Building a Bear
Washington University's athletic teams
have been known as the Bears for more than 75 years. During this
time, the mascot has changed appearance a few times. The latest
athletic logo (right) was developed in the mid-'90s after four years
of seeking input from alumni, students, faculty, and staff. Designed
by Warren Pottinger, B.F.A. '93, the logo was refined by Stacey
Harris, B.F.A. '88, using feedback from the logo committee. This
logo reflects a stronger imageone that aptly represents the
dominance of the University's teams, which have garnered 80 University
Athletic Association (UAA) titles since the league's inception in
1987-1988and replaces the "scowling bear with the 'WU' sailor
hat," otherwise known as the "Battling Bear," which had been in
use for 40 years (see below).
The Battling Bear logo had an uncanny resemblance
to the then-logotype of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. One question
surrounding its look was why a land-locked institution such as Washington
University would have its mascot wear a sailor hat (unless it symbolized
freshman beanies, which were a tradition on many college campuses,
including Washington University). Unfortunately, the origins of
the Bear's hat, like the origins of the logo itself, which dates
to the late 1930s, remain a mystery.
Also, somewhat mysterious is how the University
came to adopt the Bear mascot in the 1920s: The football team had
been called the Pikers since the 1904 World's Fair, but in 1925,
students voted for a new mascot. Among the new choices for a mascot
were the Eagle, the Bearcat, and the Bear; retaining
"Pikers" was also discussed. (The Pike,
the amusement section during the World's Fair, ran along Lindell
Boulevard, and its proximity to the new campus had led to the nickname
On December 18, 1925, Chancellor Herbert
S. Hadley held an open meeting of the student body to discuss the
athletic mascot issue, and, in the end, the students voted 320-106
to change the name to Bears. An
editorial in the December 23, 1925, Student Life reported:
"Many believe [the name change] was a cleverly
prearranged affair of chicanery, especially when the city newspapers
within eight hours of the vote refer to our team as the Bears. They
are convinced when, within twenty-four hours, follows the announcement
that a cub has been donated to the University to be used as a mascot
The first bear mascot was a black bear
cub, born in the Canadian Rockies and presented to the University
in December 1925 by Mrs. Ruth Waldron Hill.
(While no longer used in connection with
our athletic teams, the name Pikers lives on as the name of an undergraduate
men's a cappella ensemble.)
What's in a Name?
In 1976, the University's
Board of Trustees voted to make the school's official name "Washington
University in St. Louis." The decision was intended to differentiate
this university from the 18 other higher education institutions
in the United States with "Washington" as part of their namea
decision that largely has been successful.
But over time, the University has been
known by other names:
1853, when state Senator Wayman Crow filed a charter to incorporate
a new educational institution, he
called it "Eliot Seminary" to honor his friend and pastor, the Rev.
William Greenleaf Eliot, Jr.
Washington InstituteAt a Board
of Directors meeting on February 22, 1854, Eliot and fellow director
Samuel Treat proposed changing the name to "Washington Institute
of St. Louis" since the Charter was signed into law on George Washington's
birthday: February 22. The Board unanimously approved the new name.
O'Fallon InstituteFor a brief
period in 1855-1856, the name was changed to "O'Fallon Institute"
when two Missouri legislators received approval for a rival institution
to be named "Washington College." Later, they gave up their charter.
Washington UniversityOn February
22, 1856, Samuel Treat suggested to the directors that "Washington
University" should be the name, and the motion passed. The Charter
was amended, and Gov. Trusten Polk signed the new name into law
on February 12, 1857. (Corporate name: The Washington University)
WashingtonNear the beginning
of the 20th century, the University's nickname was "Washington"
as evidenced by the 1907 Alma Mater, written by two Glee Club members
from the Class of 1908, Milton Rosenheim and George Logan (both
were also law graduates of 1910):
Dear Alma Mater, thy name is sweet
Our hearts are all for thee, fair Washington.
Wash. U.Today the name of
endearment among current students and young alumni is "Wash. U."a
name that can puzzle those who do not know the University well.
Many older alumni and prospective students do not prefer the name.
wustlWith the advent of the
World Wide Web in the 1990s, some people are calling the University
"wustl" after its Web address of wustl.edu.