Patricia Saukko To Retire At End Of 2002 Football Season
Oct. 7, 2002
Los Angeles, CA - Any self-respecting Trojan football fan knows that two rituals punctuate a home-team score: the playing of 'Conquest' by the Trojan Marching Band and the celebratory lap run by Traveler, the majestic all-white steed who has served as team mascot since 1961.
Now, the woman who helped foster the Traveler legacy is hanging up her tack. Pat Saukko, the widow of original Traveler rider and owner Richard Saukko, has announced her plans to retire at the end of the 2002 football season.
Saukko was honored in June at a celebration held at the Woodland Hills ranch of Ann Bothwell, widow of Lindley F. Bothwell '23, the man who started the Song and Yell Leaders tradition at USC in 1919. More than 300 alumni, friends and family turned out to have their photos taken with Traveler and to meet football coach Pete Carroll. Saukko then received a plaque on behalf of the university, presented by USC Trojan Band director Art Bartner, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Traveler tradition. 'In appreciation to the Saukko family for 40 years of dedication to the University of Southern California,' the plaque read.
Beginning in 1961, longtime horse owner Richard Saukko trained and groomed each Traveler who entered the Coliseum. He also rode Traveler during almost every home game until 1988, when he fell ill. After her husband's death in 1992, Pat Saukko took over the responsibilities of raising and caring for the horses; she also helped choose the five Traveler horsemen who succeeded her husband. Current rider Chuck O'Donnell, who took over the job in 2000, is Pat Saukko's son and Richard Saukko's stepson.
'Pat Saukko has made an invaluable contribution to USC,' said Michael L. Jackson, vice president for student affairs. 'Her tireless dedication to the Traveler program has allowed a proud USC tradition to thrive all these years.'
Saukko expressed gratitude to Trojan football fans and members of the Trojan Family who have helped her cultivate the Traveler tradition over the years.
'I wish to thank so many of you for all of your unique help,' said Saukko. 'You have helped make Traveler and his rider the most recognized mascot team in the nation. I couldn't have done this without you.'
The Traveler tradition originated on the streets of Pasadena in 1961. That year, Bob Jani '56, director of USC events, and then-junior Eddie Tannenbaum '62 spotted Richard Saukko at the Rose Bowl parade, saddled atop a majestic all-white horse named Traveler. Impressed by the pair's regality, Jani and Tannenbaum invited Saukko to ride Traveler in the Coliseum during USC football games. That fall, Saukko and his mount made their inaugural appearance at the home opener versus Georgia Tech and initiated a custom that continues to this day.
When he made his debut in the arena, Saukko sported the original outfit and helmet worn by Charlton Heston in the movie Ben Hur. The costume proved too cumbersome, however, so Saukko fashioned himself a homemade leather outfit, modeling it after the clothing worn by the Trojan statue, which stands at the center of the USC University Park campus.
Traveler's profile rose through the years. The equine celebrity has made appearances at many USC charity events and has ridden in 39 Rose Bowl parades; he has also appeared in television commercials and movies, as well as in the Long Beach Ballet's Nutcracker Ballet. But it has long been the stallion's presence on the USC home field that has given Trojan fans something to cheer about.
Pat Saukko and university representatives will join forces to find her replacement.
'With Pat's help, we will work to find someone who can carry on the Traveler tradition as ably as she did,' said Jackson.