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1993: University Seal Modernized

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Controversy erupted over a 1993 decision to ‘update’ the University’s seal.   This “new visual identity” was intended to “strengthen and coordinate” the University’s appearance to “its stakeholders and supporters.”   Several other Canadian universities had undergone similar “visual identity programs,” and like the University of Saskatchewan’s, these included standardizing graphics on letterheads and publications.

Nevertheless, altering the seal was for many a step in the wrong direction.  The original seal included “Universitas Saskatchewanensis” but the design consultants felt use of Latin conveyed “elitism and aloofness.”1 A cartoon appeared in the campus paper suggesting that perhaps a compromise solution might be to use pig latin (“Universityay ofay Askatchewansay”).   The University’s motto, Deo et Patriae, (“For God and Country”) remained untouched – “safe,” one professor noted, “from the eyes of those who might not appreciate it.”   The three sheaves of wheat on the University shield were “cleaned up, enhanced and modernized;” although some  suggested the new versions resembled nothing so much as forks with bent handles.2

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The selection of a seal first came before the Board of Governors in 1909: Council had approved using three sheaves, a provincial symbol, and an open book to symbolize the University, as well as the motto.  Of their choices for design, one resembling that of Oxford’s seal, with the three sheaves of wheat replacing Oxford’s crowns, was favoured.  The University colours, based on the seal, were green and white.

In his history of the University, Dr. Michael Hayden noted that President Walter Murray “once joked that the coat of arms of the University of Saskatchewan should include ‘a shook of wheat supported by Dexter Gopher rampant Sinister Gopher rampant surmounted by a Prairie Chicken’.”  Hayden regretted this was never taken seriously, believing such a symbol “would shock people into an awareness of the unique nature of the University of Saskatchewan.”3  Gopher or not, modernized design or not, the consultants for the new seal came away from their project “with the tremendous sense of the pride of ownership the people of the province have for the University of Saskatchewan.”4   And that, of course, always was Murray’s real design. 


1993a: photograph of the U of S patent of arms.
1993b: sample of the pre-1993 seal as frequently used.


1. On Campus News, 9 Sep 1993, p. 4.
2. On Campus News, 5 Nov 1993, p. 5.
3. Hayden, xiii.
4. On Campus News, 9 Sep 1993, p. 4.

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