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In Memoriam: Remembering the Original Hawk, James “Jim” Brennan ’58

The creative mind behind The Hawk mascot was 91.

Jim Brennan in a suit holding the Hawk mascot head, next to which it reads "James 'Jim' Brennan '58" in white text against a black background with a hawk logo below

Published: June 24, 2024

Total reading time: 2 minutes

The Saint Joseph's University community mourns the passing of the original Hawk mascot, James “Jim” Brennan ’58.

The creative mind behind the The Hawk mascot, Brennan originally suggested a live hawk as the University’s mascot before shifting his focus to a hawk suit. Working with St. Joe’s student government and athletics department, Brennan raised enough money for the creation of The Hawk, and made his debut on December 3, 1955, as Saint Joseph’s beat Rhode Island, 84-72, at the Palestra. 

Black and white photo of Jim Brennan in the Hawk mascot sitting on a bleacher railing
Jim Brennan '58 made his debut as the Hawk on December 3, 1955.

"When I was in costume, I didn't want to be just a fan watching the game," the former Marine and SJU cheerleader remarked in 2005. "So I started flapping."

And the flapping continued as Brennan remained The Hawk through his junior and senior years at St. Joe's, serving as the catalyst for the more than 60 students to represent the greatest mascot in college athletics, and ultimately establishing The Hawk Will Never Die as a university-wide creed.

“Jim Brennan was not only the original Hawk, but a true visionary when it comes to institutional spirit and branding,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Jill Bodensteiner. “Jim’s legacy is truly special — he was the first in the line of many who have represented the greatest mascot in college sports.”

In 2014, Brennan published the book “HawkTales: Tales of America's Most Honored Sports Mascot and Its Continuing Legacy at Saint Joseph's University,” documenting more than 50 years of Hawk mascots, games, coaches and players. The next year, he received men’s basketball’s Michael J. Conway Memorial Award for his support of the program.

The Hawk mascot standing next to the original Hawk, Jim Brennan, holding a birthday cake
Brennan celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Hawk in 2005.

“Tradition begins with originality. That’s exactly how Jim always introduced himself … as The Original. What is amazing is how his originality transformed a nickname and costume into a spirit that truly is Saint Joseph’s University,” said Dan Gallagher, BS '94, MS '99, former Hawk and trustee of Saint Joseph's University. “On behalf of the more than 60 students that have served as successors to The Original, we honor and thank Jim, and we pray for his family.”

Calling hours will be held on Friday, July 19, from noon until 1:30 p.m. at the Byron Keenan Funeral Home & Cremation Tribute Center, 1858 Allen Street, Springfield, Massachusetts, followed by a funeral home service and military honors. Burial will be private.


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