The history of SNHU mascot Petey Penmen and the quill is a long one, not only in Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) history but in the nation's history as well. It is also a unique one. "SNHU is the only school in the country with Penmen as a mascot," said SNHU Associate Director of Athletics Tom Wilkins.
Founded in 1932 by Harry A.B. Shapiro, a certified public accountant, SNHU was initially known as the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Commerce. "The institution focused on vocational training in bookkeeping, accounting and secretarial skills," said Christopher Cooper, SNHU's Shapiro Library digital initiatives librarian and archivist.
In 1961, the institution was renamed New Hampshire College of Accounting and Commerce, which was then shortened to New Hampshire College in 1969.
The college's early athletes were dubbed "The Accountants," and it was not until the 1970-71 school year that they became the Penmen. According to Cooper, the new designation occurred during the time in which the college moved from its earlier downtown location to the current campus location.
"The Southern New Hampshire University 'Penmen' was designed to evoke memories of the spirit of the hardy New England colonials," Wilkins said. "The brawny physique of the original Penmen, with its muscular legs, arms and torso, was designed to represent the rugged character of the original New England settlers."
The SNHU mascot, not referred to as "Petey" until late 2006, went through many incarnations since the 1970s but has consistently held a pen. "Since the university was founded as New Hampshire College of Accounting and Commerce, the quill, or pen used by colonial accountants, became the 'staff' of the character," Wilkins said.
The first Penmen mascot was developed during the 1993-94 school year. Around the time of 1998, there was interest in a design that looked a bit more friendly, and this redesign was the first to be dubbed "Petey." The present Petey Penmen mascot was introduced during the 2008-09 school year.
The current Petey Penmen logo was created in 2001 by The Silverman Group, Inc., which corresponds to the transition from NHC to SNHU. "There was a general effort to change and improve the institution's branding," Cooper said. "He was given a more active, charging appearance." He was depicted to be a revolutionary war soldier.
Now, as a revolutionary war figure, Petey holds his quill so that it acts as a flagstaff for the American Flag flowing behind him. "I think Petey's quill is to tie the strong American roots in the New England fabric with the spirit of the SNHU being founded as an accounting school," Wilkins said.
Based on Cooper's records, the first found reference to the quill logo, which read "THE PEN BUILT OUR NATION," was on the cover of the institution's academic catalog in 1958.
"Before the advent of more advanced technology the quill would have been the tool of the trade," Cooper said. Not only was the quill a common tool of the time, it was heavily relied on during the founding of the United States during the Revolutionary War era. Cooper explained that John Adams once said, in reference to revolutionary activist Thomas Paine, "Without the pen of the author of 'Common Sense,' the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain."
As a past speech teacher, Executive Vice President and University College Provost Patricia Lynott realizes the importance of the pen. The success of "Hamilton," the musical, and the current political campaigns have reminded her about "how powerful language is, how powerful the written word is, and that we are the Penmen," Lynott said. "That we are writers, that we are a quill, that we recognize the power of the quill."
In addition to the use of the quill logo, "The Quill" was the name of the institution's yearbook for three years during the 60s - and the name is still prevalent across campus in many capacities including The Quill restaurant, which is an integral part of the university's hospitality program.
The Office of Alumni Engagement has a Petey Penmen initiative to congratulate post-graduates to their new status as alumni and remind them that no matter where they are in the world, they are still Penmen. "Graduates receive a welcome letter from the alumni community, their transcript and diploma, and a cardstock punch-out Petey head with our social media tags and information about engaging as alumni," said Kristi Durette, executive director of the Office of Alumni Engagement. "They are encouraged to take Petey with them on their travels, take pictures and share them with us and the community."
The SNHU mascot represents the history of the United States and of the college itself, and he's garnered attention throughout his home state. "In 2015, Petey the Penmen was named New Hampshire's best mascot in a fan survey by WOKQ," said Wilkins, who along with his marketing team, manage Petey Penmen's appearances and interactions.
"My favorite story was waiting hours before the national championship game for Petey, and he arrived via UPS just in time," Wilkins said. "Another great memory was picking Petey up at the Evansville, Ind., airport in full costume. Talk about a TSA nightmare!"
Petey Penmen and his quill are unique to this country and symbolic to SNHU. "[The quill] creates conversation, as does Petey, about its origin and allows us to engage in storytelling about the founders of the university," said Durette. "It creates a context for the mission of education in its founding and I believe more broadly encourages students to write their life's next chapter."