The Ferris State Bulldog logo displayed by staff, athletes and fans has reached its 40th anniversary and its unique history is not known by most. But the story behind the logo is a prime example of how Ferris students separate themselves from the rest.
In 1979, former graphic design student Terry Davenport was presented with a challenge by his father Dean Davenport. Dean came to Ferris in the 1970s as a basketball coach, and then became the athletic director from 1979- 1993 and has since been a longtime supporter of Ferris athletics and the university.
Dean inherited the old Bulldog logo his first year as athletic director in 1979, and it was just not going to cut it.
“To be frank and honest, he looked like he was going to love you to death,” Davenport said. “His tongue went out the side of the mouth and it looked like the kindest and gentlest dog to represent an athletic department.”
So, he took the challenge down the hallway of his home to his son Terry. He requested Terry to create a feisty and determined Bulldog that really reflected the attitude and spirit of the university. Terry took the challenge head on and 40 years later, Brutus still stands.
Not only does the 1979 logo represent the university and bring pride to Bulldog alumni and fans, but the whole state of Michigan has taken notice. In 2013, the Detroit Free Press conducted a week-long online fan poll to see who had the best sports logo in the state of Michigan.
This included professional, minor league, college and high school sports logos. There were 48 different sport logos that represented the state of Michigan and there were six different rounds to the bracket.
The top four teams included the Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Tigers and the Ferris State Bulldog logo. Over the six rounds, the Ferris State Bulldog came out on top and beat the old Tigers D logo to win and claim the best sports logo in the state of Michigan. The poll totaled more than 50,000 votes, with 11,000 total votes in the final round.
Winning logo competitions and being recognized for the logo is very special and important. However, after the accolades and all the recognition, Davenport wants the Ferris students to know the real reason behind the logo and why you should pay attention.
“It was done by a student. That’s the thing I want our college kids to realize that one of them did this. I saw this whole thing as an example to renew and re-emphasize what Ferris is all about,” Davenport said. “A place where students can get caught in the act and do things. Because that’s what makes us so unique. This is just another example of the Ferris student stepping up using their skills and using what they are learning in school and giving back to the university.”
Terry, just a sophomore at the time in the graphic design program, did not know what this would lead to. He was just happy to help his dad out and give back to the university. As a student he took his skills that he learned and created what we all know now as the Ferris State Bulldog logo.
Terry is now taking the marketing world by storm. He has had careers with Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Pepsi and Arby’s, and is now a top executive at Starbucks.
The story of the Bulldog logo is just a reminder of what Ferris is about. Don’t underestimate this small town in West Michigan and the talent it produces. This is a place where students get hands on experience and learn skills that will help them in the real world.
Even though this message extends beyond the logo alone — and what it is all about — it’s still a special moment for the Davenport family. When the logo was first introduced, the hockey team was on their run to the Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida.
“On every streetlight in the city there was a logo of the four teams and there is no question that the Ferris Bulldogs just stood out,” Davenport said. “The quality and what it stood for and the little tag with the F on the collar. That’s when it really hit home with me that this is a fantastic thing. “I won’t be remembered for anything, but if people knew I was responsible for the Bulldog change, then that might be my tradition. I am very proud of it. If you knew Terry, you can barely get him to talk about it, he is so humble. That is why it is so quiet, that’s the way he would want it.”
Forty years later and the Bulldog Logo still lives on. Who will be the next student to make history and the next big change for Ferris?