Otis the Owl

Photos courtesy SCSU Public Affairs
From Southern Alumni Magazine, Fall 2009:

“In 1948 students at New Haven State Teachers College, as Southern Connecticut State University was then known, proudly cheered for the basketball and football teams, which were commonly referred to as “The Educators” and, to a lesser degree, “The Teachers.” But by the early 1950s, fans were lauding the athletics exploits of “The Owls.” A small news item, which appeared on the back page of the March 1951 edition of the Alumni News Bulletin, heralded the change: “TC [Teachers College] has a brand-new official mascot, a wide-eyed owl, complete with TC sweater, and the traditional volume tucked under one wing.”

The owl mascot soon became a beloved presence at games and other events, with a dedicated fan decked out as Southern’s ultimate fine-feathered friend. In step with the ongoing evolution of the university, the mascot has had its fair share of major makeovers during the last 58 years. A new costume was developed for the 2006-07 academic year, in conjunction with the adoption of a new athletics logo, according to Michael Kobylanski, associate director of athletics/communications.
Today, Southern students, including many student athletes, portray the Owl on a rotating basis. Among them was May graduate Gary Pope, ’09, a liberal studies major and member of the track and field team, who played the Owl at games and other events, including Girls and Women in Sport Day in January.

Pope was working in the athletics equipment room when opportunity came knocking. “The costume was free and they gave me the chance,” says Pope. “I had always wanted to be the Owl…to get to wear the costume at least once.”
When pressed, he grudgingly admits that the costume is heavy, somewhat difficult to put on, and challenging to communicate in, but he insists the rewards far outweigh any difficulties. His visit to a local elementary school provides the perfect illustration. “The kids just love the Owl,” says Pope. “They all come up to you…everyone is so excited, pulling you left and right. It’s a lot of fun to be the owl.”
Sources: “Southern Connecticut State University: A Centennial History,” by Thomas J. Farnham, Alumni News Bulletin New Haven State Teachers College, and the Laurel student yearbooks.”

Circa 1952: Take one set of wings and a painted hat-box. Voila! Meet the New Haven State Teachers College owl.
1964: The owl strikes a relaxed pose during the early Beatles era.
1978: Spreading his fabric wings at a basketball game.
1988: The owl lost his feathers, but gained a fine suit of faux fur.
1991: Big beak equaled big attitude as the owl adopted a more aggressive look.
1999: Soft and cuddly again ruled the day.
2008: The friendly raptor was a big hit on Bring Your Child to Work Day.
2009: The contemporary owl mixes and mingles.

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