The Humpback Whale: A UAS Tradition
While many schools choose mascot animals based on their fierceness or physical strength, other mascots convey decidedly different qualities. Here in Southeast Alaska, in addition to being a symbol of wildlife and conservation, the Humpback Whale is the epitome of grace, intelligence, and natural beauty.
The University of Alaska Juneau (UAJ) first adopted the Humpback Whale as its mascot in 1980. The whale was retained after the restructuring into the University of Southeast (UAS) in 1987 to include the Ketchikan and Sitka campuses. A student contest was held to name the mascot and the whale has been known as "Spike" ever since.
By 2005 the original Spike was showing serious signs of wear. The Spike used today was born September 10, 2005. Spike now has a Humpback Whale appearance and includes XtraTuf footwear so as so better navigate the S.E. Alaska terrain.
Mascots: An American Tradition
Mascots are symbols of pride, loyalty and inspiration dating back to the American Civil War where many regiments had living mascots, the more famous of which were Sallie, the bull terrier of the 11th Pennsylvania, and Old Abe, the Bald Eagle of the 8th Wisconsin. After the war, the mascot tradition spread to colleges and universities when intercollegiate athletic games and rivalries emerged. Today, mascots are a recognizable face or personality for a school that add to
school history, tradition and pride.
Our school mascot has always been a Humpback Whale (est. 1987) but the mascot character itself has not. The original Spike costume was actually a modified catfish made to look more like a Humpback Whale. The current Spike is custom designed, complete with Southeast Sneakers (rain boots).
Photo Left: Spike of 1987-2005 was often observed feeding on campus. Chancellor John Pugh shown with Spike of 2005-present.
Leo Ellis, 5 yrs. of age, of Harborview Elementary School won the grand prize for the Name the UAS Whale Contest. Leo received the award during half-time of the Simpson College, UAS Whales Game, Nov. 22, 1987. View the original article.
None other than Michael Ciri, our Vice Chancellor for Administration. In his bio, Ciri claims he is, "... in the UAS mascot hall of fame as the original "Spike" the whale." Ciri was often seen bounding the stands during UAS Whale and Ladey Whale basketball games. We're in the process of looking for video and pictures to verify his claim, but this was at a time when everyone didn't carry a camera or video recorder. We've run this against Snopes (urban legend debunker) but they show no record.
For the complete UAJ Whales versus UAA Seawolves basketball game visit our YouTube channel. This game was considered UAJ's biggest game and first time playing against UAA. This non-divisional game turns out to be a real "nail biter".
Spike's music taste can not be verified but it appears that the Admissions and Recruiting Office did by this early UAS recruiting video.