The Golden Hawk - How Laurier's official mascot came to be
There are golden eagles, golden hamsters, golden orioles, golden retrievers and golden plovers.
But nature, for all its splendour and largesse, has never given us a creature called a golden hawk.
So just how did Wilfrid Laurier University end up with a golden hawk as its official mascot? The answer to that question has several stages, beginning in 1927. Waterloo College was only three years old, and two years previously had become affiliated with the University of Western Ontario, an affiliation that would last until 1960.
It came time to choose school colours. Maroon and gold were the colours of Waterloo College, but to honour the link with Western, whose colours were (and are) purple and white, maroon was discarded in favour of purple.
So Waterloo College had colours. “Hooray for the Purple and Gold!” was heard at sporting events from then on. But the college had no mascot. Its teams had no name. Western had the Mustangs and their junior counterparts, the Colts. The Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph had the Aggies. But at Waterloo College, team shirts and sweaters said just “Waterloo College” or carried a big “W.”
“We’re proud of the boys and feel like shouting, ‘Hurrah for the Waterloo...?’ For the Waterloo College what?” asked an editorial in the student-produced Waterloo Weekly Newsheet in November 1950.
Waterloo College only had a few hundred students at the time, and the question of what to call the teams was batted about on campus. Some people thought “Mules” would be a good name, possibly as a humorous counterpoint to the Mustangs and Colts of Western.
Ken Coker, a football and basketball player, president of the athletic directorate, and writer for the student publication, The Cord, tried out the new name in print in December 1951. At first, he applied it only to the basketball team, then extended it to the “Ice Mules” and by October 1952, the year Coker graduated, the name was used for the football team. By 1953, basketball and volleyball teams comprised of first-year women students, or “freshettes,” were also known as Mulettes.
The Mules moniker remained until 1960, when the editorial board of The Cord Weekly decided it didn’t fit with the school in its new guise as Waterloo Lutheran University.
“We decided we didn’t like the name,” recalled Ron Berenbaum, a graduate of 1961. “It was derogatory, meaning stubborn and stupid. It came about
because we were affiliated with Western, and if we were not going to be affiliated and didn’t like the name Mules, it was a good time to change it.”
Lots of suggestions followed: Tigers, Lions, Rams, Polar Bears, Cheetahs, Wildcats and Mongooses were some from the animal kingdom. Others included Titans, Astronaughts, Varsities, Golden Knights (for football), Purple Knights (for basketball), Nomads and Mobiles.
But somebody suggested Hawks, and then Golden was added as a nod to the school colours. The student directorate made a decision and Golden Hawks
“From ‘Jackass’ to ‘Bird of Prey’,” said a headline in the January 16, 1961, issue of The Cord.
Somehow a stuffed hawk was acquired and revealed at a pep rally in late December. It remained in its natural state for only a year or two.
Dick Buendorf, who came to Waterloo from the United States in 1962 as WLU’s new athletic director, recalls that he and players Dave Robertson and Ted Favot spray-painted the mascot, but doesn’t recall exactly when.
But the bird still exists. It has spent the years displayed in offices, stored in closets, and, for the past five years or so, on display on the fireplace mantle in the football office. It’s in sad shape. The gold paint is turning turquoise in spots. Its feathers are tattered and it carries a load of dust and grime.
However, plans are now being made to have the unfortunate raptor cleaned and properly displayed in all its splendour. It is, after all, a part of Laurier’s history.
Written By: Barry Ries, Department of Public Affairs