When making the decision to attend the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, you already know that the academic programs are incredible here, and that our athletic teams tend to dominate at the national level. Everyone also knows that there is pride in being a Warhawk. The question is why are we called the Warhawks? Maybe because it flows well with Whitewater (“W” and “W”)? Nope. Maybe because the name is just awesome? Not quite. We’re going to flash back in time to discover some interesting facts about our mascot’s history and how we actually became the Warhawks.
We were actually originally called the Quakers. This unofficial nickname started sometime during the 1920’s-1930’s, and continued until 1957. There are a couple rumors as to how we acquired this nickname. One story is that a Canadian baseball team visited Whitewater to play a game, and left behind a box of jerseys that said Quakers on the back. Another is that they were jerseys from a local baseball team named the Quakers. Either way, the Whitewater Normal School team began wearing the jerseys, and sports reporters covering their games began referring to them as the Quakers. From then on, the name caught on as the unofficial campus mascot.
As the Quaker name continued to grow in popularity on campus, students fully embraced the name. The Quaker mascot appeared in parades, and spirit events. Students passionately cheered on their athletic teams, waving pennants with the image of the Quaker on them during football games. And they used the mascot in their Homecoming house decorations. They even affectionately nicknamed Hamilton Field, Whitewater’s first football field, the “Quaker Oatmeal Bowl.”
In 1958, campus held a “Change the Quaker” contest for students to vote for a new mascot. After all the ballots were counted, the Warhawk was chosen to be the first official Whitewater mascot. “Mr. Warhawk”, a mascot dressed as a Native American, made his debut in 1959.
The Warhawk continued to be represented by a Native American mascot into the 1970s. Then in 1982, the cheerleaders conducted a “Name the Warhawk” contest which awarded the prize of $25 to the first place winner during the Homecoming halftime program. Willie the Warhawk as born.
After becoming a bird mascot, Willie has seen a few changes in appearance over the decades following. Originally in the 1980s he resembled the Angry Bird character “Red”, but with flowing purple feathers. Willie then took on a doe eyed, more animated look in the 1990s.
By the early 2000’s, Willie the Warhawk took on a more “muscular” look in attempts to look more impressive and aggressive as Whitewater began to significantly dominate on and off the field.
Today, we are still the Warhawks, and Willie the Warhawk is looking better than ever! As we approach the kick off of our 150th Celebration in April, it’s fun to look back and see how our mascot and our campus has grown and changed over the years.
I want to give a shout out to Chloe Rettinger for all of her help with this blog! She deserves a lot of credit for everything she has done. With her great contributions, Chloe made this blog into something special. Thank you so much Chloe!