Monthly Archives: April 2012

Trade Secrets of The Quaker

Author: Andrea Amiel, C’87

“Rob” is a 20-year-old sophomore from upstate New York who represents Penn as our beloved mascot, the Quaker.  Recently, he agreed to let me in on a few trade secrets in preparation of promoting our Class of 1987 reunion this year during Alumni Weekend, May 11-14, 2012. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed meeting him!

Why did you want to try out to be the Quaker?

I’m not really sure why I was interested. Perhaps it was the idea of getting in free for front row seats at all the basketball games or maybe it was the idea of hanging out with all the cheerleaders after the game. Thinking back, I probably figured that even if it didn’t work out, it’d make a good story, so I went for it and signed up.

When you got to Penn, how did you find out about the mascot tryouts…or did they find you?

I didn’t join until November of my freshman year. The idea of being a mascot never really crossed my mind before that.  This year, it was a bit different. We actively recruited during New Student Orientation, handed out fliers, and set up a booth at the fall clubbing fair. Oftentimes, all you have to do is ask and people are willing to give it a shot. This past year, we had three tryout and we took them all. It ended up that one of them dropped.

What are the prerequisites for being the Quaker?  You mentioned height…

Height is important: 5’10”-6’ in order to maintain similarity. Weight is much less important because the suit looks the same on just about everyone.

I would also say hygiene is important. We tend to switch at halves. We share the same head, so when one member is sick, we’re all at risk and as to the clothes, although it’s less than pleasant, if you’re the second halve mascot, you’re getting a wet suit.

FYI – There is 1 head and 2 sets of clothes. They get cleaned every to every other wearing.

What did the Quaker tryout entail?  

I’ll give you my experience and the experience for the new guys:

For me- I was joining at a time when they really needed help. There was only one Quaker at the time and accordingly they were, for lack of a better term, desperate. My tryout went something like this:

Dave (Quaker at the time): Get in the suit.

Me: Okay.

Dave:  Now, walk like the Quaker:

Me : (attempting to walk like a Quaker) Is this right?

Dave: No. Do it like this (proceeds to show me).

Me: (again attempting to walk like a Quaker) Right?

Dave: No, try again.

Me: (attempting)

Dave:  No! (Shows me one more time). You’ve got one more shot.

Me (attempting)…

Dave: Ugh, well, you’ll figure it out eventually Now, get out there.

(Clearly, I wasn’t a natural).

For the incoming mascots this year it was much less about having raw talent and much more about gauging interest and size height.

What training did you receive for what you are supposed to do at games?

I got the nod that I was picked, and was thrown right into my first game. Any of the stylistic things I picked up (how to interact with crowds, dance etc.), I learned on the job or by meeting and watching other mascots. This past January, I had the opportunity to go to cheer nationals in Walt Disney World and I was able to watch and learn from the best.

Were you given a list of rules or regulations? Any you can share? 

Initially, I was given three rules and I’ll explain the relevance of each one.

Do not talk in the suit. It’s important that the mascot maintain a cartoon-like character and talking it humanizes the mascot and takes a lot of the fun away.

Do not be seen in public with the suit. That means no parties in the suit, or leisurely strolls for attention, and always change in private. The Quaker is one of the main images and representations of the University of Pennsylvania and accordingly, any action that I do in the suit is a reflection of the University as a whole. It would be a shame to dishonor this place, so it is imperative that when in the suit, we try to act respectfully.

Don’t advertise that I am the mascot. While the different mascot identities aren’t kept perfectly secret, we’re still hidden enough from the public that 99% of people have no idea who we are. It’s important that our lives outside of the suit don’t interfere with the University’s image. For example, I’m in a fraternity, but that doesn’t mean that Quaker is a frat brother.

This past year, a few additional rules were added because we earned a complaint from the NCAA: No mooning crowds in the suit (Princeton got us in trouble for that one).  No more ripping the head of other school’s respective mascots, even if it’s just a stuffed animal that we’re attacking.

The Quaker went from being a person wearing makeup and a wig, to a full costume with a mask. Why?  

The transition from an open-faced costume to a fully enclosed suit was both advantageous for the University’s image and for the student body. First, the full suit made it possible for Penn to maintain consistency year in and year out, because it no longer was graduating the “face” of the university, which of course would happen every four years.  Having an open-faced suit created a level of risk because the image and reputation of the current student mascot reflected on the university.

The other issue was that an open-faced mascot only allowed for one individual to be the mascot and accordingly, everyone would have to put up with his time constraints. Additionally, it prevented females and minorities from having the opportunity to become the mascot, because on some level, the mascot image had to remain consistent.

