Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Effort to identify new ‘Pioneer’ symbol kicks off

More than 50 faculty, staff and students set forth Nov. 6 on a path some hope will lead to a new mascot to embody the spirit and capture the enthusiasm of the University of Denver campus and community.

In the first of what is expected to be a series of collective events aimed at defining a Pioneer, organizers encouraged participants to ponder what makes DU a special place and what truly represents the University.

“This is something that we’ve needed for a while,” said Monica Kumar, one of two students who organized the event. “I think a lot of people have seen a lot of changes made, but at no point have they had a chance to sit down and have their voices heard.”

Kumar, president of the All Undergraduate Student Association (AUSA) Senate, worked with DU Programs Board President Jason Lundberg in the weeks after it was announced that former mascot Denver Boone, retired in 1998, would not be returning. The current mascot, a red-tailed hawk named Ruckus, hasn’t generated enthusiasm, and Kumar and Lundberg felt a campus discussion might help develop a new identity for the University.

The meeting at Davis Auditorium opened with a history of DU’s mascots, from the earliest days when the school’s athletic programs went under the informal nickname of the Ministers and the Fighting Pastors. Students adopted the nickname Pioneers and the mascot Pioneer Pete in the 1920s before later adopting Denver Boone in the 1960s.

Jenna Brown, of the University’s Ombuds Office, led a group brainstorming session aimed at identifying what makes DU special. Participants offered identifying characteristics, such as the spires that dot the campus to the tradition of the red vest and the school colors, crimson and gold.

The University also can be proud of its long tradition of innovation, community service, international focus, and its history, inextricably tied to the history of Denver and the Rocky Mountain West, participants said.

Lundberg said he was encouraged by the turnout at the inaugural meeting and urged participants to spread word of the effort to everyone in the DU community. Another meeting will be scheduled in January in what Lundberg said he hopes will be an inclusive, ongoing effort to find a new mascot for DU.

“For the first time in the four years I’ve been here,” Lundberg said, “you can really feel the spirit.”

Organizers encourage comment through the e-mail address

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