Origin of the Owl

“The owl of the night makes the eagle of the day.” So were the words of Temple University’s founder, Russell Conwell. The story of how Temple students became Temple Owls is a long one. Because Temple began as a night school to teach students with limited means, the students were referred to as “night owls.” The decision to officially call students “owls” was made by the trustees of the Grace Baptist Church, where Conwell served as minister.

In fact, the trustees chose birds to represent all three branches of the church: the Samaritan Hospital (now Temple Hospital) they chose the dove, for Temple College they selected the owl, and for the church itself they chose the eagle. Conwell endorsed the decision and kept a plush owl on his desk. The owl was a symbol of resourcefulness and courage.

In 1931, Temple’s football team received a live great horned owl as a gift from the University of Missouri football team, dubbed Owliver. Unfortunately, nobody was prepared to take care of the owl and he was donated to the Philadelphia Zoo, where he lived until 1947.

In 1977, Temple decided to try again and a costumed character named “Victor E. Owl” was introduced. Seven years later, the university conducted a contest to choose a new name for the mascot, and students chose the name Hooter. As the school’s official mascot, Hooter is now a familiar face at Temple’s football games, basketball games and other school spirit events.

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Stella, Temple’s current live mascot, began her career in 2013. Stella is a great horned owl who was born in 2010 in Washington state. She arrived in Pennsylvania in 2011 and lives in the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, PA. Besides serving as Temple’s live mascot, Stella also serves as an education ambassador at the Elmwood Park Zoo, helping guests learn about wildlife conservation.

Hooter and Stella aren’t the only owls in the collegiate nest. Although Temple was the first university in the United States to adopt the owl as a mascot, several other schools and universities across the country have joined the parliament (the name for a group of owls).

Rice University in Texas has Sammy the Owl, while Kennesaw State University in Georgia has Scrappy and Brandeis University in Massachusetts has Ollie. Like Temple, Florida Atlantic University has both a costumed mascot and a live owl mascot named Hera and Owsley. Hera is the only other live owl mascot in Division I athletics, alongside Stella. Bryn Mawr College, Kenne State College and Southern Connecticut State University have owl mascots as well.

The owl is one of Temple’s many traditions. Our mascot has a rich history that stems from Temple’s origins as a night school. While the school itself has changed, all Temple students past and present know that they will always be proud Owls.

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