The Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame Association
Our Polar Bear Mascot
In the fall of 1929 Charles C. LaRue became principal of Woodward High School. The new school had opened in the fall of 1928. Apparently the school had not chosen a mascot during its first year. Principal LaRue was tasked with selecting a mascot.
There are two stories that are commonly believed to explain how the Polar Bear became Woodward’s mascot. The first is that the Polar Bear was chosen because the new school was located in the North end of Toledo. The second is that Mr. LaRue chose the Polar Bear because it was the mascot of his alma mater Ohio Northern University.
Through the years several depictions of Polar Bears appeared in the school yearbook the Saga. The 1958 Saga featured a Polar Bear on the cover.
In the late 1950s four large Polar Bear paintings were hung in the boys' gym, one above each corner of the basketball court. They were painted by Ray Ortyl from the class of 1958. They graced the walls of the gym until the early 80s.
From the 1939 Saga/Tattler
In the winter of 1960 Woodward obtained its first Polar Bear statue and that was placed in front of the school. Below is the story of how that happened as recalled by Bill Lingnell Class of 1960 and printed in the Hail to Woodward High! 75th Anniversary book by Gayle Morgan Schaber.
I still clearly remember getting the bear for Woodward. The Frozen Custard, an ice cream store on Sylvania Avenue, had the bear in front of the store and contacted me (as Student Council President) to see if Woodward wanted it. I believe they were either closing or moving to another location. Of course, I said yes! John Russell, Jerry Clark, Dick Murphy, Jim Robinson and I spent a cold Saturday morning in the winter of 1960 moving the bear across town with a tow truck. “The Blade" sent a photographer. I hadn't looked at that scrapbook for over 30 years. The tape had let go, and the picture is yellow. But what a great memory! - Bill Lingnell Class of 1960
In the 1961 Saga a photo of the bear appeared with the following caption.
"There is a new addition to Woodward High School this year. The polar bear, whose name is Polaris, has been acclaimed as Woodward's mascot."
The "original" Polar Bear from the 1962 Saga
The “original” Polar Bear served as the mascot for Woodward High School from the winter of 1960 until the fall of the 1973/1974 school year.
It is believed that Woodward was the only high school in Toledo that had a outdoor mascot in front of the school. During this period of time the Polar Bear was painted many times by students from other schools. Usually this was done prior to that school playing Woodward in football or basketball.
The original Polar Bear was solid concrete so it was impossible for other schools to “borrow” our bear.
From Zip Line in the Toledo Blade
On September 10, 1973 one driver was trying to overtake another in a race. At 6:15 he lost control of his car and smashed into WHS’s Polar Bear. Although the Polar Bear was demolished, steps are being taken by Mr. Geis to buy Woodward another Bear. This picture was taken by Tattler photographer Tom Toth, class of 1974.
The classes of 1974 and 1975 are the only classes to graduate without a Polar Bear mascot outdoor on the campus of the school since the "original" Polar Bear was placed there in the winter of 1960.
From the Tattler
From the 1976 Saga
2010 - at new school
A new Polar Bear appeared in front of Woodward High School during the 1975/1976 school year. From Hail to Woodward High! 75th Anniversary book by Gayle Morgan Schaber...
A new polar bear reigned over Streicher Street. Science teacher Ray Attie designed and built the new mascot statue with the help of Jed's Tool Shop, Kuhlman Corporation, and Auburndale Moving Company, along with the Woodward Booster Club who helped finance the project.
This Polar Bear stood watch over Woodward High School for 35 years until the 1928 Woodward High School building at 600 E. Streicher St. closed in 2010.
In 2010 then principal Emilio Ramirez and longtime Woodward volunteer Stan Czerminski made sure that the bear was saved and was moved to the new Woodward High School. It now proudly stands watch on the Woodward High School campus at the rear of the school facing the football/track complex.
In May of 2021 an additional Polar Bear was placed in Woodward's Main Dome/Front entrance. Assistant principal Mary Dunne reached out to Wayfair and negotiated the donation of the Polar Bear. Countless hours were spent by the talented craftsmen from local 272 in design, material selection and construction of the new home for the bear. Additional thanks to volunteer Stan Czerminski and Seegar Metals and Plastics. Now two Polar Bears guard Woodward High School, one outside facing the sports complex and now a second inside standing watch near the main entrance.