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Senior dons Phoenix feet to accept diploma

Forget the “girly girl” high heels. When Caitlin Pascarelli walked across stage this weekend to accept her diploma, she sported the oversized black boots to the Elon Phoenix mascot uniform that disguised her identity at countless university functions in recent years – and it was the first time since the Phoenix was born in 2000 that the student behind the beak has publicized her role at Commencement.

Perhaps most surprised were her parents, seated in the crowd having arrived in North Carolina from Pennsylvania and Switzerland. Until that moment, neither had ever seen their daughter in costumer or, in this particular instance, partial costume.

The tradition, while new to Elon, is fairly common with universities elsewhere when a student who wears the uniform graduates. Pascarelli said she was encouraged to wear the feet by Trip Durham, a former associate athletics director. University leaders approved the move earlier this month.

Pascarelli first sported the mascot uniform after Elon’s cheerleading coach allowed her to try out for the role in 2005. Until then, she says, the job went to various members of the cheerleading team who had little interest in developing their own Phoenix persona.

Playing the part came naturally to a self-described “crazy sports fan” who took part in theater in high school. “I’d walk in the president’s box in the football stadium, and everyone starts cheering!” she said. “It’s a lot of fun when no one knows who you are, and you can entertain the crowd while putting yourself outside your comfort zone.”

The mascot team expanded in fall 2007 when she took part in the Semester at Sea program, Pascarelli said. She recruited new members to share responsibilities wearing the outfit, and she trained them on the character’s moves and mannerisms.

“Now that there’s more than one of us, I wanted to make sure that when one of the guys got in the suit, they looked the same way I did, that we were uniform,” she said. “Part of their training when they become a mascot is that I teach them how to do the walk, and little waves for little kids.”

Her time in the Phoenix outfit has led to several opportunities and accolades. Pascarelli is a two-time All-American mascot. She’s appeared at “birthday parties” for other characters in North Carolina, including the Charlotte Bobcats professional basketball mascot and the Durham Bulls minor league baseball mascot.

Pascarelli was offered the mascot position in January 2005 and is the first student to graduate wearing part of the uniform since the bird's birth nine years ago.

In summer 2008, Pascarelli worked for a few weeks at the end of the season with the Greensboro Grasshoppers minor league baseball team as – you guessed it – “Guilford,” the team mascot.

What’s next for the former Phoenix? Pascarelli said she’s striking out with job applications around the Philadelphia region where she grew up, but one opportunity she’s pursuing would take the former bird from air to the ... sea?

“I ultimately want to be a professor or work for the FBI’s behavioral sciences unit,” she said. “But I have to go to grad schools first, and in light of the economy, I’m applying to be an officer in the Navy.”


Caitlin Pascarelli wore the boots to the Elon Phoenix mascot at Commencement on May 23, 2009.
Eric Townsend,
5/23/2009 2:25 PM