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UND stakeholders have mixed feelings about nickname change

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- University of North Dakota alumnus and devoted hockey fan Al Pearson said the new Fighting Hawks nickname hasn't taken anything away from the sport.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- University of North Dakota alumnus and devoted hockey fan Al Pearson said the new Fighting Hawks nickname hasn't taken anything away from the sport.

"I will still cheer on the team," he said.

Some longtime supporters of the Fighting Sioux nickname said they had mixed feelings about the Fighting Hawks nickname but are ready to move on. Despite the difficult adjustment period ahead, current students supported the new name, and stakeholders support the students, they said.

DeAnna Carlson Zink, the executive vice president and chief executive officer of UND Alumni Association and Foundation, said the alumni magazine will cover developments in the short term.

She said she anticipated mixed reaction from alumni, adding no one can fault them for that.

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"They're going to continue to hold that as part of their passion, and that's just the way it's going to be for many years for some people," she said.

Zink, who cast her vote in favor of Fighting Hawks, said she would have been fine with either choice.

"It is sad to see the Fighting Sioux name go away, but it's time to move forward and create these new traditions," she said.

Pearson, who has Parkinson's disease, is now into his 41st year attending away games. He had long organized bus trips to games he referred to as "Sioux hockey." He and his family weren't satisfied with the naming process, but he would "put up with" the Fighting Hawks, the name he preferred over Roughriders, he said.

He still has tickets for the St. Cloud game on Friday, he said.

Jon Bonzer, owner of Bonzer's Sandwich Pub in downtown Grand Forks, said Fighting Hawks appeared to be the overwhelming choice by the student body, which he supports, he said.

"I am ready to move on," he said. "I did quite some time ago. It's not about the nickname, it's about UND -- out of my love for my alma mater, I'm very happy to move on."

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Range of emotions

Several alumni said their feelings ran the gamut Wednesday from passivity to passion.

Justin Auch, president of Also Creative, said his initial reaction was "thank God it's over." He didn't vote because he doesn't care about the issue or hockey, he said.

"I think it's a waste of time and effort when other things need to be solved in the city," he said

Joanna Pearson, a UND alumna and Al Pearson's daughter, said the "whole process made her heart hurt." She didn't vote, and neither did her father, she said.

Joanna Pearson said her family was invested in the Fighting Sioux nickname. They had a lot of questions they felt were left unanswered, even before the names were selected for a vote, and that confusion compounded their disappointment with the process, she said.

"We had so much meaning before in that logo and everything else," she said. "But we will still support the school."

During bus rides to the games, fans yell "Go Sioux!" That kind of history will be hard to put behind them, she said.

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As far as Pete Kuhn is concerned, Fighting Hawks is the "lesser of two evils," he said.

"I would have preferred to have us continue as the University of North Dakota," he said.

Kuhn and his wife, Eunice, are longtime Sioux fans who have dedicated significant time and money into supporting the team. His wife engineered three Super Sioux Gala actions and both were members of the Sioux Booster board. The decision won't detract from their support of UND athletics, he said.

Bonzer and Tim O'Keefe, former CEO of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, said they understood UND had "no choice" but to choose a new nickname for student hockey to continue successfully.

O'Keefe recognizes his strong feelings about the Fighting Sioux nickname but also respects those who feel otherwise, he said. For those who grew up with and took great pride in Sioux hockey, the new nickname marks the separation of the past and future, he said.

"The most important thing today is the fact that the support of the Fighting Hawks name came from current students," he said. "They all build with future students the foundation for the future."

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