Behind the Chapin Gator


Walk the halls of Chapin and you’ll catch many glimpses of a certain reptilian creature. Found everywhere from baseball caps and sweatshirts to stuffed animals and pins, the Chapin Gator is a spirited symbol of the School today. But how did this fierce yet lovable mascot come to be? In the 1990’s, there was a tremendous surge in athletic opportunities at New York City all girls’ schools. “Parents wanted the same athletic opportunities for their daughters that their sons had,” explained Associate Head of School M.J. Quigley. As a result, many girls’ schools in the AAIS (Athletic Association for Independent Schools) began adopting mascots for their athletic teams, including Chapin! 

“We decided to develop a mascot as a way to boost spirit and pride in our teams, and also to give people something to cheer at games,” noted Amanda Brown Love ’91, a Chapin alumna who was working as the School’s Director of Student Life at the time. During an exciting school-wide contest in the year 2000, students and faculty in each division, and staff, submitted their most popular mascot ideas, which resulted in four finalists… cheetahs, comets, cavaliers, and gators. After further consideration, the Gator emerged victorious!
Alligators, you see, have roamed the earth since the dinosaurs, making them amazingly skilled at evolving and adapting with the times (much like our Chapin community). They have a reputation for being tough, but are also highly intelligent and among the most attentive parents in the reptile word. And, alligators can be surprisingly fast, reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour across short distances.

“They also happen to make great stuffed animals!” Ms. Quigley recalled with a laugh. But what may actually have sealed the deal is a fun and curious fact the judges stumbled upon as they completed their research: The American Alligator is born with yellow bands on its body, and then becomes fully green as it matures, perfectly capturing the School’s colors… Green and Gold! 

To announce the winning mascot to the student body, an official Assembly was held with Amanda Brown Love ’91 making the very first public appearance in the Gator costume. Today, the Gator, often referred to as “Allie Gator,” makes many appearances at events throughout the school year, including  at Homecoming, the PA Skating Party, and, in recent years, at the Middle and Upper School Welcome Party for all newly enrolled students. 

Who is the person behind the suit, you may wonder? All members of the Chapin community have the opportunity to wear the coveted Gator costume, from members of the Athletic Association and other eager students to the occasional parent! “Students often come to me and ask if they can wear the suit at an upcoming event. It’s nice that everyone who wants to be the Gator has a chance to do so,” said Director of Athletics Michelle Caywood.

Take one peek inside Ms. Caywood’s office and you’ll immediately grasp her own love of all things Gator. There are gator figurines, stuffed animals and posters covering her desk and walls. “I want people to be able to look at our Gator and instantly say, ‘That’s Chapin!’” she enthusiastically shared.

One thing is for sure: Over the past 18 years our Gator has been happily folded into Chapin’s many traditions and is a celebrated symbol of the School today.