Yes, Catamounts, there is a Santa Claus.

In fact, there are at least three of them. Tony Chapin ’69, Jim Hastings ’69 and Jim Lewis ’77 all are real-bearded professional Santas who work year-round spreading the holiday spirit. In July, they broke away from Santa conventions and Claus committees for some R&R in Cullowhee, where they toned up, cooled down and swapped stories before the busy season. And what a jolly old time it was.

SANTA JOHN A. “TONY” CHAPIN ’69
When he’s not at the North Pole: Durham.
Santa since: 2003. The following year, he turned professional after a close friend treated him to a class at Michigan’s prestigious Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School.
Gigs at: Brier Creek Commons shopping center in Raleigh, Hope Valley Country Club in Durham and Crossroads Plaza in Cary.
Memorable moment: “When a child’s face lights up at an unexpected sighting of Santa.”
Santa fact: His business cards feature him in his red suit and the words “I met Santa!”

SANTA JAMES “JIM” HASTINGS ’69
When he’s not at the North Pole: Durham.
Santa since: 2007, when he retired after 30 years as a special education teacher and trainer with Durham Public Schools.
Gigs at: Company, community and family parties; the Streets at Southpoint shopping center in Durham.
Memorable moment: “I became a Santa after a small child thanked me for her Christmas presents. From then on, I had to be THE man in the red suit.”
Santa fact: Wife Barbara Hastings ’69 handmade her husband’s custom red wool suit.

SANTA JAMES “JIM” LEWIS ’77
When he’s not at the North Pole: Asheville.
Santa since: 1978, when he was stationed at Naval Medical Center in San Diego and served as an impromptu Santa at a staff party.
Gigs at: The Biltmore House and Grove Park Inn; corporate parties and private events.
Memorable moment: “Being able to visit a 6-year-old girl with a terminal disease. She was so excited to see me that a visit scheduled for 30 minutes lasted more than two hours. When I called her mother in January to see how the little girl was, she had passed away four days after our visit.”
Santa fact: Lewis believes that a big part of being Santa is helping parents recall their own happy memories of childhood.