Phoenix Chosen as New Swarthmore College Mascot

For Immediate Release:  June12, 2006
Contact:  Alisa Giardinelli    
610-690-5717     
http://www.swarthmore.edu/news/

Phoenix Chosen as New Swarthmore College Mascot

Beginning this fall, Swarthmore College will have its first ever mascot: the phoenix.  Campus voting and an e-mail poll of alumni both reached the same conclusion, choosing the mythical bird over three other candidates and a "none of the above" option. 

With the support of the Department of Physical Education and Athletics, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) led an initiative over the past academic year to gauge interest in the creation of a mascot.  The effort was also boosted by the Garnet Club, formed in 2004 to organize pre-game tailgates, post-game bonfires, and fan buses to Haverford-Swarthmore games and conference championship games.  The new mascot will not replace "The Garnet" as the name of Swarthmore's inter-collegiate athletic teams. 

"We wanted a tangible creature — a character — that will get people fired up at College events," said Heidi Fieselmann '06, a SAAC member instrumental in the effort.  Kyle White '08, a leader of the Garnet Club and ex-officio member of SAAC, said the mascot is "intended to bring the campus together in a community — not only in athletics but everywhere a little school spirit and fun are needed."

In the fall, a new committee of students, faculty members, staff, and alumni will determine how the mascot can be incorporated into College life and begin an implementation process, which will likely include the creation of a costumed character and a graphic identity for the phoenix. 

The phoenix has deep roots in Swarthmore College lore.  When Parrish Hall was gutted by fire in 1881, it was immediately rebuilt.  Thereafter, The Phoenix became the name of the campus newspaper.  The mythical animal is found in Egyptian and Greek mythology — most popularly as a long-lived bird that reproduces itself by rising from the ashes of a fire of its own making.  An unrelated Chinese phoenix, known as feng-huang, is a symbol of high virtue and grace, representing the union of yin and yang.

Buoyed by growing campus enthusiasm about athletics, SAAC, assisted by Garnet Club members, gathered more than 700 signatures on a petition that included the statement:  "I, a current student at Swarthmore College ... believe that a mascot would significantly increase the unity, enthusiasm, spirit, and pride in the Swarthmore community."  In April, the campus community was asked to choose from a list of four candidates — three of which were mythical animals — that had been culled by student organizers from a long list of suggestions: the phoenix, the gorilla, the griffin, and the manticore.

The phoenix won the campus vote, garnering 327 of 875 ballots cast, and a straw poll of alumni that accompanied the College's regular electronic newsletter on April 28.  The new mascot was endorsed by 368 of the 851 alumni who responded, defeating "none of the above" by 100 votes.  Remaining votes were scattered among the other three candidates.  The results differed significantly from a 1997 effort to choose a Swarthmore symbol, in which 58 percent of more than 1,400 parents, alumni, students, faculty, and staff who voted picked "none of the above" over the proposed mascots, which included the "Garnet Fox" and "Little Quaker."