URBee’s nearly quarter-century tenure at the helm as the UR mascot has come to an end. His replacement, a more fierce and ferocious-looking Yellowjacket, will be officially unveiled, along with his new name on Friday, between the men’s and women’s basketball games against Washington University in St. Louis.
Over the years, the UR Yellowjacket has gone through a progressive evolution, beginning in 1890. There have been several versions of the insect since he was adopted as the mascot for UR sports. Not including the many variations of the current URBee.
The name “Yellowjackets” officially arose in 1929 as the official team name for UR sports because of the yellow hue of the UR uniforms. The name can be attributed to alumnus J. Howard Garnish ’27. The history goes that the name came from Garnish either after a brutal tackle while playing football or when it was used in an editorial he wrote. It was reported that after a hard hit in a football game he lifted himself up and looked to his teammates outfitted in yellow and exclaimed, “Go you Yellow Jackets!” The other story is that he used the Yellowjacket nickname in The Campus in an editorial he wrote after leaving the football team. According to the Oct. 9, 1985 Campus Times, he called the football team the “yellow-clad eleven” and ended the article, “Go to it, you Yellow Jackets! On to Rensselaer!” Some other possible titles for UR’s sports teams were rejected, such as the Genesseeans, Dandelions, Gold Bugs and Rivermen. If you’re a critic of the Yellowjacket name, just be glad none of those were chosen to represent our school.
The first Yellowjacket mascot was designed and used from the late 1940s until 1983. He was a cap-wearing cross between a mosquito and Popeye who looked like he was getting ready to duke it out with an opponent. In addition to this version of the Yellowjacket, there is a related rendition that is very wasp-like in appearance.
The next installment of the Yellowjacket mascot was the cute and happy bee that has been our mascot since 1983. URBee was born when former UR Sports Information Director Tony Wells felt that an update to the mascot was in need. In the Sept. 14, 1983 edition of the Brighton-Pittsford Post he said, “We wanted to create a more lively, ambitious Yellowjacket figure that could be used in conjunction with both our men’s and women’s teams and also be easily recognized by the public as the athletic symbol of the University.”
Pittsford resident Jerry Kilborn was commissioned to produce a series of sketches of the Yellowjacket. In total, he created a generic URBee, along with a URBee playing each of UR’s 24 varsity sports for men and women at the time. Besides these, an academic and medical school bee were created for use.
This isn’t the first time that the current URBee went up for a makeover. According to the Campus Times, in 1996, Students’ Association President Kaleb Michaud ’96 attempted to renovate the mascot. That attempt failed as he could not draw enough support from the student body and lacked entries for potential new mascots. One of URBee’s challengers can be seen to the left. In the end, the cute and beloved URBee prevailed as the UR mascot.
URBee has adorned materials ranging from various posters to pennants to UR apparel. He is very much loved and will surely “bee” missed for his vivacity and pep, but will forever live in our hearts.