Gorilla Capital of the World

Graduation selfie with giant bronze gorilla statue

What started as a pep club in 1920, then became the nation’s only college with a gorilla as its mascot, has now grown into a phenomenon.

There are THOUSANDS of gorilla statues and other tributes to this endangered species just throughout Southeast Kansas. There are thousands more across the world thanks to the alumni that carry the Gorillas close to their hearts after they graduate from Pittsburg State University.

The PSU mascot has come to symbolize the campus and the surrounding community as a fun place to learn and grow, with pride, poise, and perseverance.

The largest monument is the Champions Plaza Gorilla. This bronze sculpture is just outside of Carnie Smith Stadium, on the eastern side, on the campus of Pittsburg State University.


How the Gorillas got their name

Unique to Pittsburg State, the gorilla mascot dates to 1920 and at the time was slang for “roughnecks.”

The original “Gorillas” were founded as a pep club by 24 students to generate college spirit and enthusiasm. Their first public appearance was at an all school assembly on Thursday, October 7, 1920. Their motto: “We want pep and we want it at all times”.

“According to Mathew’s ‘Dictionary of Americanisms,’ to call someone a gorilla in 1920 meant they possessed characteristics of strength, intimidation, and untamed rowdiness. That’s exactly the characteristics the first Pittsburg gorillas hoped to portray.”

Former PSU archivist Randy Roberts

By 1924 the pep club had grown to around 200 members On January 15, 1925, the gorilla was officially adopted as the school’s mascot.

Gus the Gorilla and the real gorilla named Gus

Around 1923, art student Helen Waskey was recruited by the original pep club to make the first drawing of “Gus Gorilla”.

“Gus” has taken many forms in the generations since, and in recent decades the Gorillas have repeatedly been named among one of the most beloved mascots at any level.

The love for the Gorilla mascot may be best exemplified by an online contest in 2015 to name a newborn gorilla in a Texas zoo.

When the Fort Worth Zoo announced a poll to name a Western lowland gorilla born there on December 5, 2015, one of the names up for vote was “Augustus“. In less than 24 hours, Pittsburg State alumni and students caught wind of the contest and the name easily won.

You can support the care of Gus through the Fort Worth Zoo adoption program.

Where to get your gorilla swag