Born a Buckeye, Rosemary Hathaway had little idea of how important a mascot could be to a state—until the Ohio native came to West Virginia University in 2007.
“At Ohio State, people consider themselves Buckeyes, but there’s not really this sense that being a Buckeye implies a certain set of values or a certain kind of identity,” said Hathaway, associate professor in the department of English.
“It just implies that you are from Ohio or went to Ohio State. The Mountaineer identity is so much more than that.”
Hathaway is researching the Mountaineer history and how the image of the mascot has changed over the years.
She will detail the many incarnations of the Mountaineer in her book, and has received funding from the West Virginia Humanities Council to complete this project.
“The focus for this summer is going to be to interview as many people as I can to put their personal histories into this larger history of the Mountaineer,” she said.
Hathaway has already started her Mountaineer tour with an interview with the first female Mountaineer and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. She hopes to interview all of the Mountaineers, but wants to focus especially on those who served in the crucial role during times of controversy or change in the university.
Hathaway witnessed Mountaineer controversy first hand early on during her time at the school. In her second year at the university, the second female Mountaineer in the school’s history was chosen. A number of people in the Morgantown area, particularly students, she said, met the decisions with cries of sexist outrage.
“We talk about the Mountaineer standing for independence and leadership, but we don’t talk about the longstanding assumptions that the Mountaineer is always white, male and looks a certain way,” Hathaway said. “We’ve kind of reached a point where we’re finally beginning to realize we need to address these assumptions about who and what the Mountaineer is.”
Hathaway plans to complete the book project in 2018. Even after the book is finished, she said she will never truly be done with this project. “There’ll always be more to say and there will always be new Mountaineers.”
CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Director of Marketing and Communication, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, West Virginia University, 304-293-6867, Devon.Copeland@mail.wvu.edu
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