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Controversies & Enigmas
Emory Eagle Origins
The Name Game

Just inside the east entrance of the George W. Woodruff Physical Education Center hangs a giant blue banner that promotes upcoming varsity sports contests. Stamped in gold at the top is a large eagle, Emory's mascot. The bird's wings are fully spread, and its sharp talons are raised as if it is about to swoop down on some hapless foe. At the bottom of the banner are the words, "Watch the Eagles soar!"

For most of its 160-year history, Emory has been without a mascot. In 1960, Wheel sports editor David Kross decided it was time Emory's varsity squads had some kind of identity. Kross played right wing and was captain on the University's first soccer team, and he says other schools "just calling us the Emory nothings was not enough."

When Kross attempted to interest members of the student body in helping choose the University's athletic mascot, he got little support. "The interest was zilch," says Kross, who earned his B.A. from Emory in 1962 and now works as a business consultant to the city of St. Paul. "In those days, Emory was primarily a medical and dental school, and people were pretty serious. It wasn't a sports school, and there was not a tremendous amount of interest in sports."

Kross took matters into his own hands. According to an article he wrote in the October 27, 1960, issue of the Wheel, "Last week I conferred briefly with E-Club president Doug Mullens, who was the picture of frustration when I mentioned this old project [of choosing a mascot]. He agreed with me that the best method of procuring results was in the arbitrary selection of a name which would suffice unless student objection ran high. With the backing of the E-Club, it was decided that henceforth Emory's athletic teams would be called the 'Eagles.' The name is simply applicable and has obvious decorative advantages."

According to Kross, he was the one who made that arbitrary selection. What moved him to choose an eagle? "It was just alliterative, and it sounded good," he says. "Also, it was short, and it was almost the same number of letters as in [Emory], so it looked good, too. It didn't take up a lot of room, it was easy to say, and eagles can be reasonably hostile, even though we were not very hostile in those days as athletes. But eagles can be reasonably mean when they are provoked."

Kross says he cannot remember any other names he was considering; however, an article in the Wheel several months earlier mentioned Emory Dooleys and Emory Medics as possibilities. (It should also be noted that Emory's athletic teams, both varsity and intramural, were known unofficially as the "Teasippers" during the 1940s and '50s, but the origin and significance of that nickname are unclear.)

Today, the Emory eagle is painted throughout the Woodruff P.E. Center, adorns most varsity uniforms, and can be found in the bookstore on anything from sweatshirts and license plates to key chains and baby socks. Kross says until recently, when his sister brought him an Emory eagle T-shirt, he was unaware how much of an icon the bird had become for the University.

"I had no idea," says Kross. "I wasn't receiving any literature [from the University], so over the years I didn't know they were still using [the eagle]. I got a kick out of it when [my sister] brought me the T-shirt. I was amazed and surprised. Emory needed a name, and I'm glad they liked the one I came up with. I'm sorry the students hadn't participated more fully in choosing it, but I'm glad I went ahead with it because I thought we needed it."--John D. Thomas

Source: Emory Magazine, Autumn 2000

 

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