WILKES-BARRE – About 65 years after he came up with the name, 90-year-old Joe Pringle met The Colonel – the mascot of Wilkes University.
Wilkes has produced many legends, yet until recently even the university did not know where the name Colonels originated. The mystery has now been solved.
Pringle attended Wilkes College from 1946 to 1949. While there, Pringle entered a contest to give the new school a nickname for its athletic teams.
I took it very seriously, Pringle said during a visit to Weckesser Hall on Thursday. I learned about the contest from my English professor, Dr. Craig. She gave the class an assignment and told us we had to participate as part of our class work.
Pringle said the campus he attended consisted of two main buildings – Kirby Hall and Chase Hall. He said he researched Wilkes-Barre and wanted the nickname to incorporate the city's namesakes -- British Parliament members John Wilkes and Col. Isaac Barre.
Wilkes was already the name of the college; Pringle said he was challenged to find a way to include Barre.
Pringle, formerly of Kingston and now living in Wilkes-Barre, said the name came to him during his research.
When I learned Barre was a colonel, it just hit me, Pringle recalled. Wilkes Colonels was my suggestion, and I won.
Pringle said he was honored at a dinner dance held at Sans Souci Park in October 1947, and he was given a $25 War Bond for winning the contest. He said the Lee Vincent Orchestra played for dancing.
A search of the archives of the Wilkes College Beacon – the school's newspaper – found two references to the contest and Pringle's winning submission.
In the Sept. 24, 1947 edition of The Beacon, an Athletic Contest Ballot appears and students were asked to submit their suggestions and the reasons why the chose their particular nickname.
Then in the June 4, 1948, Beacon edition, Reese Pelton penned a column, Notes on Notes.
As this is the last column of notes to be written by your columnist, I thought it would be interesting to review the year's musical activities. With this in mind I searched the Beacon files and came up with the following info:
October: The first sport dance of the year was held on the 11th at Sans Souci to the music of Lee Vincent and his ‘band of the year.'
The dance was held to welcome the new frosh class; Joe Pringle was presented with a bond for winning the contest to name the athletic teams; Joe named them ‘Colonels.'
And the rest is history.
There are many legends in the Wilkes annals. Among them is Dean George Ralston, who served as dean of students and the school's first football coach. Dean Ralston, as he was best known, was thought by many in the Wilkes community to be the person responsible for the Colonels nickname. In a publication found at the Osterhout Library – What's in a Nickname – Ralston is given credit for naming the Colonels.
Ralston, who coached football, basketball and baseball at Wilkes during its first years after the name was changed from Bucknell Junior College, was from the South, and the book credits him for taking the name from a college down South – Centre – that had the nickname The Praying Colonels.
It states the original design of a colonel doffing his cap and bowing was done by an unknown Wilkes art student in the late 1940s.
But legend has given way to fact and Pringle met his creation – The Colonel – on Thursday for the first time.
George Ralston's widow, Helen , said the issue is settled. I bet George didn't even know that, she said of Pringle. I'm glad you were able to find it in the archives.
Wilkes University President Patrick F. Leahy had this to say about the issue: A university's future is built on the rich traditions of its past, so we are delighted to be able to confirm this piece of Wilkes' history. … I'm so pleased to be able to once again acknowledge our alumnus, Joe Pringle, the originator of that name.