'Indians' mascot “respectfully retired”
West Irondequoit's name switch to Eagles effective 7/1/02
By Linda Quinlan, Reprinted by permission from the Irondequoit POST Messenger Newspapers 5/6/02
A bald eagle named Liberty and representatives from a Native American state historic site were present. In the sunny alumni courtyard at Irondequoit High School late last Friday
afternoon, about 100 students, faculty, staff, administrators, board members, guests, and alumni from classes dating as far back as 1937 gathered to mark the respectful retirement of the district's longtime "Indians" mascot and logo and formal adoption of the new "Eagles" mascot and logo. "Indians," however, will still be used through the end of the school year. The "Eagles" name is effective July 1.
The IHS Jazz Choir opened the event by singing the National Anthem, followed by initial remarks by Student Government President Jaime Gentile. There was acknowledgement of the depth of meaning for the tradition of the Indians name and the fact that it will take time to have the same feeling for the Eagles.
"Today, this tradition, this new name, is too young and too new for us to speak about it with passion or to feel that we strongly identify with it ... but 'West Irondequoit Eagles' will come to have meaning for us," student Chelsea Davidson predicted in her remarks at the ceremony. "It will stand for the pride we take in our school and our athletic teams. This new name will become the root, the heart of our school spirit."
The district's board of education unanimously voted to change the name late last summer in response to a spring request from state Commissioner of Education Richard Mills, citing the insensitivity of the continued use of Native American names, symbols, and mascots.
After a search process for a new name, Eagles was the majority choice of the community in a vote last fall.
"I like to think of what we are about to do," Superintendent Glenn Wachter said at the ceremony, "not simply as change, but as growth, a maturing of our society in general."
"While we will always cherish what this (Indians) name has meant for us and will always mean for generations of our graduates, we now understand that
its meaning is quite different for native people," he added. "Perhaps the essence of honoring is listening and respecting."
Peter Jemison, manager of the state historic site at Ganondagan in Victor, once the capital city of the Seneca Nation, and colleague Ronnie Reiter commended the school board for the action they took.
Gentile and IHS Principal Jeff Crane unveiled an 18-inch by 18-inch bronze plaque that will be permanently displayed in the courtyard as a reminder of the former name. With the words "We owe much to the values, dignity, worth,and wisdom of the Iroquois culture," the plaque acknowledges the long and proud history of IHS classes that used the Indians moniker for athletic competition. A profile of a Native American is in the center.
The plaque was designed by Gupp Signs of Rochester and sits on a pedestal built by Andy Riccheuto, a mason on the district's environmental services staff.
Liberty, a living American eagle, and his handler, Paul Schnell of Lyndonville, were part of the ceremony not only as a symbol of the new name, but Schnell also talked about the legend and symbolism of the graceful bird. Irondequoit parent Helen Barry was also recognized for designing the new logo, a profile of an eagle with its beak open. IHS English teacher Elaine Royer recited a poem, "Where Eagles Fly," and the ceremony concluded with a performance of the first Eagles cheer by the IHS cheerleading squad.
All guests received a commemorative wooden token featuring both the old and new logos. All 250 tokens were distributed and all are gone, said district spokeswoman Teresa Werth.
Alumni unveiled an official "Indians Forever" sweatshirt, which is being made by Passantino Sports of Irondequoit. A sweatshirt with the new Eagles logo was also unveiled. It will be available after July 1. Orders for both are now being accepted.
Athletic director Dennis Fries concluded the ceremony by promising, "We will fly where eagles fly."