Stanford Tree: Strange Enthusiast

A conversation with Jonathan Strange aka the Stanford Tree

by Lisa Van Dusen / Palo Alto Weekly

Stanford grad Jonathan Strange talks to Lisa Van Dusen about what it takes to be the Stanford Tree, mascot of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, in anticipation of his trip to the New Year's Day Rose Bowl between Stanford and Wisconsin and the 50th reunion of the Stanford Band.

Strange first thought he might want to be the Stanford Tree when he was in third grade after spotting the band mascot while attending various Stanford athletic events. Stanford Trees make their own costumes and Strange, standing amidst several other Tree costumes, described how he learned to weld and sew his own 45-pound tree costume, now rather "janky" from use since he became the Tree in the fall of 2009.

As the "epicenter of school spirit," Strange will be at the Rose Bowl, tag-teaming with the current Tree, Nicoletta von Heidegger, during the 5-1/2 mile parade. Strange is like those birthday candles that won't blow out. He just keeps being The Tree.

After his official stint, one Tree went abroad, then the Tree during the Fiesta Bowl in 2012 was fired. And then there are Stanford breaks. Strange just keeps on being in the right place at the right time in the right costume with the right spirit. As an aspiring city manager who is about to start a graduate program at Cal State East Bay in Public Administration, his training in inspiring enthusiasm and excitement in large groups of people will stand him in good stead.

Host/interview, Lisa Van Dusen

Video, Veronica Weber