Husson College is no longer the home of the Brave.
Say hello to the green-and-gold Eagles, which officially replaced the Braves as the school’s nickname this past week when the new sunglasses-wearing, yet-to-be-named eagle mascot made its debut on the sidelines of Winkin Complex for Husson’s homecoming football game.
From “Penmen” to Indians to Braves, and a fleeting flirtation with a mascot named Bradford the Bull, the evolution of Husson’s nickname and mascot has been a 106-year process.
The evolutionary period just for “the eagle” alone has been three years, from convening a committee charged with starting the mascot changeover process to the final selection.
“It was my responsibility to start the process and we formed a nine-member committee of students, staff, faculty, and NESCOM [New England School of Communications] people,” said Julie Green, Husson’s director of public affairs.
A list of 100 potential mascot names was prepared and ballots were given to all of the students two years ago. The 10 most popular choices were then voted on again by the student body and trimmed to a list of three finalists: eagles, hawks, and timberwolves.
Student voting for the finalists favored the eagles by about 50 percent over the hawks (30 percent) and timberwolves (20 percent). From there, it went to the board of trustees.
Now the eagle has landed.
“We’re thrilled with how the process ended. The reaction has been very good from students,” Green said.
Apparently, school officials, faculty members, and coaches are thrilled as well.
“It’s kind of appropriate and meaningful for our school to be the eagles,” Green explained. “We kind of felt in a way that if you went back 20 years to where enrollment had declined and the fact that we’ve come back so strong, we kind of like the symbolism, with the eagle coming back from the verge of extinction.”
Green said dropping Braves as Husson’s nickname and mascot after a 40-year history wasn’t influenced by complaints by political correctness-minded advocates so much as it was a long-held desire by school officials to come up with a mascot that wasn’t offensive.
“We didn’t change because someone came along and said they didn’t like it,” Green explained. “We changed because we thought it was time to reflect changes in the college.”
It’s ironic in a way, since Husson switched from Penmen, a moniker which first became associated with Husson at the turn of the century (shortly after the creation of the school, first known as the Shaw School of Business, in 1898), to Indians in 1927, which they retained until 1967, when the Husson campus moved from Park Street to the current location at College Circle. The Braves name came about to honor Husson’s close association with the Penobscot Indian Nation.
According to Green, Husson namesake Chesley Husson, who began working at the school when it was the Maine School of Commerce in the 1920s, was popularly known by his nickname – “Chief” – and was presented an honorary headdress from the Penobscot Indian chief when he was the school’s president.
So it wasn’t the Braves nickname Husson officials had the problem with so much as it was the potential mascot, which students have been clamoring to get for several years.
“As far as Braves go, we honor that name and revere it, but the students wanted a mascot and we were uncomfortable with the idea of a student inside an Indian suit,” she explained. “In the early ’90s we started talking about being uncomfortable with the Native American images associated with Husson teams and we stopped having the Indian mascots.
“At one point, we even toyed with the idea of a bull and we called it Bradford the Bull as a takeoff on the stock market, but it didn’t catch on with the kids and Bradford is missing now. We can’t even find the suit.”
Thus, the process which resulted in the hatching of the eagle began.
“This is part of a step in changing our image,” Green said. “We just finished the process of offering our first doctoral degree [physical therapy] and we’re looking to add more. We have 29 majors and the school is growing.
“These things have a way of evolving on their own. I’m sure the eagle will grow up as well.”