An African American student in Brian Goedde’s Community College of Philadelphia class put it bluntly: “You know, in the story of American history, I don’t think I’m rooting for the colonials.”
But for a long time, it was “Colonial Phil,” a white man in a tricornered hat, who, as the school mascot, was the chief cheerleader for the college.
That changed Tuesday when the 27,000-student CCP unveiled its new mascot: “Roary,” the lion.
The change, several years in the making, followed a student petition, a vote to select a new mascot, and the design of that mascot by a company hired by the college.
“A lion, I think we can get behind that,” said Goedde, an assistant professor of English.
Hundreds of students and faculty attended the unveiling of Roary, a golden-maned feline in black and gold shirt and shorts, who strutted up a red carpet to the “Rocky” song, as dozens of students and staff, their smart phones held in the air, clicked the lion’s picture. The 76ers’ “Franklin”and Will D. Cat, Villanova University’s wildcat, joined in the fun at the college’s 17th and Spring Garden Streets campus.
The college even vied for a new Guinness World Record for the longest collective roar by the largest number of people.
No one official at CCP could say how long Colonial Phil represented the college. CCP’s athletic teams date to 1967.
There was no controversy or “uproar” over Colonial Phil, as some colleges have experienced, said David Asencio, dean of students. Amherst College dropped “Lord Jeff” after complaints. The mascot was named after the 18th-century British general who advocated for a plan to deliver smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. Many colleges have moved away from Native American mascots and nicknames.
At CCP, the effort to change the mascot began on the main campus in 2016 when more than 600 students signed a petition, Goedde said. The late David Watters, then assistant dean of students, backed the change.
“The term ‘Colonial’ glorified the colonization of the Americas,” Watters wrote, according to Goedde, “and Colonial America and the Colonials of Philadelphia were almost exclusively Anglo or northern European.”
About half of CCP’s students are African American, nearly 15 percent Hispanic, and about 10 percent Asian. Less than a quarter are white.
“CCP’s legacy will be one of inclusion, diversity, and strength,” Jazmine Rozario, student body vice president, told the crowd. “This is why it was very important to our student body to have a mascot that reflected those very ideals.”
The college decided on the new mascot by a vote. Finalists were a lion and a panther.
“People will know us as the ‘pride’ of the city,” Asencio said, noting that the term pride also fittingly refers to a group of lions.
CCP has historical ties to lions, too, he said. The Mint, the college’s main administration building, features cast-iron figures of lions.
Troy A. Bundy, CCP graduate and the former student body president who put forth the petition to change the mascot, returned to campus for the ceremony.
“It took a little bit, but we are here,” Bundy said, clenching his fists and roaring like a lion.
CCP’s lion isn’t the only Roary. The Detroit Lions’ mascot carries the same name.
Colonial Phil officially has been retired for a couple of years now, and CCP’s sports teams have been known as the Lions. But they’ve been without a mascot until Tuesday.
From now on, students, trained in mascot behavior, will suit up as Roary. The lion will attend college athletic events, homecoming, recruitment sessions, and other activities. Roary was scheduled to debut at a volleyball game Tuesday night.
The college’s cafeteria was renamed Roary’s Cafe and its gymnasium the Lion’s Den.
“I love it,” Melisa Gunawan 33, a hospitality management major, said as she waited to participate in the Guinness record roar attempt. “He’s strong, brave, and smart. He represents our college.”