|Tonya Green on an outing with Billy the Panther.|
The moment she wakes up, Tonya Green is thinking blue.
The Greenup native may work at Eastern Illinois University, but to her the color means so much more. It represents the opportunity to unite the community in one cause — a love and passion for being a “real” Panther.
Every Friday, Green ventures out to Charleston businesses igniting community support. Through her passion and determination, she rallies those both on and off campus to become ‘true’ Panthers. She’s not alone in her quest, grabbing fellow co-worker Cara Pschirrer, students and Billy the Panther to ensure that blue’s the focus.
“It’s my personal challenge to spread the blue epidemic,” said Green, laughing.
During the visits, they take photos of business employees wearing blue, let community members meet Billy, and drum up morale with the EIU fight song and spirit chants.
“It’s all about fun,” said Green, commenting on her mission to make blue contagious. She’s even donned the Billy suit herself. “People respond to the positive.”
And, Green’s type of fun gets results. On Fridays, owners of businesses throughout the community have allowed their employees to wear blue, even buying Homecoming shirts for them. Some businesses are going against corporate dress code policy in order to show their support.
Additionally, 50 local businesses painted their windows blue in support of EIU – just in time for Homecoming Weekend, which is October 24-26.
“I love all the positive responses from the community,” Green said. Reactions from the community don’t just excite her; they give her “goose bumps,” she said.
Known throughout the community as EIU’s spirit cheerleader, Green is more than ready for the Homecoming game on Saturday. But she isn’t too concerned about the outcome of the game.
“It doesn’t matter if we win or not,” Green said. “It’s about showing love for the school.”
It’s no surprise that Green loves EIU and the community. She spent her life in the area, earning her education at EIU. Her husband, Joe, and son, Brad, are currently employed by the university, too.
As the Homecoming game approaches, Green is preparing the last moment touch-ups as she organizes Homecoming reunions and spirit events, encourages even more businesses to paint their windows, cheers on students at the Homecoming coronation and, of course, and ensures her own office area is gleaming with blue.
She’s even helped organize a “Panther Cab” event where Billy the Panther and EIU celebrities, such as administrators, coaches and faculty members driving golf carts, will pick up students wearing blue throughout campus on Friday and drive them to their destinations.
For Green, a real Panther is someone who shows their love for their school, but school spirit is more powerful than that. “The spirit brings the whole community together,” she said.
Green wouldn’t miss the Homecoming game or parade on Saturday, but she’s already thinking about next year. “It’s about keeping blue contagious,” Green said, as she brainstorms ideas for next year.
Green grew up in Greenup and currently lives in Charleston. She earned a board of governor’s degree from EIU in 2007, and works in the office of University Advancement as the assistant director of donor relations.
The Friday visits are part of the Real Panthers Wear Blue initiative, where students, staff, faculty and community members are encouraged to wear blue or Panther attire.
A list of Homecoming events is available here. The EIU Panthers will take on their OVC rival Tennessee State in the 98th Homecoming football game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in O’Brien Stadium.