By Anne Stanton firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — Go Hawk Owls!
The Northwestern Michigan College board unanimously adopted a new mascot, but there’s not exactly a sports team to go with it.
But that’s okay. Perhaps some day, said NMC spokesman Andy Dolan.
“There is no plan for it, but we do have a men’s club soccer team, and some students have expressed an interest in rugby,” he said. “So it will be nice to have a nickname if we get something.”
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, NMC used the nickname “tomahawks,” but dropped it in 1976 when the intercollegiate sports program ended, Dolan said.
The hawk owls nickname pays homage to the old name. In fact, “hawks” was worn on sports uniforms, Dolan said.
The Northern hawk owl is a non-migratory owl — about three feet long — that feeds on small prey, such as rodents. They breed in remote locations and live in low densities, making it one of the least studied birds in North America.
The new name likely “sidestepped” the more controversial nickname of tomahawks, suspects Chris Williams, an adjunct music instructor, who is also an NMC student.
NMC instructor Mindy Morton applauded the new mascot this time around as a “great” decision.
Tomahawks evoke an image of violence and were not necessarily used in the region, said Morton, a faculty adviser of NMC’s Native American Student Association.
“It would be like calling them scalpers,” she said.
About 75 students from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians attend NMC — more than any other college, said Melissa Alberts, the Band’s higher education specialist, who also liked the new name.
The NMC board approved the new nickname at Monday night’s board meeting, following the lead of a collective campus vote. About 600 students and staff voted on the name at the 2012 PinePalooza event on campus and via e-newsletters. At 36 percent, the nickname garnered the most staff and student votes. Black squirrel came in second (24 percent); bison was third (23 percent); and pine marten came in a distant fourth at 17 percent.
A handful of students interviewed on campus Monday hadn’t heard word of the proposed mascot.
“It’s not that important, but I like it,” said Rondel Case.
Jarrod Hoehn said mention of a new mascot name probably was noted in an email he hadn’t read.
“It’s not too bad,” he said. “Pine marten is also not bad. White pine is kind of a symbol here.”
The same was thought of bison and black squirrels, both of which have a special presence in the area, Dolan said.
Hawk owls used to be common here, too, but moved north to cooler temperatures, Dolan said.
“They do come back in the fall looking for food,” he said. “It’s a regionally appropriate mascot.”
NMC President Tim Nelson came up with the idea of creating a new nickname, Dolan said.
“It was one little piece of every college’s identity, whether they have sports or not,” he said.