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The History of Our Mascot

August 10, 2010

39 years before we became the “Bears” we were the “Bruins” as seen in this illustration from Res Gestae 1952

[Updated in 2016]

From our school’s inception in 1922, athletics has been an integral part of life on campus. While the standard of excellence both in performance and sportsmanship has always been clear at the Brook, our mascot identity has been less so. Here is a brief and muddled history of our progression from the “Blue and White” to the “Bears.”

In the earliest issue of our school’s yearbook, Res Gestae 1926, no name is lent to our athletic teams other than “Stony Brook” or more simply “the boys.” However, by the next year each of our teams is given the name the “Blue and White.” For the next 44 years, until 1971, this moniker and other variations such as the “Blue” or “Big Blue” were employed, but it was far from the only one we adopted during that time span. From 1940-1971 as many as seven other mascots appeared intermittently in issues of Res Gestae or the Stony Brook Bulletin, thoroughly complicating our identity.

In the January 1940 edition of the student publication, Le Dernier Cri, the basketball and wrestling teams are referred to as the “Deacons.” From 1945-48 the name “Blue Jays” was scattered over the football, basketball and baseball teams, while from 1947-67 the “Brookers” was often the only label applied to our squads. In 1948 the term “Bruins” materializes seemingly out of thin air and was seen in various publications until it vanished in 1955 as mysteriously as it arrived. In 1951 another variation on the name “Stony Brook” caught on as we were irregularly referred to as the “Brooks” until about 1957. Even Newsday used this name in its March 4th, 1957 headline, “Brooks Down St. Paul’s to Win Ivy Cage Crown” as our basketball team clinched the Ivy League Championship in basketball.

Then, in 1956 the mascot “Bears” surfaced for only a single year before hibernating for the next thirty-one. All the while, “Blue and White” appeared alongside each of these mutations. It is surprising we did not go through an identity crisis as in some years we found our allegiance in no fewer than four different monikers. Further complicating matters, our cross country teams were for decades referred to only as the “harriers” defined as “a person who engages in persistent attacks on others or incursions on their land.” As if this history is not mystifying enough, a new and strange mascot arrived in the fall of 1970:

A primitive rendition of the Shrike appears in the Fall 1970 issue of the Bulletin

ShrikeThe shrike is a small predatory bird from the genus Lanius, a name derived from the Latin word for “butcher.” The Latin etymology of this bird serves it well as it is known for catching insects, small birds, or mammals and impaling their bodies on thorns or barbed wire. They will then leave their grisly cache hanging and return to finish their meal at a later time. The label “Shrikes” was first applied to our football team in the December 1970 issue of the Stony Brook Bulletin; however, other publications that year also make mention of the “Blue and White” for the final time. What is strange is that in both Res Gestae and the Bulletin the title “Shrikes” is adopted solely by the football team leaving the other squads without an identity. By all accounts “Shrikes” began as a nickname for our football teams, given by coach John Engstrom, which were often defined by their resilience despite their small stature. That, coupled with the monogamous breeding habits of the bird, seemed to make the shrike an ideal mascot for Stony Brook’s ideals. When Engstrom became the Athletic Director the entire athletic department finally embraced its “Shrike”-ness.  The first indication of this is seen in the September 1980 issue of Stony Brook Today, which also mentions the redesigning of the shrike logo:

BearIn 1987-88 John Kenney assumed the reins of the athletic department and resurrected our old mascot, the “Bears” which we still adhere to today. Kenney’s choice was no doubt a nod to our past, but one has to think one of his favorite Bible verses, about Elisha calling down a curse on some boys poking fun at his baldness, played into the selection:

[Elisha] turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

~ 2 Kings 2:24

 

For the last twenty-eight years the “Bear” name has served us well. Since our identity has been sorted out we have won a State Championship, 10 Long Island Championships, 37 Suffolk County Championships, and 63 League Championships. Let us hope that our future is one replete with the mauling of youths.

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Bear Paw Thumbnail

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael Hickey permalink
    August 11, 2010 10:31 PM

    Great job, my man!

    Like

  2. Eric Johnson permalink
    August 16, 2011 4:45 PM

    Great Site! I graduated class of ’70 and know for sure that the Shrike name was in use on campus for athletic teams for at least ’69-’70 school year and am pretty confidant that it was first proposed by John Engstrom spring of ’68 and applied to the Football team and some of the other teams, wrestling for sure as John was the assistant to head-coach Bruce Dodd, during the ’68-’69 school year.

    Like

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