GROVE CITY COLLEGE -- THE HOME OF THE "WOLVERINES"
While Grove City College has been in existence since 1876, the nickname "Wolverines" can be traced back to the 18th century.
In 1798, the Cunningham family settled in western Pennsylvania in the area which later became Pine Grove and then, Grove City. Wolves were occasionally seen patrolling the creek along the hillside, thus earning the body of water the name "Wolf Creek."
In 1876, the Select School at Pine Grove opened and then became Grove City College on November 21, 1884. As of that date, the College had a rather simple seal with no adornments.
That changed on June 13, 1911 as a new College seal was adopted. The seal incorporated the heads of three wolves into a shield, along with the Bible and the words "Lux Mea," meaning "My Light." This began the extensive use of the wolf as the presumed school mascot.
The 1917, 1918, 1920 and 1924 College yearbooks all featured a wolf head imprinted on the cover but Grove City's athletic teams were rarely called the "Wolves." Instead, "Crimson" was the customary nickname.
The term "Wolverine" does not appear until 1925. The Crimson Tornado reported a "victory for the Wolf Pack. That year, the publication also reported that "the Wolverines skinned the Bisons" and "the Wolf Pack smothered the Panther (University of Pittsburgh) in his own lair."
A 1923 literary publication called the "Wolf Pack" also made reference to the wolf. In the late 1920s and 30s, Wolves, Wolf Pack and Wolverines were seldom used. The nickname "Crimson" remained popular while "Grovers" gained prominence during this time. As the 1940s progressed, the use of "Wolverines" in conjunction with Grove City's football and basketball teams became increasingly popular.
In 1948, Willie the Wolverine made his first appearance at the Homecoming game. Willie, clad in a football uniform, featured a wolf's head that sported a large snout. Rev. Richard S. Beidler, '51, who wore the first Willie outfit that afternoon, was aware of the incongruity of the "Wolverine" name and the "Wolf" costume.
To eliminate the confusion, the 1949 yearbook featured a Willie the Wolverine caricature bursting through the Grove City College shield. Created by Don Kingsley, '49, the cartoon (below) depicts a wolf-like appearance, yet it was called a wolverine.
The yearbook announced "'Tis said when first this college came to be, a powerful Wolverine came out of the north to lie in the shades of our campus, to protect and keep eternal vigilance over all those who call themselves 'Wolverines.' 'Tis said and 'tis true ... for here he is ... Meet Willie the Wolverine."
To ensure that there will always be a "Willie" at Grove City, the Student Council (forerunner of Student Government Association) approved a Petition of Charter May 9, 1951. The charter perpetuated the Wolverine concept at Grove City. College President Dr. Weir C. Ketler, Dean of Men and Director of Athletics Robert E. Thorn both signed the charter, as did a host of student organization leaders.
Grove City College's athletic program grew in the 1970s and 80s with the addition of women's athletics. Women's teams at Grove City College were known as "Lady Wolverines" until this decade when "Wolverines" became the universal nickname for all intercollegiate teams at the College.
Below are the athletic logos used by the College until their discontinuation in the mid-2000s.
In 2008, the College unveiled a new athletic logo (below) to be used by its athletic teams and the athletic department.
The traditional-looking "G" is derived from the classic varsity letter awarded to Grove City athletes for the better part of the 20th century. The new symbol ties the College's rich athletic history and tradition to contemporary times and will be a highly-visible and easily-recognized icon for many years to come.
Historical research by Robert W. Smith, '59.
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