First Person: A conversation with the Stanford Tree

Jonathan Strange talks with Lisa Van Dusen about his role as the Stanford Tree

Watch video

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.

Interview by Lisa Van Dusen. Video by Veronica Weber.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm

What a fun interview! I enjoyed hearing about how each tree is for one year only. I expect Jonathan Strange has a brilliant future in front of him.

Like this comment
Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on Jan 1, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Stanford needs to get a real mascot, something with a face, like a squirrel or a stallion. The Stanford Squirrels would be a good mascot. The Cardinal isn't a mascot, it's a corporate cop-out. A proper mascot should have a giant papier-mache head. Trees don't have eyes or a mouth, it just looks ridiculous. The Stanford cheerleaders have done a good job at keeping the team hyped up for victory this year, even though they had to work with a tree.

Like this comment
Posted by Boooring!
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 2, 2013 at 7:57 pm

who cares?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Downtown Palo Alto gets new Vietnamese eatery
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 5,190 views

More Stupid Plastic Food Things
By Laura Stec | 14 comments | 2,629 views

Operation Varsity Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 8 comments | 1,806 views

State Legislature on Housing: Getting the Demos out of Democracy & with it, Accountability
By Douglas Moran | 6 comments | 1,584 views

Environmentalists will soon be fighting housing advocates over what to do with the SF Bay locally
By Diana Diamond | 20 comments | 1,008 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

Contest Details