To emphasize my point, three years ago, the main mascot was female. Right now, we have four people serving as The Quaker. It’s a diverse set of mascots, representing the Caucasian, Black, Indian, and LGBT communities.

Where does the Quaker show up – aside from sporting events?  Are there events or occasions that require the Quaker’s attendance?

You never know where he’ll show up. Sometimes he’ll make surprise visits to Van Pelt, to weddings, to a ton of alumni events, Penn Previews, 5Ks, openings of buildings, Philly Phanatic’s Birthday party, and even some corporate events.

How do you pick which of the Quakers works at a particular event? Doesn’t everyone want the big-time events?

Events get assigned in the following order:

Everyone checks their schedule to see who is open. If multiple Quakers have openings, it will be decided on a first-come, first-serve basis. If it is a big event, the most senior Quakers make the call.

Are you paid for being the Quaker, or is it a volunteer position? 

The Quaker is actually a member of the cheer team and accordingly, is a registered NCAA division I athlete.  Because of that status, the mascot cannot be paid.

Where is the costume stored? 

The Quaker Den is located in the Old Box Office in the Palestra. The room is decorated with old trophies, Penn flags, headless tigers, and general Penn paraphernalia. There is also a 4’ by 4’ section of the historical Palestra floor where we change in front of a mirror.

Why don’t we ever see the Quaker walking around campus? 

A few reasons. Generally, the suit is stored in the Palestra in order to make it easy for one of the Quakers to find the suit.  It takes 10-15 minutes to put on the suit and it has to be done in secrecy/private. The suit costs about $5,000 and accordingly, any unnecessary wear is viewed as exactly that. It’s not the most comfortable to hang around it.  It generates a lot of attention. When you’re in the suit you’re a celebrity, so it’s kind of like saying, why don’t we see celebrities around campus more?

Are you allowed to borrow the Quaker costume for private events, like a party or something? 

The Quaker is only allowed to be used for University-affiliated, sponsored, or supported events. Because we represent the University, it would be inappropriate for the Quaker to be a frat party, for example.

Have you ever gotten harassed as the Quaker, or had a hard time?

For some reason, I’ve had really bad luck at lacrosse games. Walking around the concourse of Franklin Field I’ve had a couple kids shoulder-check me into the wall. Walking through the stands, I can remember one event in particular, where a teenage girl refused to let go of my glove for an entire hour, so I was of stuck next to her until she let go of my glove and I could get away.

I made the mistake of taking the Quaker out to Spring Fling last year. I ended up having to literally run away from a group of girls in the Quad who were adamant about removing my head. Soon after, I had a group of males approach me from behind, pick me up and drop me.

At the St. Joe’s game this year, I was harassing the opponent crowd when the Hawk swooped in, bumped me, and tried to start a fight. Fortunately, the ref ended that before it really had a chance to begin though.

So, yes, sometimes, it gets a little tricky.

Any funny stories or great anecdotes that you can share?

It’s common for me to find myself in some pretty unique situations while in the suit. Last October, I received an email from a psychiatrist asking me if I’d be willing to work with this child (of a Penn alum) who had a phobia of costumed characters. Next thing I knew, I was sitting on a bench outside of Starbucks on Chestnut and 34th, dressed up in the suit, with a terrified child — and when I say terrified, I mean terrified, staring me down from 50 feet away. Over the course of the next hour, the patient worked her way toward me, overcame her fear, and ended up posing for a picture with me.

Before my first football game, I was told that I needed to practice running the flag, leading the football team onto the field. Well, to say the least, I dismissed the idea of practicing running- I mean how difficult is it to run, granted even in the mascot suit it’s not all that complicated?  It’s the same motion, just bigger steps, right? I should have practiced, because when it came time, I made it three quarters of the way down the field, lost my balance, did a short weave, and collapsed. When I looked up, I was completely surrounded by a herd of giant football players.  I just closed my eyes hoping that I would make it out alive. After somehow surviving the stampede, I walked off the field. I don’t think I ever appreciated my anonymous status as much as I did then.

What’s the worst part about being the Quaker? The best part?

As to the worst: the worst part is our schedule. We never know when we’ll get a last minute email to attend an event and often times it’s challenging to balance the schedule with the academic load, but that’s why we have four athletes instead of just one.

