By Gary Simmons, Staff Writer –
We’ve all seen that big blue bird around campus. His picture is on the MCC logos, and he often appears at sports events, waving to the crowd.
That’s Jayhawk, and he’s celebrating a milestone birthday this year. He’s all of 75 years old now.
Jay, as he prefers to be called, has represented MCC to the community since 1940. Of course, he’s gone through a few moltings and sprucing up, but he’s still Jay.
“The mascot represents the best of MCC,” said Peter Koryzno, MCC communications manager. Jay appears at a variety of events on campus and in the community. The most recent event was Founder’s Day 2015. His appearances are usually brief, and he’s big on getting his picture taken with children as well as celebrities.
But what is a Jayhawk? Is it a blue jay, a hawk, or a little bit of both?
In the November 5, 1940, issue of the Bay Window, a letter as published in the paper’s “As The Jay Sees It” letter to the editor section. The letter, signed by “a Jay bird” bemoans the lack of a school spirit at the then-named Muskegon Junior College. The letter went on to say that the school, with a nickname like the “Jaycees” (J. C.) would unfortunately lead to the college having a weak mascot, presumably a jay bird, and that a more “masculine” mascot is needed to inspire “vim, vigor, and vitality” in the student body.
Sure enough, on the very next page, the sports page, the college’s new Jayhawk name was printed at the very top, to announce an upcoming game against Hope College. The word “hawk” was believed to have been added to make the Jaycee name sound stronger and fiercer.
Of course, trying to get a straight answer out of Jay — or any answer for that matter — is impossible, since Jayhawks can’t talk. When anybody asks him a question, he just waves and jumps around a bit.
“ Jay, is viewed as a friendly mascot, especially beloved by children, who appears at a number of events during the school year, said Koryzno. “In most cases, he appears for a short time and usually poses for photos with folks.”
A popular campus activity where Jay appears is Mayfest, a spring event with family-friendly activities.
Other appearances Jay has made include the reopening of the campus bookstore last September, the Jayhawk Scramble golf tournament, various community parades, and Welcome Wednesday at the beginning of the year.