year 2000, the previous suit had developed a few issues affecting its functionality. The fan inside ceased working, and as a result became nearly unbearable to wear. It had acquired a film of dirt and grime that stubbornly adhered to the fabric, even after a wash. Its zipper no longer worked, and areas of high-stress and tension had developed signs of fatigue.

The new suit is designed to be easier to wear and maneuver in, though it means the new Tommy won’t stand quite as tall as his predecessor. His plume, all-white helmet and impressive musculature retain and enhance his presence on the sidelines. Fans need not worry, as Tommy will be re-energized and more pumped up than most of us have ever seen him.

The new Tommy costume is just another part of the ongoing facelift to IWU’s athletic program, which includes a 20,000 square-foot addition to the Shirk Center. The renovation is planned to be finished during the second semester of the 2015-2016 school year, though the new Tommy will make his debut much sooner than that.

In regards to the Shirk Center renovations, the addition will include a fitness center, two multipurpose rooms, men’s and women’s locker rooms, a training room and storage space. Plans call for the current fitness room to become a weight-training area, which will certainly help to give students a bit more space to conduct their workouts.

The project, announced last year, is funded almost entirely by a gift from the Shirk family and the Shirk Family Foundation. University administration hopes that the expansion will meet the school’s needs for the next 20 years.

IWU’s athletic department is in the midst of an underhaul, with the new renovation, new Tommy and new athletic director, Mike Wagner, who has already been active in promoting student attendance at IWU home games. While the Shirk Center renovations will not be finished for a while yet, Tommy will make his debut during the 2015 fall season.