After a months-long process to examine its mascot and several surveys to get input from the community, Whitman College has chosen the "Whitman Blues" as its new mascot.
In a recent survey to alumni, students, faculty and staff members, 35 percent of respondents chose the Blues as their first choice, while 58 percent voted it their first or second choice. The Blues also received the fewest number of last-choice votes.
The Blues are Whitman's local mountain range and have long been an important symbol for Whitman and the surrounding community. With their far-reaching and high peaks, the Blues represent both a challenge and a sense of accomplishment. The Blues evoke the expansive skyline of the West, the expansive way Whitman students see the world around them and the strong sense of connectedness amongst the members of the Whitman community and with our local community in the Walla Walla Valley.
The process that led to the selection of a new mascot for Whitman College began back in fall 2015. That's when conversations about diversity and inclusion in higher education, both on the Whitman College campus and nationwide, intensified. Many Whitman community members expressed interest in examining the appropriateness of the previous mascot, the Missionary.
In light of those conversations, Whitman College President Kathleen Murray assembled a working group of students, faculty and staff members, and Governing Board members to consider the question of whether or not the Missionary was an appropriate mascot for Whitman today.
The Mascot Working Group, chaired by Whitman Overseer Tricia Montgomery '90, developed a survey that was distributed to more than 18,000 alumni, students and Whitman community members in February. The group reviewed each of the more than 7,000 responses. The results of that survey made it clear to the Working Group that the Missionary was not considered an appropriate mascot.
Upon receiving the recommendation and results from the working group at the end of March, Murray and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees endorsed the recommendation and decided that the Missionary mascot would be retired.
"It was really important to the Working Group that everyone had a voice in this decision," said Montgomery. "We worked hard to ensure transparency in our communications and process and always remained focused on the goal of finding what was best for Whitman overall."
This summer, Montgomery agreed to chair another working group, charged with identifying a new official mascot for Whitman College. The committee, which also included faculty, staff, students and alumni, worked over the summer to compile and refine a list of prospective official mascots. After receiving more than 1,500 responses with 400 unique suggestions from a survey sent to the Whitman community, the committee narrowed the choices down to four: the appaloosas, the blues, the blue ravens and the sockeyes.
After a vote by the Whitman community in October, it was obvious that that the Whitman Blues was the mascot preferred by alumni, faculty, staff and students.
Murray acknowledged that change is not always easy, but said she looks forward to moving forward with the new mascot as Whitman evolves as a college community.
"As excited we are for our new mascot, we all know that the mascot is not Whitman College's defining element," Murray added. "Instead, it is our shared commitment to our educational mission—that of providing a rigorous, residential education in the liberal arts."
In the upcoming months, the Whitman College Office of Communications will begin the work of visually representing the Blues, with an anticipated unveiling in fall 2017.