WOOSTER, Ohio – The pomp and circumstance of turning in one’s Independent Study has developed into a time-honored tradition, and now it even spans generations. This past Sunday, current College of Wooster senior Sarah Comstock wore her dad’s I.S. t-shirt from 1985 when the biology major submitted her 59-page paper on the decision-making process of paternal care by frogs in Costa Rica.
As his daughter finalized her original research project during spring break, Chip Comstock ’85 remembered he still had the shirt – a plain gold tee with black lettering that read “I Survived I.S. at Wooster” – then dug it out of storage amongst a rack of concert t-shirts in his basement in Poland, Ohio, and offered it to her. “I can’t remember if (the shirt) was printed for the masses or sold in the bookstore … but back then, you turned in your I.S., received the Tootsie Roll, and shook a few hands. It doesn’t have the fanfare that it does today,” he said. And, then joked “I finished my I.S. and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”
The elder Comstock just missed out on the revelry that I.S. Monday has become – a series of loosely organized events, which culminates with the seniors, led by Bryan Karazsia, dean for curriculum and academic engagement, Suzanne Bates, registrar, and the college’s pipe band marching down the campus mall to exuberant cheers from their fellow students. The first such festival took place in 1988, making this Monday the 30th anniversary.
The younger Comstock earned pin No. 236 (and the coveted Tootsie Roll) of this year’s 389 Wooster seniors who met Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline for turning in the written portion of their I.S., and for the festivities and parade, she swapped out her dad’s shirt for what has become a favorite of today’s students – custom-made, I.S.-themed t-shirts.
In addition to the variety of t-shirts on display this year were full-body alligator, bee, and tiger suits, Santa Claus-themed Hawaiian shirts, capes that honored everything from physics formulas from a favorite class to flags of study abroad experiences, and lots of unicorns.
One group of young women sported matching t-shirts of rainbow-maned, sunglasses-wearing unicorns who were dabbing with the words “We Out,” a nod to their I.S. journey being almost complete (seniors still have to defend their work in an oral presentation to two faculty members), while philosophy major Colleen Gilfether took the theme even further. She slipped a unicorn mask over her head and sprayed silly string because “dreams (finishing I.S. and unicorns) do come true.”
Maybe the most eye-catching fashion of all was directly influenced by an I.S. topic. Mike Saridakis, a classical studies major, looked like a warrior straight out of Greek mythology, dressed nearly head-to-toe in armor, featuring a helmet, chest protector, and shield, which was based on his theses on the oral tradition of the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.” Adding to the impressiveness of the highly-detailed outfit, he made it himself with the help of Copeland funding for the brass materials.
Saridakis plans to wear it again for I.S. Symposium, another special day coming up on Friday, April 27, when the majority of the seniors will present the results of their original research and hard work.