Guest Voices: bring back Pennsy the Seal, Chatham’s old mascot

Guest Voices is an occasional series that invites students to share their views about a topic of importance and interest to them on campus.


Pennsy the seal with students. Photo Credits: Chatham Archives

By Chatham Student Government’s Seal Caucus (Aidan Bobik, Maggie Vargo, Katie Crouch and Gabrielle Slovikosky)

Chatham deserves a mascot as unique as our campus. And frankly, a cougar doesn’t fit the bill. Fortunately, we don’t have to look far as our history presents a strong alternative: Pennsy the Seal.

Pennsy served as the mascot of Chatham University from 1946 until 1995 when she was usurped by Carson the Cougar (who didn’t even have a name until 2011). She was a friendly, helpful goofball who found a home at Chatham.

Pennsy was closely associated with the student body and campus traditions. In fact, Pennsy originated in a student-written song, performed as part of the annual Song Competition in 1943. That’s worth repeating: Pennsy was created by students and grew in popularity among the student body, before being officially adopted as the official mascot. She wasn’t placed by the University administration  — she grew from the University and its culture and students.

Chatham University has a strong history as an institution built upon a principle and dedicated to women’s empowerment and gender equity. Our university has served as a place to empower women for generations. We’re also a Pittsburgh cultural institution — from our elegant mansions to the Rea Coffeehouse. 

Suffice it to say, Chatham isn’t a mini-University of Pittsburgh. We’re not Penn State-junior. We’re not simply another big cat. We’re a different type of institution, and we deserve a different type of mascot. According to MascotDB, 71 colleges and universities have or had a cougar as a mascot. Only one university, however, has ever had a seal — Chatham University. 

Pennsy is as unique as our university. She’s an icon, plain and simple. It’s only reasonable for her to once again have a presence on our campus. 

Furthermore, Pennsy can serve as a strong representative of one of our key values: sustainability. According to the World Wildlife Federation, seals are one of the most targeted marine mammals, often hunted for their pelts, blubber and meat. Additionally, seals are significantly threatened by global climate change. As such, several species of seals are close to extinction, and, in the United States, they are protected under various laws. 

And let us not forget, Rachel Carson, prominent alumnae of Chatham University, was a marine biologist who brought attention to the need for conservation, sustainability and action. 

Bringing Pennsy back enhances our values while continuing to recognize the contributions of our significant alumni.

Simply put, a mascot should be representative of a university’s values, culture, history and identity. On every mark, Pennsy scores high. She is a reminder of who we are — of what makes Chatham, Chatham. Her memory is ever important, especially as our campus changes and evolves. 

As members of Chatham Student Government, we have begun working on legislation and other actions to bring attention to Pennsy. Our caucus aims to inform the campus community of Pennsy the Seal and advocate for her return as the Chatham University mascot. Our central message is clear: bring back Pennsy.

It is a shame that Pennsy is not as widely recognized. This should change, and we see our work as beginning that process. We’re pro-seal, are you?