The Woodson recently and rather unexpectedly received a good number of boxes from the Graduate Student Association which contain materials that shed light on the history of that group since it was founded in 1969. The folder that I’ve most enjoyed so far is the one that holds the history of the GSA crest. The original crest looked like this:
Here it is charmingly reproduced on a cake at a picnic celebrating the 20th anniversary of the GSA in 1989. I can only hope whoever had to do the icing didn’t go blind from the effort.
In 1996 someone finally noticed that this crest was heinously ugly and a move to redesign it quickly got underway. I would like to point out here that the person most responsible for this effort was a delightful colleague of mine in the History Department’s Ph.D. program, Christopher Stokes, who was the GSA president in ’96 and who also worked in the Woodson. The new design is much cleaner: a closed book between two grackles and a field of seven white lozenges on a green background.
The seven lozenges represent the seven schools that offer graduate programs, likewise the seven gold seals on the book, which itself represents learning. The two grackles represent the division between research and professional degrees. The grackle is the official mascot of the GSA and the organization’s Latin motto is Bonis Avibus—translated as “Under Good Auspices,” but literally “Under Good Birds.”
Here’s the crest on the GSA banner. I believe the event this was taken at was the 40th anniversary of the founding of the association in 2009 and the speaker is Kristjan Stone, that year’s president. I think that this is really quite a handsome design.
Update: An astute reader did what I failed to do and counted the lozenges. There are seven on the 1996 sketch, but eight on the more recent drawing and the banner above. The original seven schools that offer graduate programs were Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Engineering, Music, Architecture and Business. Who can name the newest one? Just for the record, I actually do know this.