There are 10 teams in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), each attached to a Division III school that comes with their own interesting mascot or mascots. Several have evolved over the years, and Wittenberg’s Ezry the Tiger is one of them.
Within our conference, the NCAC, there are two Tigers; one at DePauw University and the other here at Witt. The Wittenberg Tigers were once the Fighting Lutherans. That was back in 1892, the year of the school’s first football game, when the university was still a college and there was no official mascot.
Ezra Keller was the founder and president for our school’s first four years as a functioning college. He was a pastor to the Evangelical Lutheran Church that was founded in Springfield prior to the foundation of the college. The original school transformed from eight students, one professor and two tutors to a class of seventy-one by the end of the first school year. Several years later, in 1874, women were admitted to the college.
Four years after Wittenberg’s opening, on Dec. 29, 1848, Keller died at the age 35 after succumbing to typhoid fever. Less than a month later, Samuel Sprecher accepted the nomination of presidency and was president until 1874.
It wasn’t until 1921, on September 29, that Witt’s mascot was first referred to as a tiger. A local newspaper ran an article about the football team with the headline “Tigers of the West.” However, the current president Rees Edgar Tulloss insisted that the school’s mascot still be referred to as the Fighting Lutheran.
After that and throughout the 1940’s the Fighting Lutherans and the Tigers were both used to reference students and sports teams on campus by The Torch and other local publications.
All of this led to the 1945-46 school year when an art student at Witt named John Norris created the cartoon of a tiger, after that the mascot was officially changed from the Lutherans. The “atomic tiger” was originally named Atom and was seen throughout The Torch in different cartoon strips. Eventually, the tiger received his current name, Ezry, after the school’s founder.
It was in the 1950’s that Ezry started showing up at different events, from athletics to gatherings and bringing the good time with him. There were a few years where Ezry’s identity was revealed to fans at basketball homecoming games. Since then, Ezry has endured many costume changes, his most recent being in 2010 when his new costume was debuted at the homecoming game.
Keep a look out for Ezry around campus.