ST. GEORGE – The crowd packed into the M.K. Cox Performing Arts Center auditorium erupted into thunderous applause and cheers Monday as the they heard the words “We are Trailblazers” spoken at the end of a video and saw Dixie State University’s new logo appear on the projection screen.
Accompanying the new name is a new mascot: “Brooks the Bison,” named after Samuel Brooks, the first student of the St. George Stake Academy in 1911. Over the next century, the academy would ultimately become Dixie State University.
While some have expressed a general lack of support for the new identity on social media, those voices were either drowned out or absent at the reveal on Monday.
“I am a Rebel,” said Dixie State University alumni and Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson, “but I am totally stoked about the Trailblazers. I think this is perfect for Dixie State University at this point.”
One of the things that has been lacking on the campus of Dixie State — something which will swiftly change with the adoption of the new identity — is the branding and iconography related to the name and the mascot. There was little major branding done with the previous identity of Red Storm, school officials said, adding that the student body didn’t feel it fit them or the school very well.
In fact, it was the university’s student body president who conducted a poll among his fellow students in the fall of 2014 concerning the school’s athletic identity. Of the nearly 1,200 students polled, 68 percent wanted a change.
That same year, Dixie State University named Richard Williams as its new president.
“It was clear when I first got on campus that the athletic identity was an issue,” Williams said.
While addressing the crowd gathered in the auditorium, Williams said he wasn’t so sure about taking on the subject of the school’s identity, but the more he met with the students and others and heard their concerns about not having an institutional identity to relate to, he started to see things differently. It just wasn’t working.
“The (Red Storm) identity didn’t fit,” he said.
So the quest for a new identity began. After 17 months of working through 10 years worth of research related to the Dixie State name and identity, an online poll and focus groups ultimately helped narrow down identity candidates. Ultimately the Trailblazer came out ahead.
Read more about the Trailblazers identity and how it came to be here.
“I am thrilled to finally see an end to the cultural identity loss that has occurred on campus,” said Ron Wade, a former president of the Dixie State University Alumni Association. “So thumbs up to the new president and everybody on staff who brought together a great feeling on campus again.”
One of the purposes of the new mascot and identity is to have a symbol that honors the past while looking to the future, said Jordon Sharp, Dixie State’s chief of marketing and communications officer. The university also wanted to pick an identity that would be authentic and help heal and unite.
“We’ve had some hard times with our past identities, and we know the history there,” Sharp said. “And we felt that if this emerged, it would do all of those. It would heal, it would build, and it would be authentic to who we are.”
Alton Wade, president of Dixie College from 1980-86, said he went to the reveal skeptical at first but has changed his mind.
“I came into here a little bit questioning, not so optimistic, but I left with absolute enthusiasm,” Wade said. “They sold me completely. I think it represents everything the university stands for.”
Dixie State alumni Jake Ashton said he was excited about the new name.
“I think it’s getting us back to what this community means, what this campus means,” Ashton said.
So why is the identity of the school so important? Dixie State spent $50,000 and worked with Love Communications to get this far, and some have wondering if it was all worth it.
“I say yes, and I’ll tell you why,” Sharp said. “A collegiate brand is more than a logo. It’s more than the color of a jersey. A collegiate brand represents the most important times in our lives.”
Sharp referenced examples such as alumni coming back and seeing the exact place where they met their future spouse or the building where they worked on a project that might have formed the foundation of what is now a thriving business.
“The thing I love the most is when those students come and they find the mentor who, in no small terms, changes the course of that student’s life,” Sharp said. “So, I tell you, these symbols are a compilation of all of those memories. And that’s why it matters.”
As a part of the reveal of the Trailblazers Monday, two additional announcements were made:
The first was made by Matt Devore, Dixie State University’s current student body president. He said the students had raised sufficient funds to buy the statue of a bison to be placed on campus. The statue was purchased for $12,500.
Williams gave the second announcement: an anonymous donor has given Dixie State $1.5 million to put toward the school’s new Human Performance Center. So far Dixie State has $21.5 million of the $25 million needed for the complex.
Attendees were also left with a teaser. Williams said that the school is in final negotiations to receive the largest gift in the school’s history: a possible multimillion-dollar gift going toward the school’s work on Hansen Stadium.
An announcement on the finalization of the gift procurement should be made within the next two to four weeks, Williams said.
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