- Associated Press - Thursday, November 3, 2016

WALLA WALLA, Wash. (AP) - Whitman College has chosen a new nickname to replace the old Missionaries. The college’s sports teams will now be known as the Blues, the school said Thursday.

The decision came after a survey of alumni, students, faculty and staff. That survey found 35 percent of respondents chose the Blues as their first choice, while 58 percent voted it their first or second choice.

The Blues are a mountain range near Walla Walla and have long been an important symbol for Whitman and the surrounding community, the school said.

The other finalists were the Appaloosas, the Blue Ravens and the Sockeyes, which is a kind of fish.

Concerns had been raised over the years about the old Missionaries nickname, which was a reference to Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, who came to the Walla Walla Valley in 1836 and were massacred a decade later.

School officials said the Missionaries mascot was considered non-inclusive, imperialistic and incorrectly implied that Whitman was a religious school. The old name was also not very intimidating and often mocked, school officials said.

“As excited we are for our new mascot, we all know that the mascot is not Whitman College’s defining element,” college President Kathleen Murray said. “Instead, it is our shared commitment to our educational mission.”

The administration conducted a survey earlier this year and concluded that the old nickname should be retired.

Members of the Whitman community voted on the four finalist names in October.

Walla Walla is located in the southeast corner of Washington, far from the state’s population centers. Whitman was founded in 1882 and has about 1,500 undergraduates. It is considered one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges. Famous alumni include former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and “Batman” star Adam West.

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