Symbols of UAlbany
The Great Dane was first chosen by the student body in 1965 to replace the “Pedwin,” a penguin which had been the mascot of the New York State College for Teachers, the precursor of the University at Albany. The Great Dane, nicknamed Damien, was chosen for its qualities of strength, courage, stamina and speed, and its selection was a reflection of major transformations under way at the University at that time. When UAlbany made the move to Division I athletics in 1999, art student Brian Caverly sculpted the larger-than-life Great Dane, which is now on display in the lobby of the University's main sports complex, the Recreation and Convocation Center (RACC). The bronze sculpture was a gift to the University from the Class of 1999. In fall 2003 a “baby” Dane joined Damien, at University games and other functions. The University launched a contest allowing students, faculty, staff and alumni to name the diminutive Dane. The winning name, Lil’ D, was announced during pre-game activities at the University's annual basketball bash, the Big Purple Growl.
UAlbany’s colors, purple and gold, were featured on a diamond shape lapel pin in the early 1900s. The Classes of 1896 and 1897 created a pin made of purple enamel with gold letters spelling, S.N.C. (State Normal College). According to UAlbany Archivist, Geoff Williams, this is one of the first instances that our school colors were acknowledged. The words “The purple and gold” are incorporated into a verse from a college song written by Louise Ward Clement, as noted in the March 1907 edition of The Echo, which was the student newspaper at the time. In September of 1907, The Echo listed the college colors as “Purple and Gold”. “Purple and Gold” is the title of UAlbany’s Fight Song and the words “purple and gold” appear in the Alma Mater. Another pertinent yet noteworthy fact is that, ‘Purple & Gold’, was a service organization created by former President Vincent O’Leary and the Alumni Association. The organization’s mission was to assist the University and the Alumni Association in service activities such as guiding tours, assisting in campus events, and working with freshmen. Membership in ‘Purple & Gold’ was open to juniors and seniors, and the first members were inducted in October 1982. This service organization existed into the late 1990s.
Since the University at Albany’s beginnings as the New York State Normal College, Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom has been the institution’s enduring symbol. The figure of Minerva and the Latin motto, "Sapientia et sua et docendi causa" ("Wisdom both for its own sake and for the sake of teaching") have appeared on the University seal since about 1913. Today, Minerva, wearing her distinctive helmet, continues to symbolize the University's proud past and long-standing reputation for educational excellence.
The 7-foot white plaster statue of Minerva was purchased in 1888. While there is no official record of where the statue came from, remembrances have it that Minerva was purchased with funds from a $1 student fee collected for make-up exams. The Minerva statue was originally located at 88 Willett Street in Albany when the University was the New York State Normal College. In 1906, when a devastating fire broke out in the college’s administrative offices, a brave custodian, Charles Wurtham, rescued the statue from the burning building. Minerva assumed her new home in the rotunda of Draper Hall when UAlbany was the State College for Teachers. For more than six decades she was a popular meeting place for students. "Meetcha at Minnie" was a favorite phrase and her photograph appeared frequently in UAlbany yearbooks. In January 1962, UAlbany’s Minerva achieved national fame when an article about the teacher’s college appeared in an issue of the Saturday Review and she was pictured on the cover. In 1966, as a gift to the University, the senior Class of 1967 moved the statue from the downtown campus to the new main campus and paid for her refurbishment. The Class named themselves the "Guardians of Minerva." In 1987 Minerva was rededicated and today graces the lobby of the Science Library.
In March 1991, the University logo was changed to include Minerva and on April 10, 2003, UAlbany rolled out a new University seal, symbol and logo at the annual Fountain Day. The logo design, which incorporates an updated version of Minerva, the University’s long-standing symbol, aims to reflect the history, tradition, and modern-day distinctiveness of UAlbany. The new University logo consists of a redesigned wordmark and the Minerva symbol. The Minerva symbol is derived from the updated University seal. The arched frame that surrounds Minerva represents the modern architecture of the main campus.