HOLLAND - A new personification of a familiar nickname has made its Hope College debut.

"Dutch," a new mascot developed through the efforts of the college's Student Congress, premiered during the women's and men's games with Kalamazoo College on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Although Hope teams are supported enthusiastically not only by fans in general but also by a large association of orange-shirted students known as the "Dew Crew" and the college's cheerleaders, the college has lacked a formal mascot character. Through the years, spirited students have sometimes donned an old-style leather aviator's helmet to represent the "Flying" aspect of the college's "Flying Dutchmen"/"Flying Dutch" nickname; in the middle 1990s, a pair of students in a Hope class had also pursued the idea of developing a mascot, but the character didn't materialize.

The effort to create the new "Dutch" mascot originated in the summer of 2005, led by Lauren Engel, a senior who was student body president, and student vice president Bradley Matson, who has continued to lead the project this year as president himself.

"We just really thought that there was a void," said Matson, a senior from Traverse City. "It's been our experience from high school and with other schools that there's a mascot."

Matson noted that the character is intended to support the efforts of the Dew Crew and cheerleaders.

"We want the mascot to be complementary," he said. "The mascot will be cheering on the Dew Crew or cheering on the cheerleaders."

He also pictures "Dutch" playing a role in campus activities beyond athletic contests. "We see it at some of the main campus events, like Dance Marathon, Relay for Life and New Student Orientation," he said.

The design chosen for "Dutch" was the winner of an online survey that presented four concepts to the campus community late in 2005. The character is attired in Hope's school colors of orange and blue and wearing wooden shoes, white-bearded visage topped by a billed hat.

For inspiration, Matson noted, the organizers even used a Dutchman as an inspiration. The character's face, he said, is modeled loosely on Bob Bos, an employee in the college's mail room.

The concept and costume were produced by Street Characters Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The company's clients include several NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball teams, a variety of corporations, and multiple other colleges and universities.

The mascot program is directed by a 10-member student committee. The costume is to be filled by select students on a rotating basis, with the organizers striving to keep the identity of the actors confidential.

"The confidentiality is an important part of it," Matson said. "At any given time you don't know who's in the costume."

The college's athletic teams have been known as the Dutchmen since the beginning of intercollegiate programs in the early 1900s. Hope, chartered in 1866, is rooted in the early history of Holland, which was settled in the 1840s by immigrants from the Netherlands.

The nickname "Flying Dutchmen" is reported to have been coined by a sports writer covering men's basketball in 1958. In the spring of 1959, the men's team flew more literally, the first Hope team ever to journey to a contest by air, traveling aboard a twin-engined DC-3 to the College Division quarterfinals in Evansville, Ind. The women's teams since the 1970s have been known as the Flying Dutch.

Hope's colors are a tradition extending back nearly 120 years. In a letter to the student newspaper, "The Anchor," in June 1888, Harmon Van Slyke Peeke of the Class of 1887 suggested that the college follow the practice of other schools and adopt formal colors. He recommended including orange as a tribute to the founders' ties to the Netherlands, ruled by the House of Orange-Nassau. In its December 1888 editorial, "The Anchor" endorsed Peeke's suggestion and added blue in honor of the U.S.