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Meet Our Mascot

About NNU’s Nighthawk

Nighthawks are smart, strong birds whose power comes through unity, determination and an eagerness to embrace the next challenge. Like native nighthawks who are indigenous to the region, NNU Nighthawks soar above the competition as they focus on an elevated purpose.

This bird, as a symbol of NNU, adheres to the University’s strong ties to its location and the culture of the Northwest. Nighthawks are small, quick, stealthy and embody the power of character, a strong will and an aptitude for achieving success despite their size.

Just as in nature, NNU Nighthawks find success through collaboration as they work together toward a common goal—regardless of the context in which they find themselves

The Birth of a Mascot

In 1933-34, Northwest Nazarene College’s intercollegiate athletics came onto the scene with the formation of a basketball team initially known as the “preachers” because so many of the young men were preparing to become ministers; shortly after, “Crusaders” was adopted as the official mascot of NNC.

The NNC Crusaders Take Form

In the 1980s, a knight costume was purchased and students were recruited to dress up as “Clyde the Crusader” at home athletic events.

A Changing Vision for a New Mascot Emerges

As we entered a new century, in response to changing cultural associations with the term “Crusader,” President Richard Hagood formed a committee to discuss the idea of changing the NNU mascot; after receiving strong feedback from alumni, it was decided the issue was too divisive and the idea was tabled.

In response to a growing diversity of opinion regarding “Crusaders,” the Board of Trustees again reconsidered the need for a mascot change. The board acknowledged that a crusader was historically understood as one who is committed to a worthy cause. It had served our institution well for many years, but they also recognized that in the global climate of the day, the potential existed for the term “Crusaders” to be associated with violence and destruction. Ultimately, as a compromise between strongly held beliefs on both sides of the issue, the University decided to retain the nickname of “Crusaders” but stopped using the image of a crusader as its mascot and began the process of deemphasizing the term within the athletic department and around campus.

In 2016, as concern continued to grow about the cultural meaning-change associated with “Crusaders,” the board appointed a task force composed of NNU trustees, alumni, students, representatives of NNU athletics and faculty members. This task force revisited the possibility of changing the NNU mascot to something that would serve as a name and image around which students and alumni could rally, and would reduce the potential for misunderstanding and potentially impeding the University’s ability to minister to an increasingly interconnected global community.

The Nighthawks Take Flight

During the Fall 2017 Board of Trustees meeting, after extensive research, there was a unanimous vote to change the University’s nickname and mascot to “Nighthawks.” NNU students were welcomed back to campus after Christmas break 2018 with the unveiling of the new Nighthawks mascot which we still proudly celebrate to date.

Why is the NNU mascot based on the Common Nighthawk species?

NNU biology professor Dr. David Hille points to these ornithological facts:


  • Common Nighthawks are expert travelers and call all of the Americas their home, linking North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean Islands
  • Throughout their annual migration cycle, their entire population will be in 37 different countries; many individuals will personally move through 10-15 countries annually—they connect us
  • They perform physiological feats twice a year, holding one of the longest migratory routes of breeding North American birds
  • They often elicit a strong human connection to natural spaces; many have fond summer memories of the nightly emergence of Common Nighthawks coursing through the waning evening skies in search of flying insects and delivering a constant metallic call intermixed with an aerial display dive
  • They represent a shared natural symbol for most of our country
  • Their feeding/foraging behavior demonstrates their athletic stamina and skill; they feed in flight, using their aerodynamic wing shape to twist, turn and dive with ease and agility—this puts them in constant motion during their hours of activity
I hope this logo inspires our athletes to compete at a high level. I hope this logo directs us to see things from others’ point of view. I hope we show compassion as quickly as strength. I hope we all move to work together, not separately, to spread the love of Jesus. In the logo, we focused on the white markings on the wing, speed and focus. These things need to work together in the same direction; if so, they can accomplish a greater goal.
Mike Bartlett

Co-Creator of the Nighthawks Logo