Students at Governors State University cheer Tuesday as the school's first mascot, Jaguars, is announced. The school in University Park is transitioning to a four-year university this summer. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 8, 2014 6:27AM
Governors State University on Tuesday became “Jaguar Nation,” and Paula Franklin could not have been happier.
She was the first person to suggest Jaguars as the school’s first mascot, and it was revealed Tuesday as the winner of a four-way online competition.
Franklin, who is studying toward her doctorate at GSU, earned a $350 gift card for her effort.
Bengals, Gladiators and Prairie Wolves also were among the finalists, selected from a field of 200 entries, and more than 30,000 votes were cast online. The school is making the transition to a four-year university, including establishing intercollegiate sports teams.
Franklin, who in 2005 earned her master’s degree from GSU, said that the Jaguar represents the school moving to the next level.
“It’s an animal, to me, that moves with precision. It’s always focused on the target,” said Franklin, of Park Forest. “I’ve watched how Governors State has grown.”
The selection of the mascot is “a symbol of Governors State University as a full-service public university,” GSU president Elaine Maimon told students and faculty.
GSU began soliciting mascot suggestions in February from students, faculty and the community at large, with 400 total entries, although some ideas were duplicated, leaving about 200 different ideas.
Some of the proposed nicknames that were quickly eliminated from consideration included Fighting Blagojeviches, Gnus, Governators, Lemurs, Painted Turtles, Squirrels and Thermometers.
Since opening in University Park (then Park Forest South) in 1971, the university has offered courses for juniors and seniors as well as graduate and post-graduate studies.
For its inaugural freshman class, GSU has received more than 500 applications and has set a cutoff of 270 freshmen. A student residence hall will open this summer.
Franklin, who also submitted Tigers as a possible mascot name, said she knows that some of the money she received will go toward tuition but that she’ll be stopping by the school’s bookstore to pick up more Jaguar-oriented merchandise.