The best part is what I’ll call the “VIP Privilege.”  We get into all sporting events for free and we have what is essentially an all-access pass. It’s completely acceptable and oftentimes encouraged for the mascot to walk up and kiss our beloved President, Amy Gutmann, and it’s equally as acceptable to walk onto the floor during time-outs and give the players high-fives. I’m certain that almost nobody else is afforded those opportunities.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Weekend, Guest blogger, Reunions, Traditions

Los Angeles Event Recap – Hollywood and The Holocaust: An American Response on Film

By Kiera Reilly, C’93  @Kiera Reilly

As the west coast representative for the Global Alumni Network, I attend many different alumni events throughout the year – breakfast meetings, lunch discussions, evening receptions and cocktail happy hours. Some of my favorite events are those with an intellectual component, and this week I attended an event which featured the expertise of a Penn alumnus.

On Tuesday in Los Angeles, the Southern California Regional Advisory Board hosted an event at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Many of us didn’t realize there was a Holocaust museum and, as the museum staff told us is common, mistakenly thought it was the Museum of Tolerance. This museum has existed in various locations since the early 1960s, but has only been in its permanent home in Pacific Park in Los Angeles since 2010.

After the staff led us on a brief museum tour, SCRAB member Jon Kean, C’89, spoke to us about “Hollywood and the Holocaust: An American Response on Film.” Jon is a writer and director and most recently has focused on documentary film projects such as the film Swimming in Auschwitz. He currently has three projects in development, including a sequel to Swimming in Auschwitz which focuses on life after liberation for Holocaust survivors. For the past two years, he has been a Ross Visiting Lecturer at Chapman University, working with Dr. Marilyn Harran in the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education on the course Holocaust: In History and Film. Jon and his wife Beth Isaacson Kean, ENG’89, have been Board members of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust since 2004.

Jon did a condensed version of a lecture he gives for his class at Chapman, and started the discussion by asking the audience about our first visual memory of the Holocaust. He then led us through three American films “about” the Holocaust and we discussed whether or not we would now consider the main subject matter the Holocaust, how Judaism was portrayed and whether they were historically accurate.

The first movie, based on the book and Broadway play, was 1959 film The Diary of Anne Frank. Jon played the Hanukkah scene from the film and argued it had been stripped of cultural context and no Yiddish was spoken.

The next movie we discussed was the 1978 television miniseries The Holocaust: the Story of the Family Weiss. While it did a generally good job of sharing things that happened, it also tried to show a little bit of everything in different geographical locations that the characters couldn’t realistically appear in all of them.

The final film was Schindler’s List from 1993. Interestingly, he asked us how we would rate the film as a true telling of the Holocaust on a scale of 1 to 10. He said survivors tend to rate it less than 5 while non-survivors would rate it a 7 – 8. The reality is that those of us that didn’t experience the holocaust can’t really know what it is like. He encouraged us to talk to the survivors that are still living and to listen to the testimonials filmed by the USC Shoah Foundation (these are now recently available at the Penn Libraries: http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-host-access-usc-shoah-foundation-institute-archive-nearly-52000-holocaust-testimonies-vide )

A lively discussion ensued during and after the talk, and one attendee was a child of survivors and shared his perspective with us. Everyone enjoyed the talk and discussion, and we all hope to return to the museum to visit and further explore its exhibits. As a parting gift, Jon gave us DVDs of his film. What a special evening.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumnni Education, Events, Film, Kiera R., Library, West Coast Regional Office

Student Perspective on Hey Day, 2012

Author: Kayleigh Smoot, C’13

It’s hard to believe after all the study sessions, club meetings,  rehearsals, midterms, papers, parties, dinners out in Center City, and everything in between that I’ve become a SENIOR here at Penn. This past Wednesday, I  donned my red shirt and hat, grabbed my cane, and headed to Hey Day with the rest of the class of 2013 to celebrate becoming seniors. It  felt incredibly special to partake in a Penn Tradition that has been around since 1916. As I frolicked around with my friends at the  picnic, taking pictures and eating delicious food (and each other’s  hats!), I couldn’t help but start to feel nostalgic. It finally hit me that three of my Penn undergraduate years had  passed me by. This bittersweet feeling continued throughout the day as  my classmates and I boisterously walked down Locust to head to College  Green. There, our class board and Penn’s wonderful, beloved President,  Dr. Amy Gutmann greeted us. After a brief “test” from Dr. Gutmann, she  pronounced us seniors, and we all joined in singing a rousing chorus of  “The Red & Blue.”

Me and my friends--I'm the one of the far right.

The school spirit was at an all time high and I’ve  never felt prouder to be a part of this University. After the  celebration died down, I started to reflect on how I only have one more year left at Penn and I fully intend on making it the best
yet. There are so many Penn Traditions I can’t wait to take part in  next year: Feb Club, Final Toast, Commencement. But at the same time,  I’m hoping the days go by slowly and I enjoy every moment.

