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A school’s mascot can hold a mirror to its heart, historical roots, or just its playful side. To wit, here’s a roundup of some of the most unique and memorable mascots in the country that offer a lesson in channeling—and inspiring—school spirit.
Ben & John, Franklin & Marshall College
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin and former Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall inspired the Diplomats, the athletes of Franklin & Marshall College located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. According to the athletic department website, the Franklin & Marshall football team was penalized during a 1935 match against Fordham University for spending too much time in the clubhouse during halftime, indulging their “penchant for oratory” and going on at length about their game plan. When a New York sports columnist dubbed them the Diplomats, the name stuck. Ben and John were introduced in late 2007, and the historical faces have been formidable—and also perhaps very polite and fair—cheerleaders at their athletic games since.
Gladys the Fighting Squirrel, Mary Baldwin College
Tough as nails? Or cute as a button? These traits are not mutually exclusive, as exhibited by the squirrel that 1) fights, and 2) whose name, of all things, is Gladys. The image of a squirrel, which had been on the family coat of arms of Mary Baldwin, the founder of the college, and incorporated into the official college seal in 1929 and later adopted by the college’s sports teams, wasn’t really threatening. However, its uniqueness was clinched when the director of the Annual Giving chose the name from submissions during a college staff team-building exercise in 1985 or 1986. It was chosen purely for its randomness.
Already noted as “The Most Lovable College Mascot” by Reader’s Digest in May 2011, the cow is named “Eph” after Ephraim Williams, who founded the college posthumously via his last will and testament. But why is it a cow, and why is it purple? At the time of the student body’s decision to choose a mascot in 1907, the on-campus humor magazine was called The Purple Cow. The purple has been the school’s color since 1865.
This adorable and fierce-looking corncob (named Kernel Cobb, natch) is the mascot for this liberal arts college based in Moorhead, Minnesota. The name “Cobber,” derived from “Corncobs,” was a term of ridicule hurled at Concordia students in 1893, but the students have since then re-appropriated the name, and gave the mascot a fightin’ spirit as evidenced by a snarling face. In pictures of it moving, it sports a stride—with its arms and legs made of corn husk—that imparts determination.
The name WuShock is derived from the term “shocking,” which refers to the process of harvesting wheat. According to legend, the football team manager of the school in 1904 referenced the team on a poster as the “Shockers” for a football game between them and the Chilocco Indians because many of the players earned money by harvesting wheat during the off seasons. The “Shock” was later combined with erstwhile name of the school when it was known as Wichita University, or WU. The energetic, scowling bundle of wheat has been the mascot since 1948.
Befitting a college of pharmacy, this educational mascot’s full name is Mortimer McPestle, and he’s a Eutectic, which refers to the scientific process of two solids being combined to form a liquid. Now you know.
Before President Abraham Lincoln was celebrated as the Great Emancipator, he was known as the “Rail Splitter,” someone who split logs to build fences. The moniker furnished him with an image as a hard-working man of the people. As a mascot for the LMU Railsplitters, he’s also hard at work raising school spirits at athletic events.