It’s ancient. It’s monumental. And it’s been on campus all along.
Amherst College announced Monday that it had selected the mammoth as its new mascot, turning to a signature member of the institution’s natural history collection as its new symbol and concluding a lengthy — and at times controversial — debate over how best to represent the selective liberal arts school.
“The word mammoth conjures up an image of a mighty, imposing and fierce animal — the perfect symbol of Amherst’s strength, academically and athletically,” a college spokeswoman said in a statement.
The college, whose Beneski Museum of Natural History has kept a skeleton of a Columbian mammoth since 1925, had decided more than a year ago to do away with its unofficial mascot, Lord Jeff. That name had historical connotations that drew increasing concern around campus. Lord Jeffery Amherst, who commanded British forces in North America during the French and Indian War, supported giving smallpox-contaminated blankets to Indians, historians say.
The mammoth will be the school’s official mascot, a distinction that Lord Jeff never held, and one that will allow it to be featured on sports garb and promotional materials.
Amherst chose the mascot after voting by alumni, students, faculty, and staff. Close to half of the 9,295 votes were cast for the mammoth, school officials said. The vanquished finalists were the Fighting Poets, Purple and White, Valley Hawks, and Wolves.
That group was culled from a field of 2,046 community submissions. One of the more whimsical selections — the Hamsters — reached the semifinals.Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.