Meet the Mascots: IPFW's Don the Mastodon
The Summit League features the NCAA's most unique collection of one-of-a-kind nicknames among its member institutions. Within U.S. college athletics, four names are exclusively held by Summit League schools: Mastodons (IPFW), Golden Grizzlies (Oakland), Jackrabbits (South Dakota State) and Leathernecks (Western Illinois). In addition, the names Coyotes (South Dakota) and Kangaroos (UMKC) are unique to NCAA Division I athletics.
Each Tuesday this summer, The Summit League will highlight the story behind the origin of each member institution's name and its mascot.
This week we will take a closer look into the IPFW mascot,
Don the Mastodon.
It all started in the Ice Age more than 10,000 years ago when
mastodons roamed the southern Great Lakes region of North America.
Now extinct, these stocky mammals stood about 10 feet tall, had
long trunks, and weighed about five tons. They were distant cousins
of modern elephants.
The Ice Age passed. Landforms changed. Then one day in 1968, Orcie Routsong, a farmer who lived just south of Angola along what is now I-69, decided to dig a pond. The location was a boggy area where nothing much grew and equipment got stuck. Pond excavators unearthed a large bone. Realizing it could not have belonged to a horse or cow, Routsong contacted a number of people to see if anyone was interested. Nobody was. Then he reached Jack Sunderman, chair of the IPFW geosciences department, who asked, "How big is it?" When told it was about four feet long and six to eight inches across, Sunderman said, "I'll be right there."
The IPFW Department of Geosciences took on the excavation. Using metal rods as probes, geology students along with faculty members Geoffrey Matthews and Bernd Erdtmann joined Sunderman. They were able to locate about two-thirds of the skeleton as well as the skull of a baby mastodon nearby. The Indiana-Purdue Student Government Association provided funds for additional machine excavation in hopes of finding more bones, but nothing major surfaced. Routsong graciously agreed to place the adult mastodon skeleton on permanent display at IPFW. It is still in the lobby of Kettler Hall. The baby mastodon skull was placed on loan to Science Central, a Fort Wayne hands-on, student-oriented science activity center, where it remains today.