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The Stanford Tree

Stanford University
Dendriphile

The Tree is a member of the Leland Stanford Junior [pause] University Marching Band (LSJUMB) and appears at football games, basketball games, and other events where the Band performs. The "Tree" is representative of El Palo Alto (five bucks if you can guess what that means!), the tree that appears on both the official seal of the University and the municipal seal of Palo Alto, Stanford's host city.

From 1930 until 1972, Stanford's sports teams had been known as "the Indians," and, during the period from 1951 to 1972, Prince Lightfoot (portrayed by Timm Williams, a member of the Yurok tribe) was the official mascot. But in 1972, Native American students and staff members successfully lobbied University President Richard Lyman to abolish the "Indian" name along with what they had come to perceive as an offensive and demeaning mascot. Stanford's teams reverted unofficially to the name "Cardinal," the color that had represented the school before 1930.

Over the next nine years, Stanford's students and administrators debated what mascot and team name should replace the Indian. A student poll taken during this period ranked possible mascot names in the following order: 1. The Robber Barons (in a nod to Leland Stanford, the University's founder); 2. The Thunder Chickens; 3. The Cardinal; 4. The Huns; and, far behind, 5. The Griffins. Finally, in 1981, University President Donald Kennedy declared (unsurprisingly, given the other options available amongst the top-polling names) that the team name would officially remain "The Cardinal."

However, in 1975, the Band had performed a series of halftime shows that facetiously suggested several other new mascot candidates it considered particularly appropriate for Stanford, including the Steaming Manhole, the French Fry, and the Tree. The Tree ended up receiving so much positive attention that the Band decided to make it a permanent fixture, and thus began the process through which the Tree has gradually colonized the collective unconscious of Stanford's student body.

During the first decade of its existence, the role of the Tree was generally performed by the Band managers' girlfriends. In the mid-1980's, however, the Band adopted a more formal selection process for its Trees. Today's Tree candidate must go through "grueling physical and mental challenges" to show that he or she has sufficient chutzpah to be the Tree. During "Tree Week," candidates try to woo Stanford students with spectacular stunts.

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