Marquette: What’s in a Name?

Marquette University is a private Jesuit institution located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; named after French Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette (1637–1675).
It was established by the Society of Jesus, and was founded by the first Bishop of Milwaukee, John Martin Henni in 1881.
Established as an all-male institution, Marquette became the first co-ed Catholic university in the world in 1909.

Today, Milwaukee’s Marquette high school is the location of the original Marquette College.
Marquette College moved downtown in 1907, becoming Marquette University.
Marquette high school in Milwaukee is nicknamed the Hilltoppers.
From 1954-1994, Marquette University was nicknamed the Warriors.

Marquette is recognized as a basketball school.
The images of Al McGuire crying as he’s coaching his last game, a victory in the 1977 NCAA championship game, forever cemented that legacy.
It’s most famous hoops alums include Glenn “Doc” Rivers, William Gates and Dwyane Wade.

Side-note 1: This author went to Marquette from 1987-94, when Kevin O’Neill became MU basketball’s savior hero. O’Neill was a Lute Olson (Arizona) protege, who became MU’s head coach, rescuing it from its Bob Dukiet nadir (1986-89).  He got little respect from the media and alumni, because he wasn’t Al McGuire, which is ridiculous; so he left for a better college job and ended up in the NBA, where he belonged.  Kevin O”Neill is an excellent basketball coach, and a great recruiter who is also smart/funny with the media. He just needed a fair shot in the NBA, which he never got.  He fulfils the promise he makes to William Gates in Hoop Dreams (1994).  O’Neill, as of this writing, is back in college; head coach of the USC Trojans.

Marquette’s pre-1954 nicknames included the Hilltoppers, Blue & Gold, and Golden Avalanche for football– until the pigskin program was cancelled at the end of the 1960 season.

A huge problem for Marquette football was their stadium, which still partially exists and is used for intramural flag & club football.
Marquette Stadium (1924–1960) is a 20-block walk from campus; located at 36th & Clybourne– a drug-infested, gang-banging neighborhood.
It’s capacity was 24,000 at its peak; and thus never suitable for “big-time” college football.

In the late 1950’s, university trustees cut a deal with city & county officials allowing the Marquette Golden Avalanche to play in Milwaukee Stadium (later renamed County Stadium), the home of the MLB Milwaukee Braves & part-time home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
Unfortunately, the Golden Avalanche could never approach filling Milwaukee Stadium, or even put a competitive team on the field, since its early heyday in the 1920’s & 30’s.
Their last winning season was in 1953; after that Marquette went 10-44-3, until the program was terminated in a shoddy manner, after the 1960 season due to annual $50,000+ deficits.

After being given every chance to succeed, MU announced the cancellation its football program on December 9, 1960.
Despite an initial ruckus by hooligan students, football died a quiet death at Marquette; continuing a trend for Catholic schools of that era.

In 1961, it was proposed by a group of students, for the Marquette Warriors men’s basketball team to establish a mascot.
The Marquette Tribune reported on Oct. 28, 1960, the Student Senate passed a motion to form a committee for a Warrior caricature.
In February of 1961, the name of Willie Wampum was chosen as the winner of the “Name the Warrior” contest.
Willie Wampum made his first appearance at a Marquette basketball game on February 24, 1961.

Willie Wampum, the Marquette Warriors mascot from 1961-71

Willie Wampum, the Marquette Warriors mascot from 1961-71

Bill Schatz, a cheerleader for Marquette was the first to wear the Willie Wampum costume; made by his sister, Mary Ann Schatz Loucks.
She stated, “My vision came from the Milwaukee Braves mascot.”

Racist Caricature Logo for the Marquette Warriors from the 1960's-70's

Does this honor another culture, or is it just demented?

Willie Wampum was the Marquette University Warriors mascot until the Student Senate requested that the administration retire his character in 1971.

Willie Wampum in Full Costume

Willie Wampum in Full Costume


Mark Denning is one of the most familiar faces in the modern history of Marquette University, yet few Marquette alumni have any idea who he is?
Denning is a Native American MU alum, and the original “First Warrior” at Marquette basketball games in the early 1980s.

Mark Denning: Marquette's "First Warrior"

Mark Denning: Marquette’s “First Warrior”

He later legally signed his likeness away, and Marquette used his image as the university logo for over a decade.

