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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton celebrates campus cat’s birthday

Carleton celebrated the 27th anniversary of Toff the cat’s birthday. Toff, whose birthday is celebrated annually on campus on April 1, was a widely known feline figure around Carleton’s campus until his death in 2011. Toff has been immortalized in Carleton’s Laurence McKinley Gould Library with a bronze statue near the entrance, where he used to greet students entering and leaving the library. Students are encouraged to pet the statue for good luck during finals.

Toff’s birthday is commemorated each year on April Fools’ Day, continuing a tradition started in his lifetime. Although Toff passed away before the arrival of current students, Carleton continues to honor him. Traditional celebrations have included cakes, posters and a list of Toff’s recommended books in the library.

This year, the college marked Toff’s birthday by dressing the bronze statue in a special birthday outfit and displaying a Toff-shaped cupcake cake in the dining halls. Many students, faculty, and staff found the commemoration charming and well-deserved for this iconic Carleton mascot. President Byerly expressed satisfaction with the celebration, stating, “I am glad students had a chance to raise a cupcake in his honor.”

However, some students were disappointed by the lack of advertising for the feline’s special day. Gabe Sideman ’26 remarked that the festivities seemed lackluster. “I wish we had more going on around campus. I know the econ(omics) department has a poster discussing Toff, but I just don’t know much about him,” Sideman added. “I think the cupcake display commemorated him well, but I wish we had more Toff around campus.”

President Byerly added that she was pleased with the celebration, stating, “It is great to know that Toff still has a place in the heart of Carleton students. When my daughter came to Carleton in the fall of 2011, she heard a lot about him as a much-loved and deeply missed campus personality.” Byerly’s daughter graduated in the class of 2015, barely missing the cat’s presence.

Regardless of how Toff is celebrated, he made a significant impact on all those who knew him. Jennifer Edwins, former assistant to the College Librarian, wrote, “Toff embodied the characteristics we hope to inspire in Carleton students: curiosity, playfulness, overcoming obstacles (like doors) and, of course, love of the library.”

Toff, elected to the Carleton Student Association (CSA) Senate through a write-in campaign, has historically had his birthday celebrated in various ways, including dressing up his statue and baking cat-shaped cakes. This year was no different; Bon Appétit offered cupcakes resembling Toff in the dining halls. Previous cake designs have included Toff’s name, face, and Toff next to Schiller. Although cakes resembling Toff have become the most common way the college celebrates its mascot, some students commented that this year’s cake felt abstract. Sideman stated, “It took me a moment before I realized that the cupcake I was eating was a cat, and another moment before I realized that it was Toff.” Despite this, Sideman was relieved to know that many students enjoyed the cupcakes. “Not being able to make out the design is probably a sign that the cupcakes were popular and many people got to enjoy a celebration of Toff on his special day.”

Toff’s position as a Carleton mascot wasn’t always clear. Toff would often attempt to enter various academic and residential buildings, which is forbidden by Carleton’s policy prohibiting animals. A pamphlet describing Toff’s life, offered at the dedication of his statue in the library, describes one such interaction recounted by Martha and Roger Paas, Toff’s official owners. “Most of all, Toff revealed the generous heart of Carleton. Even though animals were not allowed in college buildings, when anyone pointed this out, students and staff would fondly say, ‘That’s not an animal! That’s Toff!’”

Toff attended many classes during his time at Carleton, with his favorite being macroeconomics, according to Martha Paas, a professor emeritus of economics at Carleton. 

Toff’s reputation during his tenure included being the face of special Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS) department currency, the face of a fundraiser for the Northfield Humane Society, a frequent friend of Schiller’s bust, the face of a special Carletonian section entitled Toff’s World, and a lifelong companion of the Gould Library. Numerous photos of Toff reading his favorite books, such as Advanced French for Exceptional Cats and Do Cats Think?, can be found on the Carletonian website alongside other photos of Toff next to Schiller and previous birthday cakes and cupcakes. 

Toff the cat was adopted by Martha and Roger Paas, professors of Economics and German, while in Kansas. The Paas family identified themselves as the “legal owners” of Toff, but contended that no one could own him. Toff tragically passed away in 2011 and is buried on Carleton’s campus, but his impact on the Carleton community was profound. “What I mostly want to say about Toff is that I think he was able to reveal the generous heart of Carleton in a unique way,” said Martha Paas. “Students, faculty, staff let him into [their] lives (not to mention your buildings)—despite clear rules forbidding it and into your hearts, even when he fell asleep in [our] classes, set off Libe alarms and summoned security at 3 a.m., or woke [students, faculty and staff] up in middle of night to let him out. [Carleton was] unfailingly kind, tolerant, flexible, warm and full of humor where Toff was concerned.” Paas concluded with a statement about Toff’s memory and the special relationship that Toff had with the student body and with Carleton as a whole. “That we honor his memory and celebrate his place in the history of college says as much about the sort of place Carleton is as it does about the special cat who was Toff.”

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About the Contributor
Bax Meyer
Bax Meyer, Managing Editor
Hey, all! I'm Bax (he/him), and I'm a junior Econ major with a Middle East Studies minor. I love talking about Middle East politics and American Indian Treaty Rights. I'll always send you good book or movie recomendations. You can probably find me on campus wandering the arb, on 1st libe, or at step areobics. I like dad jokes, American Indian Treaty Rights, shawarma, and publishing my hot takes in the Carletonian anonymously.
Red flags: econ major, will judge you for using the Oxford comma, and hates geese
Green flags: Middle East Studies minor, still uses the Oxford comma, and quotes the Star Wars prequels on the daily
Bax was previously Managing Director and Viewpoint Editor.

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