In a letter dated May 2, 1983, Larry Rakestraw, the only student to enroll the college on its first day of registration (September 28, 1933), described the mascot's history.
I received on Christmas, 1932, a wooden penguin, about four inches high, blue coat, with articulated legs. If placed on an incline, it would walk down the slope with the determined but uncertain gait of a sailor on shore leave. I took it along when I went to Clark.
One evening in the fall of 1933, I removed a leaf from the study table in the Hidden House library, placed the leaf on a pile of books, and was walking the penguin when the Dean, Robert T. Oliver, walked in. "Aha, Oswald, the Blue Penguin!", he exclaimed; and I realized at once that Oswald was the proper name for the bird. "The college needs a mascot," Oliver went on, "Would you be willing to donate Oswald?" and I agreed.
Oswald the Blue Penguin occupied a place of honor on the mantlepiece of the fireplace at Hidden House while I was there, 1933-35, and while my wife was there, 1935-37.
Oswald through the Years
The photo on the left captures what is believed to be the last remaining replica of the original Oswald.
This replica of the original 4" version of Oswald was one of several available to Clark students in 1939 and 1940.
This priceless heirloom was generously donated to the college by Wallace H. Miller, Class of 1940.
Top row above: Oswald as seen in the 1936 (left) and 1938 Galapagon yearbooks. Bottom row: Oswald in the 1939 (left) and 1940 Galapagon yearbooks. (This was well before Clark became a tobacco-free campus.)
The 1950 issue of the Galapagon yearbook featured a whimsical view of how Oswald made his way from Antarctica to the Galapagon Islands to Clark College.
The 1965 Galapagon yearbook also paid tribute to Oswald's arrival at Clark College.
In the 1966 Galapagon yearbook, editor Linda Howard shared an alternate version of the origins of Oswald that has also lived on over the years. Generally, the Larry Rakestraw version (above) is viewed as the correct historical origin of the college mascot.
Protecting the Penguin
In 1988, the college made plans to remove the penguin from the floor of the Clark gymnasium. Students held a protest to protect the penguin. Their efforts to thwart that "fowl" deed resulted in news coverage in The Columbian newspaper and a compromise that kept Oswald in his place of honor in the gym.
The Penguin Nation
In his 2007 State of the College address, President Bob Knight proudly proclaimed Clark College to be "The Penguin Nation."