The Marquette Warriors logo from the early 1980's-1994, is the likeness of Mark Denning

The Marquette Warriors logo from the early 1980’s – 1994, is the likeness of Mark Denning

Mark Denning, dressed as Marquette's "First Warrior"

Mark Denning, dressed as Marquette’s “First Warrior”

Official MU memorandum states that “the First Warrior was selected in the late 1970s to be a symbol of Marquette’s relationship with Indians and to visualize the university’s commitment.”
Reality was different, as the First Warrior’s refusal to clown the crowd with stereotypical antics, failed to rally Marquette basketball fans.
The “First Warrior” was abandoned after the 1986-87 season, when Native American students no longer participated.

In the fall semester of 1993, MU trustees announced that the Warriors nickname was to be discontinued, and Marquette University was accepting submissions for a new nickname.
Protests & pressure from Native American groups and their sympathizers had compelled the university to make a clean break with past abuses, including ignorant disrespect for Indian culture.

A list of two choices was presented to the student body for a “vote”: Golden Eagles vs. Lightning.
It wasn’t much of a choice, and most students abstained; Golden Eagles won by a two-to-one margin.
In May of 1994, the last Warriors class graduated from Marquette University.

Side-note 2: Marquette University School of Dentistry opened on September 26, 1894.
It is the only dental school in Wisconsin.
Marquette School of Dentistry currently enrolls 100 freshmen each year, 50 Wisconsin residents and 50 non-residents.
Today, these are the estimated annual costs for a full-time MU dental student.

As a graduate of Marquette University’s School of Dentistry in 1994, this author still maintains abandoning the Warriors nickname was a step ahead.

Attempts to revive the Warriors nickname have met with no more success, than those who attempt to bring NCAA football back to MU.
In 2005, the MU Board of Trustees unilaterally announced the changing of Marquette’s nickname to the Gold.
The Marquette Gold lasted only one week, but it revived the Warriors nickname lobby.
A huge campaign was waged, and another “vote” was put to the students; Golden Eagles vs Hilltoppers– any write-ins for Warriors would not be officially tabulated.
Golden Eagles won again in a landslide, as the university students & alumni preferred their own nickname, over that of Milwaukee’s Marquette high school.
Overall it was a colossal waste of time and resources, in a reactionary effort to turn back society’s clock.

End Note: We don’t need no stinking nicknames– We are Marquette.

Marquette Alumni Comments & Responses

MS: Well said !!!!  I am still a Warrior !!!!  No matter what Marquette University says.

BC: I just really dislike the nickname “Golden Eagles”. Its very generic, and not unique, as other schools have already claimed that nickname. I would love to have Warriors back, without the Native American Indian associations, but too much damage was done in the 60’s and 70’s. I can vividly remember watching and laughing hysterically as a little boy as the Marquette Indian mascot danced around to the Hamms beer song on TV, during a timeout. It ain’t so funny now……..Unfortunately, it is exactly this imagery, that is preventing us from losing the Indian association with the name “Warrior”. Truly a shame.

RS: The comments above are nearly 100% how I felt before I started writing this piece yesterday. But while writing I realized that Marquette is unique, in the way it cast off its beloved nickname and moved forward. It hurt (and still hurts), but it was necessary because the abuses were much greater. Today the institution & its alumni stand taller for it.  Also notice how the adoption of the Willie Wampum mascot in early 1961, coincided with the cancellation of football at MU in late 1960–as that brand of chauvinism always reincarnates itself.

MP: Well written. I think they should have kept the Warrior name but dropped all mascots and images of American Indians. A la Golden State Warriors. I never liked the Golden Eagles name and I still only buy MU clothing that does not have Golden Eagles on it. I agree that Willie Wampum was not a good choice but the name Warrior could have been maintained without offending anyone – every society respects the concept of a warrior.

RS: I agree with this, but only under the condition that EVERYONE respects Indian heritage, which obviously isn’t the case; as Native Americans who live on reservations, live in squalor.  It needs to be strictly understood that European forefathers massacred Indian forefathers, and that reparations still haven’t been made.  Not even close.  The answer to the title of this piece is history.  Once true understanding becomes part of our society, only then can the name Warriors be restored to Marquette.