Mary Baldwin University is ranked one of the top eight schools in the nation—for the size, health, and behavior of the squirrel population on campus. Who would have thought that our mascot, Gladys, and her friends would send Mary Baldwin to the upper echelon of squirreldom?
Although Mary Baldwin has been on his list for quite a few years, Jon Gottshall’s “Campus Squirrel Ratings” keeps getting media attention—most recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Peoria Journal Star, and The Cavalier Daily at the University of Virginia. Both the Peoria Journal Star and The Cavalier Daily cite the fact that the college seal features a squirrel. Mary Baldwin adopted the Baldwin family crest, which prominently features a squirrel, and integrated it into the seal.
Mary Baldwin tops the list for its mascot (Gladys the Fighting Squirrel) and for the number of squirrels seen on any given day. Many alumnae have squirrel collections. That of Samantha Atkins ’99 ranges from plush squirrels to porcelain figurines; she also has T-shirts featuring the bushy-tailed animal.
“My collection started when I first decided to go to Mary Baldwin,” said Atkins. “Friends and family began sending me things that either are squirrels or have squirrels on them. At that point I decided that I should just continue to collect. I have to say my favorite is my cat whose name is Squirrel!”
Most alumnae call themselves “Squirrel Girls.” What does that mean? According to Kelley Clemens McElroy ’03, “being a ‘squirrel girl’ means having confidence and being independent, and that sets you apart from other women. Being able to use that confidence and independence in a certain way shows others what kind of person you are and what you have learned through life. Mary Baldwin instilled that confidence and independence in me.”
Squirrels are independent. They are able to survive cold winters and the loss of natural habitat. They avoid cars, usually. Who hasn’t met park squirrels that come right up and ask for a bite of lunch? Or seen squirrels darting across a road to find another comfy tree?
Gottshall’s site, Jon’s World O’ Squirrels , is not only where you can find the complete list of college ratings, but also to learn more about squirrels and their habitats. The site focuses on squirrel preservation; for example, what to do when you find a baby squirrel and what not to feed them.
Mary Baldwin’s Fighting Squirrels were mentioned on the nationally syndicated public radio program Only a Game . You’ll find our mention in the “Commentary” section.
Mary Baldwin’s Fighting Squirrels were mentioned again! This time in our own alumna’s, Jann Malone ’72, column in the Richmond Times Dispatch .