Did you know that the Ohio University mascot, Bobcat, had a wife called Bobkitten? Documents from Ohio University’s archives reveal that, the issue surrounding Bobcat and Bobkitten is one of “the most highly guarded secrets.”
A Howard Hall senior, Fran Femia was the Bobkitten. Unfortunately, their ‘marriage’ was put asunder after two years by university officials, who said that character was not approved. Femia was disappointed and tried to give reasons why she should be allowed to continue alongside Mr. Bobcat because she had been in existence for at least 24 months. Moreover, Dad’s Weekend was approaching, and it was one of occasions she ceased to entertain parents and guests. But that chance was taken away by the powers that be.
Their marriage, appeared to be a fruitful one as she even appeared with her husband, Mr. Bobcat on a New York show called “The World of Cats.” But Bobkitten was not needed in the world of cats by Ohio University authorities. Her end was near. The destruction of the kitten character succeeded when the all female Howard Hall was demolished in 1972. The Chi Omega sisters took on the dress back then but little is known of it now.
Every Ohio University student is proud to be associated with the Bobcat brand. With honor, they continually shout “Go Bobcats!” to cheer on OU teams during games. But has anyone wondered how “Bobcat,” an animal’s name, became the nickname of Ohio University? Maybe not, but here it is.
In 1925, members of the Ohio University athletics board saw the need to have a nickname for the schools’ teams which were simply referred to as “OHIO” or “Green and White.” Schools that had nicknames mocked and called OU all sorts of names including “The Nameless Wonders.” Obviously, this did not sit well with the athletics board.
One morning, they announced a contest to allow students bring in their suggestion. Hundreds of names were submitted for a winning prize of ten dollars. After much scrutiny and deliberations, the name “Bobcat” was chosen. Hal H. Rowland, a student at the time, and resident of Athens took home the prize. The name was officially passed and adopted by one of OU’s former president, E.B Bryan on December 7, 1925. This was 29 years after the colors green and white were chosen. So, imagine three decades of no name. Your guess is as good as mine.
The 1925-26 baseball squad, the first team to play with the new name proudly used it in their next game and beat Denison 33-21.
Giving life to the Bobcat
The time was ripe to give life to the Bobcat. Men from Lincoln Hall made this decision to create a life-size costume of the character for the 1963 Homecoming because they wanted to “donate something permanent to the university.”
Plans were underway. A committee was formed to oversee the process. Schantz, a fine arts major and a costumier, created several designs until a final one was chosen. The head of the character was sent to France for creation after failed attempts to get it done in the U.S.; most importantly, labor was cheap. In cities like San Francisco and New York, the technique for the head, “papier-macheing,” was also not present.
The pants and gloves were sent to Van Horn and Sons in Philadelphia for sewing. A different company also in Philadelphia received contract for the hand-knit sweater which was expected to be 62 inches long and 42 inches wide.
The Lincoln Hall men spent a total of $250 on the mascot. The head costs $100, the sweater, $60 and the pants, $28. Padding for the stomach and rear was $35 and gloves, $6. After, the search for the person going to wear these was the next hurdle. They needed someone shorter than 5’ 11’’ in height. A member of the 1963 class and a Lincoln Hall resident, Dan Nicholas became the proud “Mr. Bobcat” as it was called. Then they decided the tradition must go on, and that, all Mr. Bobcats must come from the hall. Mr. Bobcat was then made a permanent member of the cheerleading group at all football and basketball games. His first appearance was during the 1960 Homecoming celebrations.
Mr. Bobcat’s first game
During the Homecoming, OU was scheduled to play their arch rival Miami Redskins (now the Redhawks). The Redskins had always been a thorn the in flesh of the Bobcats, winning all of the games played so far. On October 22 of this same year, they visited the Bobcats hoping to clinch their fourteenth victory. Little did they know Bobcat was now a living character that was going to ensure his kingdom was not defeated.
“The “animal” sprang from the tunnel under the stands, gave the hated Redskins a menacing sneer and signaled victory for Ohio.” The crowd stood and roared with a vengeance.” Ohio eventually won by thrashing Miami 10-0 and crowned the NCAA National College Champion. All credit went to Mr. Bobcat.
Since then, the mascot has undergone several changes in appearance.
When he became president, OU grew tremendously in reputation and size, therefore there was the need for a new student center to accommodate the growing Bobcat population to replace what they had, called the Student Union. It was located at the current site of School of Communications.
A committee headed by a psychology lecturer was set up to start the preliminary preparations for the project. In fall of 1947, student leadership initiated a campaign to facilitate the process. Petitions were circulated and about 4,000 students appended their signatures to pay an extra five dollars toward the new construction. They collected over $160,000.
State Legislature and a host of other groups donated toward the Baker dream. It was to be the school’s largest building at the time, with six floors.
By 1948, plans were advanced to put up the $1,357,795 “unique” OU center. The aim was to “give a well-rounded experience in university life.”
Bellman, Gillette and Richards of Toledo designed the building, which was an example of Georgian architecture. This was because the University wanted to “keep with the architectural scheme of buildings.”
Several buildings around the area, including O’Bleness cottages, Faculty Club, Veteran-housing units were razed to give way to the ultramodern student center, which was to have a frontage stretch of 138 feet along the East Union Street facing College Green.
After demolishing the old Baker Center (Student Union), work commenced on the new edifice. By summer of 1953, the building was ready for the celebration of the university’s sesquicentennial on February 18, 1954. It as a dream come true for both students and faculty as the school lacked a place for entertainment and recreational purposes.
This had the game room for the students. It had eight bowling lanes, 15 billiard tables, 3 table tennis tables, cards and football. It was also the location for campus lost and found.
This area housed a café called The Frontier Room. The café was opened to all university personnel up to midnight and beyond. They served snacks and meals all day and into the night, including beer.
The Frontier Room was for relaxation and a feel of the open fire.
This area was dedicated to the University Information Center, 1804 Lounge, 1954 Lounge, the University Club and a place called A Sculpture for scholarship trophies.
In the University Club, the dress code was dining room coats and ties for men and skirts for women.
This floor had offices of the Director of Baker, Auditor, Duplicating Services and secretary in charge of reservations. It also had meeting rooms, TV lounge, large ballroom and an art gallery.
Third and fourth floors:
These floors had offices for student organizations including student government, dean of student activities, International student lounge, Directors of Sorority and Fraternity Affairs and the center program board.
The New Baker Center:
In 2000, the idea for a high-tech university center was presented by the student senate partly because the old Baker was far north of campus. They wanted a building quite centered on the campus for easier access from all parts of campus.
By February 2004, the Ohio University Board of Trustees approved the 60 million dollar project. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in March of 2004. In January 2007, the current Baker Center was opened. With the same Georgian design, the facility has won awards including two Golden Trowel awards from the International Masonry Institute. In 2008 Baker University Center was awarded the grand prize with honors from Learning by Design and Best Project in Ohio for its terrazzo floor art.