Live Mascot Program returns after almost 40 years with introduction of Grady

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After almost 40 years, the University of Indianapolis has revived its Live Mascot Program. Grady the Greyhound made his first public appearance at a press conference on Nov. 20, and he will continue to make live appearances at events and walks around campus. With Grady’s introduction, he became the third live mascot in UIndy history, according to Grady’s UIndy web page. 

Coran Sigman, associate director of alumni engagement and university live mascot handler, cares for Grady.

Contributed photo by University Photographer D. Todd Moor C. Greyson “Grady” Veritas made his first appearance as the University of Indianapolis’ third live mascot on Nov. 20. He is a retired racing greyhound from Daytona Beach, Fla.

She said that Grady will come to work with her every day and return home with her in the evenings. Grady is a two-and-a-half-year-old retired racing greyhound from Daytona Beach, Florida, according to Sigman. He came to Indianapolis through the Indy chapter of Greyhound Pets of America, where he stayed with a foster family, she said.

Sigman said that Grady will serve as UIndy’s live mascot so long as he is happy and healthy. She said that Grady is considered an official member of UIndy’s staff.

“We didn’t want to offend any faculty members by saying he was a faculty [member],” Sigman said. “It’s just a novelty title.”

At the press conference, University President Robert Manuel presented a campus ID card for Grady. The poster board-sized card was branded with Grady’s full name: C. Greyson Veritas. According to Sigman, Grady’s name was the dual effort of  UIndy’s Communications & Marketing Department and the Live Mascot Committee. The surname Veritas was chosen to tie back into a former university seal, back when UIndy was known as Indiana Central College, according to Sigman and UIndy360.

Veritas is the Latin word for truth, according to Sigman. As for his nickname, she said Grady was the name of the UIndy costume mascot in the 1990s.

“We wanted something that was just fun and over-the-top and kind of like he is a little bit,” Sigman said.

Sigman said she wanted students to understand that the live mascot program is not replacing UIndy’s costumed mascot. With that, Ace and Grady will act as partners on campus, she said.

“We actually put on the [appearance request] form ‘If Grady can’t make it, would you prefer Ace?’” Sigman said. “So, there’s still the partnership working there.”

Reviving the program was an idea that had been up in the air for a long time, and new circumstances brought the idea to fruition, Sigman said. It was during early conversations regarding the program’s revival in which Sigman had first expressed an interest in being the Live Mascot Handler. There were several factors to consider before they could make any concrete decisions, she said. For instance, Sigman said that she and others involved in the process looked into UIndy’s archives to understand the roles of the university’s past live mascots.

“Dixie [UIndy’s first live mascot]… lived in one of the residence halls and she slept in a different room each night, and so she was beloved across campus,” Sigman said. “That was that real fun connection, and then Timothy O’Toole [the second live mascot] lived with a faculty member and his sons. So, it’s just that family dynamic.”

In addition to researching the live mascots of UIndy’s past, Sigman said she also looked at other live mascot programs in Indiana in preparation for UIndy’s program revival. This research included working in person with Michael Kaltenmark and Evan Krauss, the current and future handlers of Butler University’s live mascots, Blue III and Blue IV.

“I spent a whole day with Michael and Evan and Blue at Butler,” Sigman said. “I helped do a photoshoot. I watched when he needed to go on breaks. I asked all the questions about requesting the care and every kind of thing that we went through in the whole process.”

Another big choice came down to deciding between purchasing a puppy or adopting a fully-grown greyhound, Sigman said. UIndy ended up choosing to adopt Grady.

“I think with Florida’s [greyhound racing] ban, it just provided a great opportunity,” Sigman said. “And the historical tie-in that both of our other ones were adopted as well. So, we didn’t want to break that tradition with Gradybug here.”

Grady’s adoption and care costs are minimal partly due to the university’s close relationship with GPA-Indy and a local veterinarian, Sigman said. The remaining costs associated with Grady are covered through UIndy’s existing budget, she said.

“We want to grow the live mascot program so that Grady can become an even bigger part of our university,” Sigman said. “We plan to do that through sponsorships and a small charge for off-campus appearances so that no new funding is needed.”

Students, faculty, staff, alumni, reporters and other live mascots were present at the press conference announcing Grady’s arrival. According to sophomore marketing major Claire Taggart, she believes the reintroduction of the Live Mascot program is the beginning of a push towards increasing morale across campus.

“My favorite part [of the event] was definitely just seeing people, how excited people were and how just glad they were to have an animal on campus,” Taggart said. “Especially as it gets closer to finals [and] people are more stressed out.”

Contributed photo by University Photographer D. Todd Moore Grady will make appearances on campus at various events and during his walks around UIndy. Ace will not be replaced by Grady, instead they will work together as partners.

Sophomore secondary education major Frank Bentley said that while he is unsure of the extent of Grady’s involvement on campus, he feels that Grady will have a prominent role similar to that of Ace and the Hound Pound.

“[A mascot] just brings a lot more hype and stuff to the games,” Bentley said. “As well as just having [Grady] around campus.”

Sigman said Grady’s availability would depend heavily on his well-being. She said that her responsibilities with him go beyond essential needs like food and water. Sigman has been able to build a strong bond with Grady to ensure he’s comfortable in every public situation he’s in, she said.

“That’s the most important thing,” Sigman said. “We don’t want something that’s going to spook him or overwhelm him. You can’t have a bunch of people rushing towards him… I have to be his representative and his voice on campus.”

Sigman expects that Grady’s public appearances will require some trial-and-error in terms of determining his comfort with crowds and events, she said. Depending on how he reacts to different environments, Grady’s appearances will vary, she said. Regardless, Sigman said she believes Grady’s presence will strengthen the sense of community for current UIndy students and alumni.

“[In the UIndy community,] we fully believe that you’re a part of the Greyhound family for life,” Sigman said. “I think that’s the one thing that we all have in common with each other, and then just [having] a living, breathing animal that can run to you, can lean into you, can rub his nose on you when he’s trying to give a kiss, it’s just something to boost that morale.”

CORRECTION: Dec. 13, 2019 at 12 p.m. EST

An earlier version of this article said that Grady had two handlers. This was not correct. Coran Sigman is Grady’s only handler. The article has since been updated with the correct information.

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