Who's Wu? The Story of WSU's Unique Mascot

WuShock in his current iteration.Matt Crow/Undergraduate Admissions
WuShock at an admissions event in 2022.


WuShock is often listed among the nation’s strangest college mascots. And for good reason. Throughout history, Wu has gone through many documented awkward phases to reach today’s iteration. For those on the outside looking in, Wichita State’s “big, bad muscle-bound bundle of wheat” may not make much sense. A dive into Wu’s history can hopefully clear up misconceptions and bring you closer to Wichita State’s beloved mascot.

While today Wichita State University prides itself on being Kansas’ only urban-serving public institution, it has roots in the state’s robust agriculture industry. WSU began as Fairmount College, named after the neighborhood in Wichita where it was built. Back then Fairmount’s football players earned money for tuition and boarding by harvesting or “shocking” wheat. During the 1904 season, Fairmount manager R.J. Kirk came up with the name “Wheat Shockers” for the team to promote an upcoming game against the Chilocco Indians – a Native American school just across the Kansas-Oklahoma border. The name was later shortened to “Shockers.”

It wasn’t until 1948 that WuShock officially came to be. Junior Wilbur Elsea won a mascot design competition hosted by the Kappa Pi honorary society. An ad in the Oct. 7, 1948 edition of The Sunflower, the student newspaper, featured Elsea’s design with a spot for students to send in suggestions for the mascot’s name. Freshman Jack Kersting won with the suggestion, “WuShock.” At the time, the university was named The Municipal University of Wichita.

Ad for 1948 contest to name WuShock design.Image via SOAR (Shocker Open Access Repository)
Ad that appeared in the Oct. 7, 1948 edition of The Sunflower prompting students to name Wilbur Elsea's design for the school mascot.


In 1954, a photo of student and cheerleader Dave Johnson modeling a WuShock costume he created became one of the earliest documented iterations of the WuShock mascot suit. Since then, WuShock has gone through many transformations – some more flattering than others. Special Collections and University Archives at Wichita State University Libraries has a fun digital collection of WuShock through the years.

1954 photo of then student and cheerleader Dave Johnson donning his WuShock costume.Image via Special Collections and University Archives
Student and cheerleader Dave Johnson donning his WuShock costume in 1954.


Be sure to look out for Wu at athletic and campus events. Don’t be shy, Wu loves giving high fives and taking photos with fans.



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