Arts & Sciences

Marquette’s Santa Claus: Getting to know the man behind the beard

You might have noticed a familiar face in the crowd as you sipped hot cocoa and snacked on cookies with your friends before the annual Marquette Christmas tree lighting outside the St. Joan of Arc Chapel. Jolly Old St. Nick was on the scene to see if you’ve been naughty or nice. But who is the man behind the beard?

Here in a Q&A, we find out how Thomas Shomer, Ph.D. student in mathematical and statistical sciences in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences and a teaching assistant for the Mathematical and Statistical Sciences Department, is spreading good cheer and putting students in a festive mood all season long.

I know people are curious about who was behind the Santa Claus outfit at the Marquette tree lighting ceremony this week. I asked around to see if anyone knew who you were and voila! Here we are. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I am from Lansing, Illinois; a south suburb of Chicago, and am currently a graduate student at Marquette and a teaching assistant for the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Outside of being a student, I have worked as an online math tutor and have done multiple internships in insurance.

Why did you decide to dress up as Santa at the tree lighting event and are there other places or events you dress up for?

Dressing up for the tree lighting event was not originally planned, but I saw the event in my email and thought it would be great to show up while I am dressed as Santa anyway. I started dressing up as Santa back in 2019 while I was at Valparaiso University for my senior year. Before dressing up as Santa, I started the tradition in my freshman year to pass around cookies in my dorm and various buildings during finals because I had so much meal plan money to spend at the end of every semester. People enjoyed it, so I kept doing it every semester up to the point where I decided to be Santa in my final fall semester at that university. When I came to Marquette, I made it a point to keep that tradition going and to expand it each semester.

What reaction did you get from people at the tree lighting ceremony? Were people genuinely excited to see you?

Everyone was excited to see me. Out of the 50 minutes I was there, I think I spent 45 minutes taking pictures with other people, which was an amazing experience! When I pass out cookies in Cudahy Hall and Raynor Library, even if some students do not take a cookie from my cart, they are always appreciative of this kind and generous act to spread Christmas joy across campus while they are stressed with studying.

Do you have any funny stories from over the years that you’d like to share?

The only thing that comes to mind is, just recently, another student dressed up as an elf in the library and we took a picture together. It was great seeing another person getting into the Christmas spirit.

How do you keep the Santa persona fresh each year?

Every year, I try to upgrade the suit slightly as well as obtain more funding for passing out cookies in more buildings around campus. Last year, I just bought the Santa suit, and this year, I bought a bigger beard, better boots and added padding for the Santa belly. Furthermore, the MSSC Department and the library bought the cookies for me to pass out in Cudahy and Raynor. Next year, the goal is to pass out cookies in more buildings and purchase some small Santa bells to attach to the suit.

I also want to say it has been a great December taking pictures with everyone, whether it was at the tree lighting ceremony, while I passed out cookies or just walking down the street as Santa. Everyone’s smiles and reactions are exactly why I plan to continue this tradition. Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!