Enlightened alumni’ supported change from Redmen to Storm, former vice president says


by Rob Stewart

The decision to drop the Redmen mascot had been made, but it wasn’t universally accepted.

One of the concerns faced by President Stephen Jennings and the administration was how Simpson’s roughly 10,000 living alumni and donors would feel about the change.

Though alumni were divided, as were some students and community members, there wasn’t a discernable loss in donations or a drop in the number of donors.

“Dr. Jennings received many letters from alumni protesting the change and swearing to never give Simpson College a dime,” said Dennis Hunt, the vice president for development and college relations at the time. “However, when we looked up the gift records of these alumni, we found that rarely had they ever given a dime. If they had, the gifts were usually minimal or inconsequential and usually in the nature of $10-$25.”

Hunt said many people supported the change.

“The president received just as many letters of support from the more enlightened alumni, who recognized the demeaning quality of Redmen and the value in dropping it,” Hunt said. “Those folks frequently sent checks with their letters.”

The local community’s reaction was as mixed as the reaction from Simpson’s alumni.

“The only display of protest I ever saw was when some of the local ‘Indianolans’ and a few middle-aged alumni wore hats occasionally that were emblazoned with ‘Once a Redmen, Always a Redmen,'” Hunt said.

While visible protests to the change were minimal, Hunt remembers some community members were concerned that Simpson’s change could result in changing the high school’s mascot, the Indians.

“Initially as I recall, many members of the Indianola community felt threatened and were afraid ‘some of those crazy, liberal-thinking people over at the college’ would try to change the mascot at the high school,” Hunt said “And then, what’s next? Change the name of the town?”

Jennings, who is now President of the University of Evansville, said the most opposition to the new mascot came from alumni who had participated in sports at Simpson.

“The decision to change the nickname was well received in some circles, but pockets of students, particularly athletes, were not especially happy,” Jennings said. “Alumni athletes were the most disturbed by the change.”

Some people thought the name change signaled the college’s surrender to pressures of political correctness.

One such group of student athletes wrote a Letter to the Editor in the January 16, 1992 issue of The Simpsonian saying the nickname didn’t demean, but rather honored Native Americans.

“We associate many desirable qualities with the Native American cultures: spirit determination, courage, heritage and fortitude,” the students wrote in the letter.

Jennings addressed this concern in the same week’s President’s column.

“The lesson here is that what is offensive to us is not necessarily the same for others,” Jennings said. “It’s simply not our business to tell others what’s offensive to them.”

Overall, Hunt remembers a favorable reaction from most of the Simpson community.

“The change as I recall was received well by the campus community,” Hunt said. “It should have been. It’s a college where there are … bright, open-minded people, who can understand that in America it is offensive to name men’s athletic teams Redmen and women’s athletic teams Lady Reds.”