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GABE’S TAKES: Hey, Saint Louis University, what the hell is a Billiken?

todayJanuary 19, 2021

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Saint Louis University is a private Jesuit research university with campuses in St. Louis, Mo., and Madrid, Spain. Founded in 1818 by Louis Guillaume Valentin Dubourg, it is the oldest university west of the Mississippi River. It is also the second-oldest Jesuit university in the United States.

It is one of 28 member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. The university has accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

SLU has an enrollment of 12,546 students with an additional 7,101 students enrolled in its 1818 advanced college credit program. The 2019-20 student body includes 8,072 undergraduate students and 4,474 graduate students representing all 50 states and more than 82 foreign countries.

For more than 50 years, the university maintains a campus in Madrid, Spain. The Madrid campus is the first freestanding campus operation by an American university in Europe. Additionally, it is the first American institution to receive recognition by Spain’s higher education authority as an official foreign university. The campus has 850 students, a faculty of 110, an average class size of 17, and a student-faculty ratio of 12:1.

About the SLU main campus

SLU’s campus in Midtown St. Louis consists of over 282 acres of land, with 129 buildings on campus. The School of Law is in downtown St. Louis at Scott Hall. It’s a beautiful campus.

For the 2018–19 school year, the university would install 2,300 Echo Dots, the hardware for Amazon’s “smart assistant,” Alexa, in students’ dorm rooms. SLU is the first college or university in the United States to bring an Amazon Alexa-enabled device into every student’s apartment or student residence hall room on the campus.

SLU competes as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, a Division I conference, where they are the westernmost member. They are both the first member located west of the Mississippi and in the Central Time Zone. The school has soccer programs of national recognition for men and women. The school makes heavy investments in its on-campus athletic facilities in the past twenty years with the creation of Hermann Stadium and Chaifetz Arena. Chris May is the current director of athletics of the St. Louis Billikens.

But that is what this article is about.

What the hell is a Billiken?

To find out, we did some research. A few clicks later, we had our answer.

An early SLU football coach, John R. Bender, is said to have been the inspiration for the nickname “Billikens,” which is still used by the school’s athletic teams.

During the 1911 season, according to one version of the story, local sportswriters would comment that Bender bore an uncanny resemblance to a charm doll called a Billiken. Moreover, this was a national fad at the time. His squad became known as “Bender’s Billikens” and the name stuck.

Pretty wild.

The real story behind the Billiken, pre-SLU

The Billiken originated as a charm doll created by an American art teacher and illustrator, Florence Pretz of Kansas City, Mo. Pretz is said to have seen the mysterious figure in a dream. There is also the belief that Pretz found the name Billiken in Bliss Carman’s 1896 poem “Mr. Moon: A Song Of The Little People.”

In 1908, she would obtain a design patent on the ornamental design of the Billiken, which she sold to the Billiken Company of Chicago.

The Billiken was monkey-like with pointed ears, a mischievous smile and a tuft of hair on his pointed head. His arms were short, and he was generally sitting with his legs stretched out in front of him. The Billiken is known as “The God of Things as They Ought to Be”.

So there you have it. A beautiful university, one you may never have heard of, with a very unique mascot. Yes, it’s weird, but what’s better than an odd game day tradition?

This article was previously published on Midwest Sports NetworkFeatured image via the SLU website.


For more sports, news, and entertainment, follow Gabriel Schray on Twitter @schrayguy and the Midwest Sports Network on Twitter @MWSNsports and on Facebook.

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schray
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Gabriel Schray is an editor and contributing writer for Heartland Newsfeed and the editor-in-chief of Midwest Sports Network. He is one of the top up-and-coming sports play-by-play broadcasters in the United States. He is currently the voice of Adrian College Athletics, where he calls football and hockey. You can hear Schray on ACSN, ACTV, WVAC, BCSN 1, BCSN 2, BCSN Now, JTV Jackson and more. Professional portfolio: GabrielSchray.com

Written by: Gabriel Schray

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