Bernstein: What’s a Prof? Why I think it is time to change our name

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Maybe it is about time the Prof's get a new mascot. - Contributor / Heath Bernstein

Now welcoming to the field, the Rowan Profs! Wait, what is a Prof? Is it some kind of bird or a mammal? 

Rowan University’s athletic program has called themselves the “Profs” since 1957. The name celebrates Rowan’s history as a teacher’s college when it was known as Glassboro Normal School, then as Glassboro State College.  Our teams have enjoyed much success using that moniker, including winning Division III championships in field hockey and men’s soccer– reaching the championship game in football and baseball.  

Times change and we certainly wouldn’t be the first college to adopt a new nickname. That’s why I believe that we should poll the Rowan University community and find out from students, alumni, faculty, and administration if they agree with me that we should decide on a new nickname.

It’s important to have some background on the history of the Profs. While the name Profs was officially adopted in 1957, it wasn’t until 1959 that Don Pasquale sketched the first rendition of the Prof. In 1960, Claude DiGenova was the first person to don the Prof costume. The Prof mascot is a wise owl who is supposed to pay homage to what Rowan was originally: a school to teach teachers. 

When the Prof made its debut, it wasn’t met with much fanfare. The Prof name and mascot didn’t invoke much fear in our opponents. However, students decided it was better to be unique and hold onto the Prof, even though the first Prof costume was often mistaken for a chicken. 

There is precedent for changing the nickname of a college to a more popular name.  Evansville went from the Pioneers to the Aces.  Eastern Washington began as the Savages and are now the Eagles. Arizona State was formerly known as the Owls and Bulldogs until becoming the Sun Devils. So why doesn’t Rowan make a similar change?

It’s now been over 60 years that we’ve been called the Profs and had a wise old teaching owl as our mascot. In the 1960s, students may have thought it was cool to have this name that represented their college at the time, but is that really what the Rowan community should be represented by today? Rowan has held three names over its time span of being a college, shouldn’t the mascot change with it? 

With so many changes that have and will continue to expand Rowan for what it is, I think it’s time to ask that question in the form of an online poll that would be emailed to students, faculty, alumni, and administrators.  The contest could provide publicity for the university and renewed interest from current and former Rowan members. If the majority are in favor of a change, then the next step would be to ask for suggestions for new nicknames and form a committee that would make a recommendation to President Ali Houshmand and Athletic Director Dr. John Giannini.  

As we celebrate Rowan’s 100th anniversary this academic year, the timing for a new nickname would be fitting as the university is about to embark on its second century. 

This is an archive pulled from the Rowan Centennial Special Edition. This article from March 25, 1957 highlights the adoption of the owl as Rowan’s Prof official mascot.

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