Throwback Thursday: Pedagogic Bird to Noble Dog

The proud Pedguin, at left, adorns the front cover of the New York State College for Teachers' 1949-50 Directory. At right, little stuffed Pedguin gives way in 1965 to the oncoming (and fiercer looking than now) Great Dane. (Photos courtesy of University Archives)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 27, 2017) —105 years before the mascot. That is how long UAlbany traveled in its history without the accompaniment of a little furry, winged or hoofed being urging its sports teams on to victory.

Until May of 1949, the New York State College for Teachers’ teams and athletes had nicknames, but no cartoon drawing or body-filled costume to go with them. Both in local newspapers or the campus’s State College News, no one visually captured the most often used “Statesmen” before 1924 nor the colorful yet bland “Purple and Gold” from ’24 on.

Two bird nicknames fluttered in thereafter but were undrawn and summarily shooed: the Owls in 1938-39 and the Eagles in 1941-42 and 1942-43.

Then came 1948-49, and someone realized that another name for “teachers” — “pedagogues” — could be shortened into a new and catchy sports nickname: “Peds.” It was used first in a State College News basketball game write-up on Dec. 3, 1948, and became dominant. Again, however, it was a nickname without a mascot.

That inanimate situation ended on May 13, 1949, when it was announced that the student body had chosen "Pedguin," a penguin-like figure designed by Paul Kirsch '51, as school mascot. In both scholarly and cuddly manifestations — drawn, sewn (on patches), stuffed and, in late ‘50s and early ‘60s basketball games, costumed — the Pedguin remained the college’s mascot until a new university identify cried out for something beyond the symbol of the teacher.

Great Dane 1983

In the "Still Needs Work" Department, the Great Dane costumed mascot at a basketball game in 1983. 

In the spring of 1965 a contest was run to replace the icy bird. Kathy Earle B.A. '67 won by submitting the Great Dane. A May 14, 1965, ASP article announced the choice and gave Kathy’s reasons for selecting the big dog: "It has a proud bearing and imposing stature. It is clean, graceful, and proud." It was also stated that "Danes" would be easy for sports writers and "sounds quick and alert."

The Danes, or the now most often used “Great Danes,” not only sounded that way, they have a history to this day of playing that way. After a few hits and misses, the canine mascot also inspired a very good costumed cheerleader.

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