The Cat is out of the bag

During spring Commencement, senior Chris Bowden surprised the crowd by wearing the furry black feet of UNI's favorite feline, TC (The Cat). After two years of keeping his identity under wraps, Bowden's secret was now out of the bag.

Chris Bowden
"Being part of Team TC/TK helped instill how important it is to be a part of something bigger than myself," said Chris Bowden.

"Being TC gave me a chance to live out the wild, rambunctious and sometimes childish side of my personality in a way that positively impacted people," said Bowden. "More importantly, volunteering as the mascot allowed me to spread joy and excitement to people without them ever knowing I was responsible. They didn't see Chris Bowden. Instead, they saw TC the Panther."

Bowden became involved with Team TC/TK (The Kitten, who is TC's adorable little sister) during fall 2010 when he was a sophomore. Bowden was a security team member, which involved following the dynamic duo around campus and in the community to make sure they were safe and ready for their events.

Upon the encouragement of Connie Hansen, team TC/TK adviser, Bowden said, "I finally cracked and decided to try out for the role of TC himself! Sure enough, they brought me on board and I officially joined the other side of the program. With it I entered a whole new world of rambunctious shenanigans!"

The temperature inside a furry black costume can soar up to 40 degrees above the external temperature, which places the temperature in the UNI-Dome and McLeod Center, typically a comfortable environment, at 110 degrees.

"It's amazing the amount of physical effort and strain it takes to be a successful mascot on a regular basis," said Bowden, who also had to stay in top physical shape to handle the physical nature of the job. "There was a sort of claustrophobia that set in when I first started as TC, but I grew into it and got used to the heat . . . and the sweat!"

His years in costume taught him lessons that will serve him well throughout life. "I learned that my best growth occurs when I'm in a new and uncomfortable situation because I must learn and adapt in order to effectively engage, understand and, in some cases, problem solve," said Bowden. "When I start feeling comfortable, it's a sign I've probably stopped moving forward."

Now that he has graduated with a degree in communication studies, Bowden said he's excited about all the opportunities ahead of him as he begins what he calls his "big boy" job search as a college admissions counselor or in college ministry.

"Being a part of Team TC/TK helped instill how important it is to be a part of something bigger than myself," said Bowden. "I was constantly reminded of the importance of teamwork and what each individual can bring to the table.

"Part of what I loved about Team TC/TK is that it was never about me," Bowden continued. "I loved the opportunity to give back to a community that gave me so much and helped shape me into the person I am today."