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Behind the Trunk

Behind the TrunkTake a sneak peek into the life of the Jumbo. One of them, anyways.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.20.09] During their time on the Hill and beyond, Tufts students and alumni identify with the official mascot, Jumbo the elephant. Emily Ruff (A'11), however, may feel a stronger connection than most.

As the university's main Jumbo, Ruff dons the suit for campus events and athletic events. During the women's basketball season, her main cheering activity, she may be in the suit for up to five hours a week.

"It seemed like a fun thing to try," Ruff explains about her decision to become Jumbo. "It started as a challenge to see what I could do in the suit and how people would react to it, and it has become something that I really enjoy doing."

Although the role is entertaining, the costume itself - which Ruff compares to "a giant snowsuit" - has its challenges, including limited vision, heat and heavy feet; additionally, communicating presents a challenge.

"You have to think of other ways to convey some sort of emotion, to get people's attention without being able to speak at all," she says. "It's definitely an experience in communication [and creating] group cohesion."

All the same, Ruff enjoys the freedom the suit allows.

"It lets you be crazy for a little bit," she explains. "In some ways that's liberating; like, I don't care how bad my dance moves are. They're not my dance moves, Jumbo's the one!"

Audio slideshow: Former Tufts athletic director Rocky Carzo talks about the meaning of Jumbo and school spirit (3:14) (Requires Macromedia Flash)

Ruff, who is studying international relations and Arabic, may interrupt her role as Jumbo to study abroad, but she'll have nothing but fond memories for her time playing the mascot she says the Tufts community will always connect with.

"I'm proud of my decision to become Jumbo," Ruff says. "I hope that other people will don the suit with the same amount of pride and enthusiasm that I bring."

Video production by Arlin Ladue (A'11). Interview and story by Molly Frizzell (A'09).


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