You can view more photos of Hey Day here.

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Filed under Kayleigh, Student Perspective, Traditions

International Pay it Forward Day

Author: C. Hennessy, The Penn Fund

Hey, Penn community, did you know that today, April 26, is International Pay it Forward Day? In celebration of this philanthropic holiday, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 20,000 alumni donors who have already given back to The Penn Fund this fiscal year. Your gifts help to fund the core priorities of a Penn undergraduate experience and make this campus one of the most vibrant and beloved in the Ivy League. Thank You!

Did you know that even the current senior class, the great Class of 2012, is paying it forward? With over 1,600 seniors giving back to date, the Class of 2012 is well positioned to be the first class in history to hit 1740 senior class donors. So today, on International Pay it Forward Day; join with us in supporting Penn. Your gift will directly fuel the fires of creativity, imagination, and innovation that make our students the best and brightest in the land.

Watch this quick video to learn more about what motivates the Class of 2012 to give back.

Make today – International Pay it Forward Day – the day you help to make a difference in the lives of undergraduates all across our Red and Blue campus.

On Pennsylvania!

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Filed under Colin H., The Penn Fund, Video, Videos

Final Toast

Author: Aimee LaBrie

We’re gearing up here for a day-long celebration, the fourth annual Final Toast for the Class of 2012 (you can read about last year’s celebration here). This event, sponsored by the Penn Traditions program, brings together the senior class to welcome juniors into the alumni community with  great food, live music, and a toast as the class of 2013 “moves up” into their senior year on Hey Day.

Here are a few behind-the-scenes photos:

Sign the pledge!

Very soon, this space will be filled with seniors.

Every participant gets a Final Toast mug as a memento.

The lovely Leigh Ann models one of the "Hey Safe" t-shirts.

Stay tuned for an update on the event very soon!

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Filed under Aimee L., Alumni Programming

Happy Philly Tech Week

Author: Lisa Marie Patzer

Ben Digitized

Ben Digitized

April 23 – 28 is Philly Tech Week.  According to the Philly Tech Week website, it is “a week-long celebration of technology and innovation in Philadelphia. The annual week of events is intended to grow the impact of this innovative region through programming focused on technology, collaboration and improving Philadelphia.”  Kicking off the week were several events throughout the region, including the Women in Tech Summit, April 21, at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylania.  The Women In Tech Summit brought women together to support, challenge, and empower other women at all stages of their careers. Their discussions included topics such as, “Get Better at Breaking Things: Test-Driven Development for Skill Building and Fun” and “Hacking the Gender Gap: A Hands-On Workshop for Boosting Gender Diversity in Tech.”  They also screened the film “Women in Technology is an OLD idea.”

As a new media artist and web designer, the topic of women and technology hits close to home.  This weekend, I will be presenting my interactive installation project VIDEO DIG at Hacking Big Art for Fun and Games, one of the panel discussions at the Grassroots Game Conference, happening concurrently with Philly Tech Week.  Here are a few images from VIDEO DIG, in case you are curious.

Arduino microcontroller

Arduino microcontroller

Interactive Video Projection and Light Display

Interactive Video Projection and Light Display

Video Still

Video Still

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Filed under Events, Lisa Marie Patzer, Philadelphia, The Arts, Uncategorized

MAYA 2012: Lords of Time at the Penn Museum

Author: Alex F., C’14

Finals aren’t the only end of the world this semester. Nestled between a French literature paper and a linguistics exam, MAYA 2012: Lords of Time will open at the Penn Museum on May 5th.

The new exhibition delves into the predictions of a 2012 apocalypse and their origins in Maya civilization. With over 150 objects, the exhibition combines the predicted end of the world we’ve read about in the media with what archaeologists and anthropologists truly know of this remarkable ancient civilization.

Many of the objects will be artifacts from Copan only recently excavated by Penn Museum archaeologists. As a high school student, I visited the Copan ruins in Honduras on a spring break trip, without any idea that excavations might be going on. Now, as a Penn student reading about archaeologists finding vessels and jewelry deep under the Copan pyramids, it’s impossible not to imagine some of my anthropology professors in Indiana Jones-like scenarios, trapped in ancient tombs and narrowly escaping dangerous predicaments.

And while I can’t say I’m looking forward to finals, I am excited about the opening weekend’s celebrations. What’s a better study break than an exciting new exhibition, music, arts, and a ribbon-cutting with the president of Honduras?

There’s more information on the Penn Museum’s MAYA 2012 site here:

(Photos courtesy of Kenneth Garrett).

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Filed under Alex F., Penn Museum, Student Perspective, The Arts, The Arts at Penn