By Angelica Diaz
Youngstown State University’s mascot, Pete the Penguin, just celebrated his 86th birthday. What better way to celebrate than with chocolate pudding and playing pin-the-beak on Pete the Penguin at Kilcawley Center Feb. 8!
“We decided to celebrate by throwing him a little party,” Emily Brown, a member of the spirit and tradition committee, said.
Students took pictures with Pete, enjoyed free snacks and brought donations for the campus food pantry.
My Le, a sophomore marketing major, enjoyed watching everyone celebrate.
“It’s really amazing we get to celebrate Pete’s Birthday,” Le said. “It’s a great event to get students to engage in the tradition of Youngstown State and Pete is cute. Everyone is just happy to be here and celebrate his birthday.”
Megan Wade, a member of the spirit and tradition committee, said Pete’s birthday is a fun event to celebrate.
Brian Brennan, assistant archivist at Maag Library says he has done research on Pete because of the many questions students have asked. Last year he said he was approached and asked about Pete’s official birthday.
He said the question had never been brought up before, but after some research he and his colleagues decided Feb. 9, 1933, is officially Pete’s birthday, which was the day the term Penguin was applied to YSU athletic teams.
“What had happened was our basketball team had taken a long winter drive in an unheated bus to West Liberty State Teachers College in West Virginia to play their team,” Brennan said. “When they got there they were frozen stiff.”
Brennan said once the team went out to the basketball court, the players were flapping their hands in order to warm up.
“Look at those fellows from Youngstown, they look like a bunch of penguins,” the West Liberty Coach said
Brennan said that was the night the name Penguins was born. The name stuck around, and in 1938 a football team was created and they decided to have a penguin for a mascot.
“It was unique, nobody else had a penguin for a mascot,” Brennan said. “Everyone developed an affection toward the name.”
He said the name was applied to the basketball team, football team and other teams as well.
Brennan said there have been live penguins on campus.
“In 1939, Youngstown College acquired a live penguin, Pete I,” he said. “He died in 1941.”
Brennan added later after the war, YSU acquired two live penguins, Pete II and Patricia, who would spend off-months at the Pittsburgh Zoo, but who later got sick and died.
In the late 60’s came Pete III, which lived out in his dog house in front of Todd Hall, but later died of bird gout. Later in the ’60s, Brennan said the first Pete suit was made.
Brennan believes that celebrating Pete’s birthday can encourage student spirit.
“Pete is that central character that draws people together,” Brennan said. “Who doesn’t love Pete?”