1991 - 2008
In the fall of 1991, Highland Hundred President Ray Daniels and President-Elect Bobby Wharton received TOM II as a gift from Tom and Carolyn Atchison of Florence, Alabama. The little Tiger had been born on July 11 of that year, and, as TOM had been, he was presented by the Highland Hundred to the University in a ceremony at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on November 16, 1991, during a Football game against the University of Alabama.
TOM II has spent his life housed and cared for in private facilities provided and maintained by the Highland Hundred Tiger Guard. After a few months spent living in the home of William 'Nickie' Nixon, TOM moved to a custom-designed Tiger House constructed by the Highland Hundred at St. Nick's Farm and Zoological Park in the Memphis suburb of Collierville. With a price tag of over $300,000, raised entirely by the Tiger Guard, the habitat was widely regarded as the finest private facility in the nation, surpassing that of many zoos. In this comfortable home, TOM II matured into a magnificent animal weighing more than 500 pounds.
TOM II occupied the Collierville facility happily for nearly 14 years, but growth and development in the Collierville area eventually reached St. Nick's Farm, and a move to a new Tiger House became necessary. In the summer of 2005, the Tiger Guard, led by Bobby Wharton, began construction of a new habitat in a rural area just south of Memphis on land offered by long-time Tiger Fans Jeff and Mary Kuntz. The new facility was designed as a virtual copy of the original facility but includes many upgrades that improve TOM's comfort and safety. With two swimming pools, a dedicated water well, a climate controlled den box, a veterinary facility, and multiple redundant security features, the new Tiger House mimics the original Collierville facility as one of the nation's finest. Built with the future in mind, this habitat will house not only TOM II, but future Tiger mascots as well.
As one of only two Universities in America with a live Tiger mascot, The University of Memphis is unique in its Tiger Tradition. As a project of the Highland Hundred, no public or University funds are used to provide for TOM's needs, and no University resources are required in his care. TOM is a powerful symbol of The University of Memphis, and the Tiger Guard is committed to keeping the Tiger Tradition alive for generations to come.
TOM II was recently diagnosed with cancer during an annual medical examination, and passed away on October 15, 2008, at the age of 17. He outlived all four of his siblings by a number of years, a testament to the level of care and love he received. He also far exceeded the life expectancy of a male tiger.
"We had a very close relationship with TOM," said Bobby Wharton. "Once it became evident that his quality of life would begin to suffer, and after consulting with our veterinary team, it became obvious that the right thing to do would be to allow him to pass on with dignity and without pain and suffering."
Wharton added that is was among the toughest decisions he has ever had to make. TOM II will be cremated, as was the original TOM in 1992.
The University of Memphis Athletic Department has already made arrangements for a permanent exhibit to honor all previous and future TOMs in the new Athletic Hall of Fame, which will begin construction this fall at the corner of Southern and Normal.
The Tiger Guard is already making arrangements to secure a new Tiger to serve as TOM III.
"The Tiger project is an important tradition and source of pride for The University of Memphis family dating back over 35 years, and we will honor the memory of TOM II by keeping the tradition alive," said Tiger Guard member Scott Forman, who will take over as the project chairman for TOM III. "It's part of what makes our University unique".