In February the Mascot Committee solicited the input of 441 student and alumni delegates to inform their decision making on the five mascot finalists. The Mascot Committee referred to this input, to the rationale provided with original submissions, and to criteria in determining the top five mascot choices through a series of votes and ranking exercises. They then ratified the results.
The five finalists are:
- Fighting Poets
- Purple and White
- Valley Hawks
Below please find some background information on each of the final five mascot choices, including the characteristics of each that make it a strong candidate for the Amherst College mascot.
Without embodying any single poet, this idea celebrates multiple poets who have taught, studied, or written poetry in association with the College or town of Amherst. “Fighting Poets” draws attention to the way that Amherst is invested in the literary tradition through its teaching of the liberal arts and the setting it provides for expression. Poet reflects the creativity and critical thinking of our students and alumni while fighting expresses the vigorous spirit of debate that characterizes the intellectual experience at Amherst. Fans could describe Amherst’s “gifted, graceful, powerful athletes as ‘poetry in motion,’” wrote one proponent.
The word mammoth “describes something stupendous and monumental, something vast and mighty, something imposing and formidable,” says one nomination for this mascot. But Ice Age mammoths were also highly social, herbivorous animals. The Beneski Museum of Natural History famously displays the skeleton of a Columbian mammoth, unearthed by Professor Frederick Brewster Loomis and brought to the College in 1925. Amherst’s archives also house a drawing of a mammoth skeleton by scientific illustrator Orra White Hitchcock, wife of Amherst’s third president, the minister and geologist Edward Hitchcock.
Purple & White
“Purple has always been considered emblematic of royalty and leadership,” wrote one proponent of this finalist—and it has long been proudly associated with Amherst: The 1871 publication Student Life at Amherst College notes that purple and white have been the College’s colors since April 30, 1868, in accordance with a student vote. In the tradition of “the Harvard Crimson,” “the Syracuse Orange” and other colorful college nicknames, “the Purple & White” is already widely used in sports reporting in reference to Amherst teams; these are the instantly recognizable colors not only of our athletic uniforms but of most Amherst apparel and merchandise.
Known to be among the most intelligent of all birds, hawks have exceptional vision and impressive hunting skills. As noted by alumni and students alike, many different hawk species can be spotted in the Pioneer Valley, especially during spring and fall migrations. According to the Massachusetts Audubon Society, “hawks seem to provide the most pleasure and excitement when they are in the air, soaring, gliding, flapping, or stooping in awesome aerial displays.” A hawk mascot would reflect pride in the campus bird sanctuary and the College’s other connections to avian studies. Several alumni have donated ornithology books to Amherst—perhaps most notably, a rare double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America came from Herbert Pratt of the class of 1895—so the College already possesses beautiful illustrations of hawks of all kinds.
Known for their keen senses, intelligence and power, wolves collaborate and care for one another in packs, but they can also represent individuality and independence. Wolves play a vital role in sustaining the health of their ecosystems. Thought to be extinct in Western Massachusetts by around 1840, a wild eastern gray wolf appeared in the area in 2008, making national news. Amherst Archives’ edition of Audubon’s Quadrupeds of North America features an illustration of a black wolf dating to 1851.