Meet William Paterson University's New Mascot... Billy the Bear!

He’s cute, he’s a black bear, and he wears a Pioneer-style coonskin hat, buckskin pants, boots, and orange T-shirt. His job is to boost school spirit.
BillyBear
Billy the Bear with Jess Pepe, SGA president

He’s cute, he’s a black bear, and he wears a Pioneer-style coonskin hat, buckskin pants, boots, and orange T-shirt. His job is to boost school spirit. At games and events, he’s already arousing cries of “Hey Billy! Billy the Bear!”

“We felt that having a mascot would boost Pioneer pride,” says Jessica Pepe, Student Government Association (SGA) president. A few years ago, SGA members began advocating for a mascot. Pepe did extensive research, and found that many companies specializing in mascots suggest using an animal that is native to the geographic region. The SGA officers met with student development administrators to discuss the possibilities, and then put it to a student referendum vote. Since the University is located adjacent to High Mountain Park Preserve, where wildlife is plentiful, the choices were narrowed down to a wild turkey or a black bear. The black bear won with close to 80 percent of the vote.

As far back as the 1940s, students started using the term “Pioneer” to represent their pioneering spirit. In subsequent decades, the school’s athletic teams took on the name Pioneers. Billy is an evolution of that concept. “We still wanted the Pioneers to be represented as fierce, dominant, and powerful,” explains Pepe, so the idea was to dress the bear as a pioneer.

Approximately eight student volunteers wear the Billy the Bear mascot costume and they follow a list of behavior guidelines, including, “Stay in character. People are always watching.”

Pepe says that giving birth to William Paterson’s first official mascot required a lot of creativity and effort. The costume arrived in pieces and the outfit had to be customized. In the end, many people helped with the sewing project, including both a professor and a roommate’s grandmother. “Everyone calls him my baby,” says Pepe. (Click here to check out Pepe’s Billy the Bear Fan Club on Facebook.)

01/08/10