By Fran Fisher

I’m not certain where the “chipmunk” label for the oval shape lion emblem (logo) came from. I think it came out of the alumni office when Bill Rothwell was the Executive Director. I do remember he was not a fan of the mark.

I do know where the logo came from: Dixon & Parcels Associates, Inc. a New York graphic design firm with a reputation for doing quality work. How did it get here? I thought you’d never ask!

In 1983, during my tenure as a Penn State athletic administrator, I was a member of the University Licensing Committee. This group, approved by president Bryce Jordan, was put together by the late George Lovette, Penn State’s Vice President for Finance at the time. The committee’s charge was to develop a policy enabling the university to control the commercial use of its names, marks and symbols and to collect royalties from manufacturers of goods that use them on their products. Lovette chaired the committee, two other members now deceased were John Bischoff, then manager of the Penn State Book Store, and Irv Kochel representing the president’s office. The other members were Mark Faulkner an attorney with McQuaide, Blasko, Swartz the law firm that handled the university’s legal matters, and Jean Barrett a book store employee who served as secretary.

That need for a licensing program was a given. It was a question of how to get there. We needed consulting help. Dave Kera an attorney with Oblan-Spivak a Washington DC firm specializing in trademark law became our man. We were made aware early on of the complexity of the copyright and trademark laws. In order to protect its names, marks and symbols and to be able to charge royalties for their commercial use, the university would have to file each separately for registration. Additionally, research would be necessary to prove that Penn State University was the first to use each of these indicia for commercial purposes thereby eliminating the public domain factor. Falkner told us a young lawyer in the firm would be assigned the responsibility for that research. Having had that explained, I asked Kera if a way to get started quickly would be for Athletics to create a new mark or symbol. He replied, “No doubt. That way first commercial use could be easily established.”

Shortly after that meeting I had the occasion to travel with Jim Tarman and Joe Paterno in the university airplane to do a PR bit somewhere (can’t remember where). Since I had a captive audience (no parachutes), I did my pitch for Intercollegiate Athletics developing a new logo explaining the licensing and royalty income potential. I guess they wanted to nap. They told me to proceed with monetary discretion.

fran fisherThe adventure began.

Dave Kera had given me the names of two New York based graphic design firms:

Lippencott & Margulies and Dixon & Parcels. I had heard of the former, called it first. In talking to an account executive asking him about what sort of financial commitment would be necessary for them to develop a logo for us, he suggested a minimum of $200,000 as a start probably would be appropriate. Monetary discretion? 0 for 1! When I called Dixon & Parcels I was referred to Roy Parcels, the number one man. When I told him I was calling from Penn State and why, he was anxious to work with us, excited about the challenge. He sent a proposal on the condition he could come to State College to further explain the process. We made a date and Parcels along with his right hand man, Bud Young, came to State College to do lunch with Joe Paterno, Jim Tarman, Tim Curley and myself. All of us were impressed with his presentation, so much so that a decision was made to proceed. In a subsequent meeting with Jim and Joe, they agreed with an assessment Tim and I had made: No committee. A ten-person committee would take five times longer to accomplish anything than a two-man committee. Result? Tim and I became responsible for the educational trip to Chipmunk Land. Now, let’s understand one thing: Neither Tim Curley nor Fran Fisher have or had any special talent regarding graphic design. It was simply a matter of being expeditious. If we are going to do it, let’s get it done!

We had a lot of meetings with Roy Parcels, a lot of discussions and looked at a lot of concepts, too many to address in this literary effort. Finally at one of our get-togethers, Roy Parcels told us his entire staff had taken an interest in the project and that each wanted it to be special. Then he showed us what they had come up with collectively explaining that the rationale was the result of some of the observations made at our initial lunch meeting: if it was to be some form of lion, we would prefer nothing mean or ferocious looking, rather an image suggesting dignity, pride, character, confidence What he presented was the oval lion with a stylized version of “Penn State.” Parcels explained that the two should be used together to begin with but that the lion symbol would eventually stand alone as the logo for Penn State athletics. How right he was. When Tim and I showed it to Jim and Joe, they said to proceed. We presented it to a meeting of all the coaches and to the Nittany Lion Club Advisory Council. There was no “apparent” dissent. Now I’m not naïve … stupid maybe but not naïve. There is no way any mark, symbol, logo or whatever created by whomever would be accepted by 100% of the people asked for an opinion. Too subjective. 60% acceptance is a win.

Onward and upward.

Dave Kera, Roy Parcels and Mark Faulkner guided us through the registration/trade marking process of the new athletic logo. It went smoothly. Having become our copyrighted mark, the next step was to get it on a product, like a T Shirt, so the Penn State Book Store could sell them thereby establishing first commercial use by the university. (I should interject here that at the time the Penn State Book Store was operated solely by the university. Barnes & Noble had not yet been involved). Mission accomplished. Subsequently Dixon and Parcels provided us with designs for stationary, business cards and a template to be used for the Beaver Stadium end zone designs. Now, I had this vision. The oval lion would fit nicely and look great on the football helmets. If the fans saw it on the helmets they would buy anything with it on. We would make big, big royalty bucks. So I had a decal made, got a helmet from equipment manager, Tim Shope, affixed the decal on the helmet and took it to show coach Paterno. Joe’s reaction? “GET OUTA’ HEAH!”

fran fisher penn stateIn the meantime, the research regarding the existing names, marks and symbols proved that Penn State did indeed own the commercial rights to those indicia. As a result all of them became trademarks of the university. That being the situation, it would have been unreasonable to expect the wholesalers of commercial products to pay a royalty to Intercollegiate Athletics for one mark and to the university for the others. Plus we didn’t want to compete with each other for those royalty dollars. We put them all in a Licensing Agreement package resulting in the university reimbursing Intercollegiate Athletics for all the charges made by Dixon & Parcels for the development of the athletic logo.

And so the licensing/royalty program was established. The big guys – Nike, Champion, Under Armor, JanSports all executed licensing agreements that called for a royalty based upon the wholesale cost of their products. It didn’t take long for the athletic logo to become popular with the Penn State faithful and for it to become the most popular mark on Penn State apparel. These many years later, it still is.

Over the many years since licensing and royalty collections have been effective, millions of dollars have been generated resulting in scholarship dollars for hundreds of students including student-athletes.

Hail to the Chipmunk indeed!

Postscript: Working with Tim Curley on this and other products over those years was a pleasure. His contributions, observations and perceptions were always right on. We became good friends...still are. Please pardon this editorial observation: There is no athletic director anywhere that had/has more loyalty to or more compassion for his university, his coaches and most importantly, for his student-athletes than Tim Curley.