Whether you’re a student, athlete, faculty member, or alumni, one thing always seems to bring everyone together: the mascot. From local legends like Victor the Viking to big league names like Purdue Pete, these energetic sports icons have been entertaining crowds for decades, generating team spirit, and embodying the values of the hometowns they came from.
One beloved Regional institution is getting ready to make their own contribution to mascot history, as Calumet College of St. Joseph (CCSJ) prepares for the unveiling of Crimson Joe, the first official mascot in the school’s history.
In order to build a character that truly encapsulated what it means to be part of the Crimson Wave, insight from several key groups was collected to kick start the creation process.
“When we found out we were going to develop this mascot, we organized a committee comprised of students, staff, faculty, and alumni,” said Linda Gajewski, Director of Communications and Public Relations at CCSJ. “We also met with Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura and David Raymond, the original Phillie Phanatic.”
Raymond also founded the online Mascot Hall of Fame that eventually became the fun-filled museum found in Whiting, just a mile down the road from the CCSJ campus.
“Raymond came in and gave us a crash course on all things mascots,” Gajewski explained. “We learned how to develop them and what they represent. A few committee members even had lunch with Reggie the Purple Party Dude to learn how to find the right individual to bring them to life. It was a really fun process!”
Combining Raymond’s guidance with their own knowledge of CCSJ and the Whiting-Robertsdale area, the committee got to work shaping the ideal Crimson Wave mascot. The year-long process produced Crimson Joe, a character that represents CCSJ and its students, the unique town of Whiting, and everything a mascot stands for.
The first step was to create his backstory, and CCSJ President Dr. Amy McCormack knew exactly the direction the school had in mind.
“We really wanted our mascot to reflect the college, the history, and our surroundings within the community,” McCormack said. “To do this we met with students early on and asked them to mention a word that made them think of the college-- they talked about grit, hard work, family, and second chances. We believe Crimson Joe embraces all of that.”
CCSJ did have a bit of mascot-like representation a few years ago in the form of “Surfer Dude,” a blonde-haired wave riding enthusiast portrayed by a student wanting to create more school spirit. But the character was not an official mascot created by the institution, and it faded out when that student graduated.
“Surfer Dude” is tied into Crimson Joe’s backstory, written by CCSJ professor and avid creative Dr. Chris Buczinsky. Intertwining past and present icons, the story effectively passes the torch from Surfer Dude to Crimson Joe.
It tells the tale of a local oil refinery worker, an average guy named Joe. While walking along the shores of Lake Michigan on Whiting’s Whihala Beach, he experiences a chance encounter that changes his life, transforming him from an “average Joe” into the powerful “Crimson Joe”. This transformation instilled a once lost confidence in him, gave him the gift of a new start, and inspired him to ‘fill the hopeless with hope, the discouraged with encouragement, and the failing and flailing with new determination and perseverance’.
“We’re really proud of how he came out,” Gajewski said. “We tried to put a lot of symbolism in him-- his backstory melds a little bit of the college history with the community we reside in, as well as the way our students perceive their time at CCSJ.”
His story reflects that of so many CCSJ students, who came to the college in need of a new beginning, a second chance, and a place to lift them up. With its empowering staff, family-oriented atmosphere, and emphasis on hard work and integrity, CCSJ gives students exactly that, and Crimson Joe is the perfect icon to represent and carry on that legacy.