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Univ. of Portland - Recruiting Info

Why the Pilots?

In 1935, with University adminstrators tired of being confused with New York’s Columbia University, they chose the University of Portland, after other names were considered: Christie University (after the school’s founder, Portland Archbishop Alexander Christie), Multnomah University (after the Chinookan name for the Willamette River) and McLoughlin University (after great Oregon Catholic pioneer, Dr. John McLoughlin).

According to Bluff legend, though the original nickname that students chose in a 1935 contest resulted in “Chinooks” (after the Indian tribe that inhabited the area, and the largest of the salmon species in the Willamette River), the “Pilots” was chosen by presidential fiat. From that day forward, the Bluff had a new mascot, and he was Wally Pilot.

When the University changed its name from Columbia University (its earliest sports teams were known as the Cliffdwellers or the Columbias), to the University of Portland, the name and University had already begun to adapt a more “nautical motif,” suitable for a campus site overlooking the Willamette River. At the same time, the Pilot athletic teams became associated with Wally (a stylized riverboat pilot), and the pilot’s wheel became the logical logo. The many student associations and publications on campus followed the nautical theme - from the student newspaper - The Beacon - to what is today the University’s bookstore, student cafe and campus ministry center (The Pilot House).

The school colors of purple and white originated in the late 19th century when the short-lived Methodist college called Portland University’s athletic teams were known as the Webfoots or Portlands, and its colors were gold and purple.

So, what is a “Pilot”? Common to rivers and the large vessels which must negotiate their waters, riverboat pilots are charged with safely escorting large ships, barges and other river traffic through the unfamiliar waters, in order to get the vessels to port. Primarily through the use of tugboats, riverboat pilots are as vital to boat and barge captains, as air traffic controllers are to airplane pilots.

Today, the University of Portland is the only NCAA-affiliated university which uses the “Pilots” nickname. Two NAIA-affiliated colleges - Louisiana State University-Shreveport, and Bethel College in Indiana - also are “Pilots” by nickname.