Woody Wood Duck first appeared in 2001 and was created by Tim VanNess. Nancy Livingston, Public Relations Director for Century College, approached him about the project. Nancy, coincidently, is also his wife. He has been involved in acting, drawing, painting, and also volunteers as a campus tour guide for youth in the community. His background has been in anything considered creative and not necessarily seen as “serious.” But here at Century, he will always be known as the guy that hatched the wood duck.
Before our interview began, the artist showed up with his wife and the original drawing of Woody Wood Duck. The prototype was still intact and looked great after 11 years of being in storage. Tim was full of energy that was nothing less than infectious. He seemed as if he was surprised that his artwork was appreciated by the students and faculty. You could feel his passion about his work and achievements.
There was a rumor that there might be a mascot chosen to represent Century in 2000. Livingston was a part of the group of students and faculty to come up with the idea for a mascot, and with that idea, they needed the students votes on what should it be. But after some time, the group was limited on ideas.
“The faculty wanted to make a logo and a mascot, custom from the idea of the Wood Duck,” said Tim. This logo is used in many things on campus from clothes to Wood Duck Awards.
Where did the Wood Duck come from? Before there was a Century college in 1997, it was North East Technical. And where the Kopp Technology Center is currently located, there was a pond where a family of wood ducks lived. The pond is still here, but after the construction, the family of ducks never came back.
Tim said his wife Nancy came to him and said, “They might hire you to draw the mascot.” A committee was formed, and a vote led to the wood duck. There were two conflicting ideas concerning what it was that they wanted to represent.
Most colleges have a mean looking bear or wolf. or tiger. The gopher was somewhat of an inspiration to the artist because it was something innocent. It wasn’t something you would fear but love.
The main idea was to make something an artist wouldn’t have to explain and people would adore. The committee wanted a scientifically accurate drawing as well as a cartoon-like figure. If you look at other mascots, their intent is obvious.
Also, part of the inspiration for the creativity behind the duck came from the surroundings of the community. He wanted to make it cartoon-like yet vicious and true to an actual wood duck. Wood ducks don’t actually have teeth. Well, our vicious version of the duck does.
“I wanted to give him attitude with a smile and a little more character,” said Tim. It is also a male, indicated by the blue helmet on his head. Yes, it really is called a helmet. Scientific reasoning behind it is that it’s used to attract the female wood ducks. The stripe on the throat and the short beak makes the wood duck unique from the other duck species.
We now have a drawing of a figure. Of course, you need an oversized suit to complete any school mascot. Tim designed it and was the first person to wear the over-heated suit.
Tim said, “It was hot. We had no internal fan or cooling vest for me to stay cool. I couldn’t see. I needed a guide to keep me cool and keep me from walking into walls. It was a memorable experience.” After a conference with the special mascot costume engineer, the kinks in the suit were fixed. It now has a cooling vest and a fan with a human guide to assist the wearer.
Now retired, Tim was a former Director of Theater at Tartan High School located in Oakdale, Minnesota. He is a very charismatic person with jokes and spontaneous creativity. Tim is now using his spare time to create murals, volunteer in the theater here on campus, and give tours of the college to youth.
Tim is often found roaming around the Century campus with the theater group. One of his current projects is Pirates of Penance presented by the theater and music departments of Century. Woody Wood Duck has truly taken on a life of his own on campus as just another friendly face.