Swarthmore to Hold
First-Ever Mascot Try-Outs
by Alisa Giardinelli
For the first time in its history, Swarthmore will hold try-outs for its newly chosen mascot: a phoenix, the famed mythical bird. The try-outs, in which students are invited to bring their "dancing, talented, comic, energetic, Swat-loving selves," will take place Sat., Mar. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Lang Performing Arts Center and will be judged by a panel of students, administrators, and faculty members.
Mascot designs (from left) by Summer Spicer '07 and Laura Post '09.
The try-outs will also feature musical performances by various student groups. Dave Raymond, the original Phillie Phanatic and founder of Raymond Entertainment Group who has worked with the College on the mascot's development, will be on hand as well.
The formal tryout process will continue on Sun., Mar. 30, after which training exercises for the mascot will be conducted. The Phoenix is expected to make its formal debut on campus later this semester at a to-be-determined event.
Last fall, a committee of students, faculty members, staff, and alumni began the process of determining how best to develop and introduce the mascot to the campus. They built on the momentum generated by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and others who led an initiative over the previous academic year to gauge interest in its creation and selection.
Kyle White '08, a political science and economics major from Millsboro, Del., and a leader of the initiative, says having a mascot is one more way to build community on campus. "We all share this common thread of dedication toacademic intellect and social responsibility, but on campus there were few things tying us together in a tangible way," he says. "We thought having a mascot would help bridge that gap." The Phoenix will represent the College during athletic contests, campus-wide events, and is also expected to support philanthropic efforts in the broader community.
The selection of the phoenix followed a process in which members of SAAC and the Garnet Club, a student booster group, 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." Students were 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 and a straw poll of alumni. 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 then-included the "Garnet Fox" and "Little Quaker."
The phoenix has deep roots in Swarthmore College lore. When the College's iconic Parrish Hall was gutted by fire in 1881, it was immediately rebuilt, rising, as it were, from the ashes like the mythical bird. Thereafter, The Phoenix became the name of the campus newspaper. The animal is found in Egyptian and Greek mythology - most frequently as a perennial 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 harmonic union of yin and yang.