Beaver College Announces New Name

P H I L A D E L P H I A, Nov. 20, 2000 -- Beaver College, aiming to shed a source of ridicule and boost enrollment, unveiled today a new school name that’s seemingly satire-proof: Arcadia University.

The decision was announced just after midnight at a surprise pajama party for students, who were rounded up from residence halls with less than an hour’s notice.

“Arcadia University reflects our foundation and the kind of learning environment we aim to foster,” President Bette E. Landman said.

Much has changed about the college since it was founded in 1853 as a small women’s college in western Pennsylvania’s Beaver County. For starters, the school is no longer in Beaver — it moved across the state to suburban Philadelphia in 1925.

And then, there were all those jokes.

Old Name ‘Elicited Ridicule’ Landman said in a letter earlier this year that the old name “too often elicits ridicule in the form of derogatory remarks pertaining to the rodent, the TV show Leave It to Beaver and the vulgar reference to the female anatomy.”

Beaver College has appeared on David Letterman’s Top 10 list. Conan O’Brien and Howard Stern have made jokes about it. And when Saturday Night Live writers invented an annoying film critic for a recent sketch, they made him a representative of Beaver College campus radio.

The college’s own research shows the school appeals to 30 percent fewer prospective students solely because of the name. And the problems worsened with the rise of the Internet, since some Web filters intended to screen out sexually explicit material blocked access to the Beaver College Web site.

The trustees of the 2,800-student school in the Philadelphia suburb of Glenside voted in June to change the college’s name and to seek university status, which the state granted earlier this month.

Surveys about the name change were sent to more than 20,000 alumni, students, parents, faculty and staff, and comments came in from others who saw news stories about the search for a name. Six names were sent to focus groups, and Arcadia was the clear winner, college spokesman Bill Avington said.

“It seems to be a perfect name,” Avington said, citing Arcadia’s origin as a picturesque region of ancient Greece and its associations with a peaceful environment for thought and learning.

So is there any way anyone can make something rude out of the new name?

“We don’t believe so. Certainly, that was something we looked for,” Avington said. “We tried to go through every scenario. We’ve looked pretty carefully at it.”

The name, along with the university status, become official July 16, 2001.