Gunga Founded in 1985 by Class President Galvin

Gunga, Andover’s first and only mascot, can be found at football games and various other athletic events in a gorilla costume of blue and black. While the exact number of costumes since the launch of Gunga is unknown, Cynthia Efinger, Director of Student Activities, said that “it can get kind of disgusting” and therefore must be replaced regularly. The creators of the origina Gunga did not intend for Gunga to become the school’s mascot. Rather, a few students wanted something special and humorous for orientation in the fall of 1985, and invented the gorilla just days before the start of school. Among these students were class president Malcolm Galvin and several of the Blue Key Heads. According to Rich Gorham ’86, one of Gunga’s creators, it was a collective effort, creating the concept of putting someone inside of a gorilla costume and dubbing them “The Andover Ape.” Gunga was introduced to Phillips Academy students when Galvin read a letter from this gorilla at the first All-School Convocation of 1985. Galvin, widely attributed as the creator of Gunga, shared Gunga’s story with students through a note he claimed to have found in a coconut while walking around the Sanctuary. One of the minds behind Gunga, Dave Eckman ’86, said that this gorilla was promoted as “a hermit-like creature, who, upon spying [on] the community, friendship and teamwork of Blue Key Students was inspired to come out of hiding for one night of ritualistic dancing,” now known as the Midnight March. According to Eckman, the story, invented by Galvin and his classmates, was that he was, “a coconut-juice-imbibing hermit who witnessed a community on a hill, which appeared to him to have the potential for greatness, oneness, exhibiting true Non Sibi behavior, with a smile, compassion and respect for all…Gunga’s true identity was an embodiment of the entire Andover community.” Though Galvin had rented the gorilla costume specifically for orientation, he was encouraged by the headmaster to buy it after Gunga was so well received by the student body. He was granted permission to continue the charade for the whole year. After graduation, the costume was passed on to the next class president, and Gunga thus became an official tradition at Phillips Academy, much to the surprise of his originators. The identity of the student in the costume is known only by the current Blue Key Heads. The Blue Key Heads generally select a student who exhibits school spirit, and whom they believe would fulfill Gunga’s original purpose. Galvin said the purpose was, “connecting individuals, fostering community, promoting happiness, pursuing bliss and otherwise bigging-up the Big Blue.” The students selected as Gunga must truly possess Non Sibi spirit, as they receive no credit for being Gunga; they are still required to participate in a sport each season, and the student body never finds out who it was underneath the mask. Gorham said that after Gunga became an integral part of Big Blue spirit, Exeter created their mascot a few years later, circa 1988.