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Cecil the Sagehen is a character with a multi-faceted personality. At
athletic games, he's the energized, crowd-pleasing mascot who dances for
the fans. At Class Day, he's a more subdued, approachable species of
bird. Other times, he's sharp and opinionated, contributing views to The
Student Life. Who is this mascot, and what can be made of his many
faces? Senior Associate Dean of Campus Life and Director of Student
Programs Frank Bedoya, who's been responsible for Cecil since 1991,
sheds some light on the mystery.
Who is the person behind Cecil?
It's so funny because no matter who's in the costume, the question
always comes up-'Who is Cecil?' And my response is usually, 'Well,
Cecil! He's Cecil. What do you mean, who is Cecil?' I will stay with it,
and it's funny because there are times when I've been in the costume,
and I never let anyone know that it was me.
There was a picture in the Pomona College Magazine with Cecil's head off
(PCM Fall 2006), and I was like, "Oh my God, what are you doing?" I
remember thinking "You're not supposed to do that." But that's a really
good example, I think, of the less serious side that people take here at
Pomona. We do it very differently.
So are you Cecil?
Cecil is a secret. I have been known to wear the costume at events. I
would say that my role as Cecil has been when we needed a Cecil, and we
haven't been able to find a student to do it. I've done it for Class
Day, which is usually at the end of the year in May, when it's really
hard to find students, because they're all leaving. The majority of
students who have been Cecil are seniors, and they're all participating
in Class Day ceremonies. I've also been Cecil at events during Alumni
How do people respond to you as Cecil?
"I would say that on Alumni Weekend and even Class Day, people are very
excited when Cecil makes an appearance and it becomes a photo-op. I
think for many of them, it's a symbol-it's a part of what they identify
Have you had any unusual experiences as Cecil?
People wanting to know who is behind the costume, for one thing.
Typically with college mascots-and I'd say it's less formalized at
Pomona-whoever is in the costume remains silent, other than cheering-in
this case a "chirping"-but there's usually no talking. Probably what has
surprised me most has been when little kids get scared by the big blue
bird coming at them." So who is Cecil? What's his personality?
It's interesting because I do think Cecil's personality is based on who
is in the costume at that particular time and at that particular event
he's performing. We had an alumnus several years ago who was very
instrumental in working to get the current Cecil costume, which was
purchased during the 1997-98 academic year. He was a very animated,
excited kind of guy, so when he was at athletic events, Cecil was a very
animated, excited, outgoing individual. Sometimes, he would sort of
taunt the opposing team-to such an extent that at one event that he
actually got into a scuffle with some fans and Cecil's head came off. Of
course, that's something that we try to avoid. In fact, I tell our
students who go out to the sporting events to be very careful about
taunting or antagonizing the opposing team.
How do you recruit students to become Cecil?
Typically, they contact me. I try as much as I can to maintain some
sense of secrecy in who Cecil is, but while it's exciting for people who
do it, I don't know that it's really a secret at Pomona. I think a lot
of people on campus know who the students are, at least among their
What's the training to become the mascot?
I tell the students who actually work for our office and do become Cecil
that it's a matter of being aware of their surroundings and being aware
of anyone pushing or prodding or poking them. If they ever feel like
they're in a situation that's uncomfortable, they should try as much as
possible to remove themselves from it. I would say typically if we're
going to an event or we're walking out to a particular situation,
sometimes I will walk with them or guide them to get them to a contact
person who's there. The way the costume is now, you can see pretty well
out of it, but the old one was very difficult-the head didn't fit quite
right, which always made it kind of awkward. But more than anything I
tell them to have fun. I think being in the costume, being behind the
mask, you really have to have fun and have some sort of energy, and that
comes out in the costume, and in the animation of the character. It's
part of becoming Cecil.
-Lea Hartog '07