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How the Gorillas got their name

Unique to Pittsburg State, the gorilla mascot dates to 1920 and at the time was slang for “roughnecks.” Today, it represents a symbol of strength.

The original “Gorillas” were founded as a pep club by 24 students to generate college spirit and enthusiasm. Their first public appearance was at an all school assembly on Thursday, October 7, 1920. Their motto: “We want pep and we want it at all times”.

“According to Mathew’s ‘Dictionary of Americanisms,’ to call someone a gorilla in 1920 meant they possessed characteristics of strength, intimidation, and untamed rowdiness. That’s exactly the characteristics the first Pittsburg gorillas hoped to portray.”

Former PSU archivist Randy Roberts

By 1924 the pep club had grown to around 200 members, and on January 15, 1925, the gorilla was officially adopted as the school’s mascot.

Gus the Gorilla

Around 1923, art student Helen Waskey was recruited by the pep club to make the first drawing of “Gus Gorilla”, and in recent decades the Gorillas have repeatedly been named among one of the best mascots at any level.

The love for the Gorilla mascot is best exemplified by an online contest to name a newborn gorilla in a Texas zoo. When the Fort Worth Zoo announced a poll to name a Western lowland gorilla born there on December 5, 2015, one of the names up for vote was “Augustus”. In less than 24 hours, Pittsburg State alumni and students caught wind of the contest and the name easily won.