The Phoenix rises from the ashes

On May 9, 2000, Elon announced The Phoenix as its new athletics mascot. The mythical bird was chosen for its symbolic connection to Elon’s 1923 fire.

Phoenix logo for Elon University Athletics.A special committee charged by President Leo M. Lambert with recommending a new mascot considered about 125 suggestions from the Elon community. While many ideas had ties to Elon’s history, the story of the Phoenix was a compelling choice.

On January 24, 1923, six days after fire destroyed Main Building, the college’s Board of Trustees voted to “rebuild the college.” An article by Frank G. Coffin, President of the American Christian Convention, in the February 8, 1923 issue of the Herald of Gospel Liberty assured readers that:

“Elon’s building will phoenix-like rise again. …A better and finer building than the one lost will adorn the campus and Elon will be made bigger and better than ever before.”

In announcing the new Phoenix mascot in 2000, Elon described the qualities of this ancient symbol:

Throughout history there is told the legend of the rare and remarkable Phoenix, a crimson and gold bird that lived 500 years. It was elegant, swift and strong – the most marvelous bird ever created by human imagination. At the end of its life, with death approaching, it built a nest in an oak tree and was consumed in flames ignited by the sun. From that funeral pyre sprang forth the next Phoenix –reborn and renewed.

Fire, too, has shaped the history of Elon. This school was all but destroyed in the great fire of 1923. Gone were Main building, the college records, classrooms and chapel. But within days of the fire, Elon trustees set in motion the plan for Elon to rise again, stronger than ever.

The Phoenix is a leader and an eternal symbol of immortality and resurrection. It provides perfect connections for a school that is constantly growing and re-creating itself.

The Elon motto, numen lumen, is a latin phrase referring to intellectual and spiritual light. And so too, throughout history, The Phoenix has served as a symbol of light and knowledge.

The Phoenix is timeless and unique. There is only one Phoenix, and there is only one Elon.

A 19-foot bronze sculpture of a Phoenix sits atop a brick column adorned with a plaque that reads "Phoenix Rising".

The 19-foot bronze “Phoenix Rising” sculpture atop a brick column.

“Phoenix Rising” Sculpture

At the intersection of Bank of America Drive and Phoenix Drive, a 19-foot bronze sculpture of a Phoenix stands. The Phoenix Rising statue was designed and created by Cornelius, North Carolina, artist Jon Hair. The sculpture was part of a series of gifts given to Elon in 2001 by Charlotte, North Carolina, business leaders and philanthropists Irwin and Carol Grotnes Belk, and was dedicated on September 20, 2003.

The Phoenix is depicted as rising from flames which engulf a globe-shaped egg. The wings of the Phoenix are stretched dramatically upward in two massive arcs. At the pinnacle of the sculpture, between the wings, is another flame denoting the eventual return of the Phoenix to fire.