Parson to Griffin... to nothing at all: Westminster mascot's evolution and confusion

A staged photo of Westminster College’s mascot, Griff, casually posing in his new suit, which was upgraded last year to improve the look of the mascot. However, because the college hasn’t found someone to fill the position this year, Griff is currently out of commision. Photo by Marni Harbrecht.

A staged photo of Westminster College’s mascot, Griff, casually posing in his new suit, which was upgraded last year to improve the look of the mascot. However, because the college hasn’t found someone to fill the position this year, Griff is currently out of commision. Photo by Marni Harbrecht.

Fans and athletic supporters once walked into Westminster College's Dumke Field House and saw the mascot, Griff, interacting with the crowd, players and referees. However, as of spring 2017, Westminster's athletic events have lost their star of the sidelines.   

The mascot changed from Parson to Griffin in 1979 during a major overhaul of Westminster's brand. In the past year, the athletic department made further changes to the Griffin by upgrading the mascot's entire suit. Now, they're struggling to find a student to fill it. 

Ian Troost, former Westminster student and last year's Griffin, initially requested the changes to Griff's suit. 

"Since Griff never really had a consistent character before me, I was able to develop that character and create Griff, almost," Troost said in an email. "I believe I requested a suit upgrade for numerous reasons. One, the old suit was old and very gross, very worn. Two, the old suit was very impractical and limited in the ability for Griff to be expressive in certain ways. Three, the old suit really was pretty unattractive." 

Alyson Vander Steen, the athletics marketing director at the time, helped Troost request the new suit. 

"The wings on the other suit were big and bulky and difficult to put any clothing over, so a lot of the time they weren't even put on," Vander Steen said. "The head was also a key component. Again, we wanted it to look similar to the logo but also functional and inviting."  

Ben Huppi, Westminster's director of athletic marketing and special events, said he is struggling to find a student willing to become the new mascot and fill the shoes like Troost did. 

"I am hoping to find a student with the right personality and the ability to make the time commitment to be Griff soon," Huppi said.  

Troost said Griff is an important part of the Westminster athletics experience. The Westminster Griffin has represented the school for over 25 years, and athletes across campus have embraced the wings and fierce talons on their jerseys and gear. 

"[It's important to develop] that reoccurring character for fans and community members so they can connect with Griff on a constant basis," Troost said. "So a fan knows what to expect from one encounter with Griff to the next encounter, it's the same. Griff remembers them because Griff is not a person in a suit, Griff is Griff."