The Origins of Chauncey the Beaver

Ever wondered why Champlain College’s mascot is a beaver? A new mini-exhibition in Miller Information Commons, on view during the fall semester, profiles the origins and evolution of Chauncey on campus.

Chauncey the beaver was born in 1960, when President C. Bader Brouilette decided the College needed a mascot. Inspiration struck when Dean Winthrop Tilley returned from a trip to Canada with this carved wooden beaver figurine:

Carved wooden beaver figurine, 1960. Champlain College Archives.

According to Carol Pearson Lewis ’59, Tilley “always said that C.C. students were ‘busy as beavers,’ as all of us had at least one part-time job – and many had two or three.” President Brouilette soon named Champlain’s beaver mascot “Chauncey” after his friend and close advisor, Henry Chauncey, a founder of Educational Testing Services in Princeton, New Jersey.

The first documented appearance of Champlain’s beaver on campus dates to the winter of 1960-1961, when Lewis and her husband Donald Lewis ’59, both recent graduates, created a snow sculpture during Champlain’s annual winter carnival:

Chauncey snow sculpture, winter carnival, early 1961. The building in the background is Smith House, a dormitory once located where the S.D. Ireland Family Center is today. Champlain College Archives.

Since 1961, versions of the beaver have appeared in publications, t-shirts and other branded attire and a succession of at least four Chauncey costumes.

Chauncey with a fan at a College basketball game in October 1998. Champlain College Archives, photo by Kathleen Landwehrle.

Chauncey and a Champlain student at Convocation, 2017. Photo by Steve Mease.

To Champlain, Chauncey is more than just a cute lovable furry creature. Beavers are master builders who create snug wetland dens from trees that they fell with their sharp front teeth, and other species depend on the wetland environments that they shape. Once nearly extinct in North America due to overhunting, beavers are again thriving. To me, Chauncey symbolizes tenaciousness and adaptability in the face of all obstacles. What does Chauncey mean to you?

-Erica Donnis, Special Collections Director

Special thanks to Carol Pearson Lewis ’59 and Diana Arey Agusta ’71 for their insights into Chauncey’s origins.

This post was updated on September 15 and 21, 2017.