After Some ‘Grousing,’ Spruce Hen Is Official

By Stan Friedman

SOLDOTNA, AK (July 5, 2011) – The royal spruce hen is now the official mascot of Alaska Christian College (ACC).

It had been the unofficial mascot until a vote by the nearly 50 alumni who recently attended the school’s 10-year reunion. Curtis Ivanoff and Mark Hill, the first admissions director, were the early originators of this mascot,” says Jackie Smith, ACC executive administrator.

The birds are common around the school. Ivanoff has said that if Jesus had been teaching in the arctic, he would have told us to be wise as serpents and innocent as spruce hens.

“There’s a story about Mark and Curtis – the new field director of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska – discussing the mascot topic during the early years, and they walked out of the main building, and lo and behold, and right there in the driveway was a spruce hen,” Smith says. “They decided it was a providential encounter.” That marked the beginning of the bird becoming the unofficial mascot.

At the 10-year reunion, held in early May, President Keith Hamilton wanted the school to formalize a school mascot, secretly hoping the spruce hen idea would become a thing of the past. (He apparently wasn’t buying the providential encounter argument.) Sharon Finfrock, who has been a volunteer since the beginning of the school, suggested the “Royals” because the ACC colors are already royal blue and gold, the school is located on Royal Place, and the biblical references to being a royal priesthood and children of the king. Ultimately, a compromise was reached, and the royal spruce hen was voted the winner.

There is no such thing as a royal spruce hen, but if the mythical Jayhawk, a cross between the noisy blue jay and the quiet sparrow and used as a symbol by abolitionists, can be the Kansas University mascot – and if the equally mythical Phoenix can be the mascot for schools such Swarthmore, the University of Chicago, and Elon University (formerly the Fightin’ Christians) – why shouldn’t ACC be allowed to create its own mythical royal spruce hen?

The real name for the spruce hen actually is the spruce grouse hen. Of course, grouse doesn’t sound very much like a mascot name a Christian school would want to include.

Used as a verb, grouse means to complain.

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