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All Fired Up

All Fired Up

The Phoenix, Swarthmore's official mascot, has been with Swarthmore for over a century, since the 1881 burning and the 1882 rebuilding of Parrish Hall from the ashes. It revealed itself to the public in corporeal form in March 2008, and is thrilled to enliven any campus event upon request. Write to the Phoenix at

The Swarthmore College Phoenix mascot, introduced in March 2008, has fast become a popular fixture at campus events. Recently, Swarthmore's own big red bird and its primary keeper, Sarah Lambert '11, sat down for a conversation to give us a deeper look at life as the campus' beloved mascot.

So how do you feel about having your own Web site?

I love it! I love the publicity. I anticipate more attention than I've had for centuries. Internet technology is such a vast improvement over cave walls, clay tablets, papyrus, parchment, all that stuff that's so passé — and believe me, I know. I've done them all.

Was being chosen over a gorilla, griffin, and manticore a major triumph for you?

Hardly. I never doubted the outcome. My plumage lights up any setting and any occasion. Also, none of my dowdy competitors is as close to Harry Potter as I am.

Even a warm sunny day can't match the heat the Phoenix brings to sporting events.

So what, exactly, are the duties of the Phoenix?

I'm very important. I symbolize the spirit that pervades the campus, and it's my job to show up everywhere. I invoke school spirit in any crowd — get them excited, pumped up. I do a lot of jumping, running around, and leading chants. I have a great collection of signs bearing slogans like "Let's go, Swat!" As you can imagine, my favorite sign is the one that says, "Let's get fired up!"

Have you ever been hit by a ball?

No, but I did lose a shoe once during half-time at a women's soccer match. I was playing with some of the young local players. Irresistible as I am, these kids were fighting over me, each wanted me to kick her ball. So I kicked one, then another, and another, and finally my shoe went flying into the air as well—and I didn't even notice for a long time. All the little girls huddled together and brought it back to me. It made me feel so loved.

The Phoenix serves as campus ambassador, escorting Chelsea Clinton.

What events besides athletics meets do you attend?

You name it — from Ride the Tide to Garnet Pride, from first-year orientation to graduation, I do them all. Alumni Weekend was so much fun this year. I schmoozed at dinner parties, flirted with the Garnet Sages in the Alumni Parade of Classes, and frolicked with the kids during baby-sitting sessions. I really enjoyed having kids run up and attach themselves to me, shouting "Big Bird! Big Bird!" Well, OK, so they mistook me for that goofy Sesame Street avian, but I forgive them. It was awesome anyway.

Ever get to travel with the teams?

Sadly, no. The College doesn't want me to fly, but I'm working on it. I have wings, for goodness' sake. I hope to at least get to Haverford soon — it's such a short flight.

Adults and children alike find the Phoenix absolutely irresistible.

Do you have a signature move when you're working?

Oh, that would be hugging people. I love giving hugs.

On a more personal note, where do you nest?

I have smokin' hot real estate for a phoenix — I nest in the cupola above Parrish Hall.

How about your height and wingspan?

When I'm standing really tall, I reach a little more than 6½ feet. Fully extended, my wingspan is about 5½ feet.

What phoenix wouldn't enjoy a spa day at the bird bath?

What is your preening ritual?

Typically, for preening before an event, I use liberal quantities of Febreze. I'm also treated to an annual spa day to freshen my feathers.

So being the Swarthmore Phoenix is hard work?

Is anything at Swarthmore not hard work? It's a labor of love, though. I can't help the burning desire to add spirit and fun to Swarthmore events.

What about offspring? Do you have chicks?

In the College Bookstore there's a whole flock of my chicks waiting for adoption. They're quite adorable. All bear a very close resemblance to me.

The Phoenix cradles its chicks as they eagerly await bringing their own ounce of spirit to your home or office.

Are you a migratory bird?

Don't I wish. But I know people in New York, Pittsburgh and Georgia.

Do you consider yourself an intellectual?

Well, of course. I've met Charles Darwin; he had his photo taken with me. I've hugged Chelsea Clinton; she hugged me back. But most significantly, I rub wingtips with hundreds of Swarthmoreans.

What kind future do you see for yourself at Swarthmore?

Oh, I'd say I'm a shoo-in for tenure at a place like this. I'll be here for a hundred years. Watch me.