Mary Richardson Walker and her husband donated part of the land that became Pacific's Forest Grove Campus. After her husband's death, Mary remained active in the early life of the school and the community of Forest Grove. The qilin statue that became Boxer, Pacific University's mascot, was donated to the school in her honor.
Pacific University Mascot, Boxer
Boxer is a unique symbol of Pacific University. He is probably the only creature of his kind (a qilin) to serve as a school mascot in the United States. Originally known as "College Spirit," the Boxer story began with a bronze incense burner gifted to the university around 1896. That statue has since inspired countless new versions and images, from statues and paintings that serve as campus landmarks to the official Pacific logo, which is based on Boxer's head.
Boxer is a creature from Chinese culture called a qilin (chee-lin). The qilin mixes together the characteristics of several animals. Its legs and antler are from a deer; its scales and whiskers are from a carp; its tail is like that of a lion or an ox; and its face resembles a dragon. The qilin was believed to be a wise and beautiful magical being that would appear in order to signal the birth or death of a great ruler or sage. It was so peaceful in nature that it would not crush the grass by walking on it, but instead would fly or walk on water. Known as kirin in Japanese, this mythical animal symbolizes good luck, prosperity and fertility.
The original inspiration for Boxer was a bronze incense burner gifted to the university around 1896 by the family of Rev. J.E. Walker, a missionary who acquired the statue while living in China. The statue was originally known as "College Spirit" at Pacific, reflecting the honored place it had within student life on campus.
Boxer I at Pacific (1896-1969)
Students began a tradition of competing for the statue shortly after it arrived on campus.
"He’s a strange tradition and the spirit of Pacific. He’s their mascot, their emblem, the love of their life."
— The Oregonian, November 1950
The Boxer Toss was the traditional way in which one group of students passed on possession of the statue to another group. Groups battled for possession of the statue in good-natured scrimmages that sometimes resulted in bumps and bruises. The scrimmages began after the group in possession of the statue “flashed” or “tossed” out Boxer by displaying the mascot somewhere on campus for students to see. After a Boxer Toss, the statue was hidden for stretches of time, sometimes years. In 1962, the Blue Key Honor Fraternity published a history of Boxer (pdf) that detailed various Boxer Tosses and struggles for possession of the mascot.
As Boxer was passed around the student body during Tosses, pieces of the statue often ended up in different places. But the mascot was mended many times.
“His head and forelegs have parted company with his torso many times. His plume tail was amputated in a bout years ago and is being passed among the alumni. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, Boxer always gets back together again.”
— Pageant Magazine, 1950
Boxer officially became Pacific’s mascot in 1968 after students voted in favor of replacing the original school mascot, Benny Badger, with Boxer. Many felt that Boxer was a better representation of the university.
The original Boxer statue went missing in 1969.
Over the years, pieces of the original statue have been recovered, often with the help of alumni. The tail, which went missing before the rest of the statue vanished in 1969, was returned home to Pacific by an alumnus in 2012. It is the largest piece recovered to date. An ear and hoof were also recovered.
Boxer II and Friends (1987-2008)
In the 1980s, the statue was recast as Boxer II, which was also a robust contributor to campus life until 2008 when it too went missing.
In the 2000s, the Student Senate created an updated Boxer mascot costume to be worn at sporting events and other events.
In 2006, Pacific dedicated a large replica of Boxer. The 12-foot-tall sculpture was made by a local artist from recycled metal. From its perch in Vandervelden Court, Boxer keeps a watchful eye on Pacific’s campus.
In the late 2000s the undergraduate Student Senate commissioned dozens of plaster replicas, which are displayed on Pacific’s campuses and in the surrounding community.
Boxer III (2018 to present)
In 2018, a group of alumni initiated an effort to recast Boxer once again. Working with the artist who created the Boxer II statue — and with significantly more historical data, including photos and pieces of the original statue — the university commissioned a new incarnation of the statue, which is a respectful replica of the original statue. Boxer III was funded by the gifts of alumni and friends and debuted at Homecoming 2018.
It is a treasured art piece, kept under lock-and-key, to commemorate the long and storied history of Pacific's unique mascot and displayed on special occasions.
For more than 100 years, Boxer has represented the spirit of Pacific University. What does that spirit mean to students today?
Boxer III debuted this fall at Homecoming. The third incarnation of our beloved mascot statue was unveiled as an art piece representing the history, diversity and spirit of Pacific.