STEPHENVILLE — A group of anonymous students have been the center of attention on campus as recognition has poured in for Tarleton State University’s Purple Poo, celebrating its 100th anniversary during Homecoming week.
Honors continued today following the Homecoming parade with the naming of Purple Poo Way. The newly designated pedestrian mall runs east-west in front of the Thompson Student Center and in front of Centennial Hall and Legacy Hall to Rome Street on the Stephenville campus.
In a Thursday celebration, a Poo-positive resolution from Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp was presented in support of the Purple Poo, a proclamation from Gov. Greg Abbott offered congratulations, and state Sen. Drew Springer gave the group a flag flown over the Texas State Capitol.
And Tarleton President Jame Hurley proclaimed the third Thursday in March as Purple Poo Day.
“Everyone loves the Poo,” Hurley said. “People love the uniqueness of the Poo. How they carry themselves, the costumes. They have so much energy and passion for people.”
The organization’s centennial celebration is not just a milestone. Hurley calls it a building block.
“Any time you can celebrate being 100 years old and still be able to sustain the ebbs and flows at a university, it’s impressive. They have done that and are building the next 100 years of the Purple Poo.”
Anonymity is a hallmark of the Poo, the oldest spirit organization in Texas.
Members regularly appear in public disguised in masks and purple costumes and speaking in squeaky voices to conceal their identities. The reason for hiding behind their masks is simple, says Tim Wells, President of the Purple Poo Alumni Association.
“It’s not about me,” he said, “it’s about raising spirit for Tarleton. It’s about Oscar P. (the legendary pet duck of university founder John Tarleton). It’s a student-oriented club, but it’s not about the students, it’s about Tarleton.”
Ten male and 10 female members take on the Poo’s mission of promoting spirit each semester.
Formed when Tarleton was a junior college, the Ten Tarleton Peppers (TTP) and Ten Tarleton Sisters (TTS) date to 1921 and 1923. They became collectively known as the Purple Poo after a glob of paint fell on a canvas during a sign-painting session.
In the beginning, the two groups met late Monday nights in the attic in the old recreation hall, now the Administration Annex, and prepared canvas “Poo Say” signs promoting upcoming athletic events.
Des Robinson, a member in 2012-15, said sign painting is still a big deal.
“To see that the little spark from 1921 has lasted for 100 years and really ignited spirit on campus — it’s a very special thing,” he said.
Donna Strohmeyer, Executive Director of Student Affairs Programs and Projects, is a 30-year employee. She calls the Poo “rock stars.”
“The founding of the Poo is just as mysterious as the identities of the members,” she said. “They’re a central part of Tarleton. They’re our heartbeat.”
To make sure the future stays bright for students chosen for the Purple Poo, fundraising is underway for an endowed scholarship, with a goal of $100,000 by Homecoming 2023. Donors may access the account at donate.tarleton.edu under TTP TTS Gifts.
“Family is the best way to describe how close we are,” Wells said. “It’s a family inside the Tarleton family. Besides being married and having kids, it’s probably the best experience I’ve ever had — one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve ever been a part of.”
To view a documentary of the Purple Poo, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bot-1XJg158&t=1s.