July/August 1998 WSU Alumni News

WuShock at 50

WSU's mighty Wu struts into its second half-century sporting a new look.

WuShock logoWichita State's incomparable mascot, WuShock, celebrates its 50th birthday this year (1998) with a pumped-up physique and revved-up attitude.

"He's a good-looking, youthful 50-year-old," says WSU Athletics Director Bill Belknap. "We think the new design is an improvement because it gives Wu a larger figure in the upper body. We wanted to convey both a toughness and competitiveness and yet a warmth and friendliness with the athletic department and institution."

A new WuShock mascot costume will be introduced this fall.

The newest version of WuShock was designed by Wade Hampton, art director at The Resort T-shirt Co. in Wichita. In addition to the new print version of WuShock, the WSU mascot has been animated for the first time by Bill Johnson, art director at Harvest Communications Inc. in Wichita. The animated Wu stars in television commericals that air locally.

It was University of Wichita alumnus Wilbur Elsea '50 who originally brought Wu to life 50 years ago. Then a junior who had been a Marine during World War II, Elsea decided that "the school needed a mascot who gave a tough impression, with a serious, no-nonsense scowl." His design was adopted by the university in 1948.

In the Oct. 7, 1948 issue of The Sunflower, an advertisement appeared urging students to submit names for the school's new mascot. Jack Kersting, then a freshman, suggested the winning name, "WuShock." Judges for the event were Eva C. Hangen, professor of English, and N.H. Pronko, professor and head of the psychology department.

Before Elsea's and Kersting's WuShock character, the university had used a nameless shock of wheat as its symbol because so many of its students were integrally involved with the area's wheat production. Early football games were played on a stubbled wheat field by students who worked as harvest hands between the spring and fall semesters. Pep club members were known as Wheaties, and athletic team members were called Wheatshockers.

That nickname hales from 1904, when WSU was Fairmount College. R.J. Kirk '07, a football manager, invented the name for posters to advertise a game with the Chilocco Indians. Because the word Indian had been placed under the name Chilocco, a press agent for the Wichita Fall Festival, helping to publicize the game, demanded that a nickname for Fairmount be added to balance the poster. Kirk rose to the challenge, coming up with Wheatshockers. Although the name was never officially adopted, it caught on and survived until it was shortened to Shockers.

Only months after WuShock's genesis, the mascot was already evolving. Revised in November 1948 by Harold Kemper '50, Wu was used as a cartoon figure to illustrate campus characters and student characteristics in The Sunflower. Inside the 1950 Parnassus, John Jolly took further liberties with WuShock, redesigning the character to illustrate the yearbook's divider pages.

No matter Wu's various guises, the fierce but friendly character has always stood as the symbol of school spirit and of a progressive university community.

Few can argue that WuShock in unlike any other mascot. "I don't think there's anyone in the country that compares to it," Belknap says.

As WSU Alumni Association Executive Director Brad Beets '87 puts it, "There are flocks of birds and many a cat, but only one WuShock."

Whatever the size of its biceps.


WuShock at 50

WSU's mighty Wu struts into its second half-century sporting a new look.