History Of the Pittsburg State Gorilla
The Pittsburg State University mascot, Gus the Gorilla, is one
of the most unique mascots in American higher education.
In 1920, a group of young men dissatisfied with the state of
school spirit organized themselves in order to accelerate
college spirit and enthusiasm until it shall permeate the State.
Twenty-four students, under the leadership of Harold
“Babe” Alyea, joined the fledgling organization as the
Gorillas; a 1920’s slang term for roughnecks.
According to one of the editorials the group sent to the
school newspaper, “The only thing wrong with this school is
that the student body is made up of a bunch of would be school
teachers who are trying to get their dignity established before
they get out. We
want PEP and we want it all the time.
Thereafter the Gorillas sponsored pep rallies, picnics, freshman
hazing, mock wedding and burials, special trains to out of town
athletic events, shoe “sails”, and “night shirt
stampedes” through downtown Pittsburg. The group membership quickly grew to over a hundred.
In 1923, the Gorillas enlisted the aid of art student Helen
Waskey to make a drawing of the Gorilla.
Two years later, the group offered their symbol to the
school, as it’s official mascot.
On January 15, 1925 the student body unanimously adopted
the “ferocious beast … as a name and synonym for the
During his first half-century, the Gorilla became less ferocious
and more lovable in appearance, being dubbed “Gus.”
Gus eventually even found a mate, “Gussie”, created
by Charles Galvin in 1952 for a student union display.
Gus first became a cartoon figure in 1952, drawn by Lee
Green, Kanza art editor. Gus
became a permanent fixture on campus when the Class of ’65 had
him cast in fiberglass by Larry Wooster and set in front of the
During the summer of 1980 artist and PSU alumnus Ted Watts set
out to recreate the original ferocity of the mascot.
“I recall how disappointed I was the first time I saw
Gus the Gorilla,” says Watts. “I was expecting King Kong,
which he wasn’t.”
In the mid-eighties the University wanted a reproducible
logo centered on their mascot.
Wayne Davenport, then Director of Public Relations for
the university, assigned the design project to Michael Hailey in
Mr. Hailey was then also on staff in the Public Relations
spent time researching the Gorilla in general, and those images
used by the university over the years.
He wanted to use geometric shapes to form the Gorilla.
This would make it both unique and reproducible. In doing so he
also wanted to create an image, which appeared, both intelligent
Utilizing tempera paints, Hailey created the design, which is
still used today. If
one takes a moment to examine the “split face”, they will
realize the power of the eyes in the image.
His objective of creating an image, which looks, both
intelligent and fierce is still realized today.
Being the only college or university with the Gorilla as
the mascot, Mike Hailey’s image is now universally recognized
with Pittsburg State University.