From armadillos and panthers to flying squirrels and kudzu monsters, the suggestions for Auburn University at Montgomery's new mascot were varied and, in some cases, downright wacky. In the end, the campus community settled on a symbol of the institution that honors local aviation history – the Warhawks.
"Students are absolutely amped about our new mascot," said Darius Pettway, president of the AUM Student Government Association and English education major. "This is an exciting time to be at Auburn Montgomery. Look out world because the Warhawks are on the rise."
The university began the process of searching for a mascot three years ago. Known as the "Senators" since the 1970s, the university briefly used a Southern gentleman mascot similar to the recently ousted Colonel Reb at Ole Miss. Later, a teal-colored mustang named Senator was briefly used but never gained widespread support. With no artistic logo or costumed character to represent the Senators, AUM has been without a face for over a decade.
"We were missing an identity as a school, most students didn't even know what we were," said Delia Sescioreanu, who served as SGA president in 2010-2011 and made the mascot search a top priority of her administration. "We were the only university in the state that didn't have a mascot at College Colors Day and Higher Education Day."
Athletic Director Steve Crotz said, "This is so much bigger than a visual brand for athletics – the Warhawk will serve as an outreach tool for the entire campus. I am looking forward to having the mascot accompany our student-athletes when they visit schools and other community activities. The need for a recognizable mascot to represent the university was embraced by people from every corner of the institution."
Sescioreanu and Crotz were members of the Mascot Selection Committee that shepherded the university through the process of selecting a mascot. Hundreds of suggestions poured in to the mascot search website and the committee narrowed the field down to 11 choices. Three finalists were selected based on feedback provided online: Bengals, Warhawks and Wolverines.
Nearly 1,800 students, faculty, staff, alumni and fans weighed in on the mascot finalists and 49 percent favored Warhawks. The remaining responses were split almost evenly between the Bengals and Wolverines. During a tailgate celebration held on the AUM quad on Aug. 18, university chancellor and alumnus John G. Veres III unveiled the mascot to the campus community.
"This was a student-driven initiative," Veres said. "We at Auburn Montgomery seek to be responsive to our students. The new mascot should serve the university well for decades to come."
Veres also noted that AUM alumni weighed in on the decision.
"We were very pleased that so many alumni took an interest in this chapter of Auburn Montgomery's future," Veres said. "As supporters of AUM and leaders in the community, we are so proud of our alumni."
Warhawks was initially added to the list of possible mascots by a group of students who wanted to honor Montgomery's aviation history, particularly the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk pilots of World War II who trained at Maxwell Air Force Base.