From Rocky’s Facebook page: Western Illinois’ first mascot made its first appearance on Oct. 10, 1959 at the Homecoming football game. One day earlier, the English bulldog, which was purchased by the Student Government Association at the suggestion of Student Personnel Services Dean Dr. John Henderson, was officially named “Colonel Rock” at the Homecoming bonfire. The nickname was chosen from more than 200 entries submitted in a campus-wide contest.
After Colonel Rock passed away in February 1966 during his second cancer operation, Captain Dale A. Luster, a recruiter from the Marine Corps League of Chicago, was instrumental in assisting the Corps’ purchase of Colonel Rock II, a.k.a. “Rocky.”
In 1973, Colonel Rock II was retired and the now known, costumed version took over for the live dog. He has received three “groomings” since his first appearance; the most recent on Feb. 15, 1997 when his new look was unveiled at a Leatherneck basketball game.
Rocky was immortalized in the form of a 900-pound cement statue which was unveiled on Oct. 6, 1971 behind the University Union. To this day, the statue is painted several times a year by student groups as a sign of school spirit between the many student organizations on campus. A certain BGS advisor who shall remain nameless (ahem, Holan) confesses to a 3:00 a.m. clandestine “sign of school spirit” as an undergraduate some 30 years ago. Rocky was moved as part of the redesign to the entrance of Hanson Field in 2001, where he sits today greeting fans and players as they enter the gates.
On May 15, 2010, WIU ended the 37-year hiatus of a living bulldog mascot when Colonel Rock III was introduced. The 10-week English bulldog was donated to the university by Richard and Beth Siess of the Siess Ranch in Seneca, KS. Through the efforts of George Visoky, Dr. Karen Blakeley of Macomb’s All Pets Veterinary Clinic, Bill Bailey, director of the WIU School of Agriculture and many other University and community organizations and individuals, Col. Rock’s care and “creature comforts” are tended to. Colonel Rock is housed and cared for by Joe Roselieb, Director of Residential Facilities in the University Housing and Dining Services Division.