Happy Birthday: Shepherd University celebrates ram’s second birthday
SHEPHERDSTOWN — After Shepherd University got a new Dorsett ram in March 2017, it was named J.C., in honor of President Mary J.C. Hendrix.
As Hendrix’s namesake, the ram has been given special privileges. One, being the first ram in Shepherd University history to have its birthday celebrated every year on the anniversary of when it arrived at the university.
“We are excited to celebrate the birthday of J.C., Shepherd University’s growing mascot,” Hendrix said, mentioning she instituted the annual celebration on the front lawn of Scarborough Library. “I think the first couple of years are very special.
“The community came together to purchase this mascot. This truly is a public-private partnership to care for the Shepherd University ram,” Hendrix said. “How could we not celebrate the birthday of our mascot? And everybody’s coming together to celebrate.”
Mayor Jim Auxer agreed with Hendrix, mentioning free community events like this help to encourage unity in the community.
“People are coming together for the common good — it’s important for us to remember that,” Auxer said.
Some of the students and community members swarming to see J.C. eat his oat-molasses-peanut butter birthday cake and take a picture with him, were a group of international students. Led by Global Students President Henry Navarrete Mendez, the large group posed with a “Happy Birthday” sign they had made for the celebration.
“The international students made it, and it has ‘happy birthday’ in all the different languages that we speak,” Mendez said. “We’d been planning it, it was really fun and something nice we could do. It’s a way to get involved and to contribute to the community as well.”
J.C. is kept at a farm outside of the Corporation of Shepherdstown throughout the year, and has been cared for by ram handler Michelle Lawson since he was brought to Shepherdstown as a three-month-old lamb. According to Lawson, J.C. enjoys visiting the university campus.
“He loves this! When I pull the trailer up, he’s excited. He loves coming and seeing the students, he loves the selfies that are taken, he’s comfortable with his job,” Lawson said, mentioning all of Shepherd’s mascots have been Dorsett rams. “They’ve all been Dorsetts. Dorsett are a breed of sheep that are very calm and comfortable around people.”
One difficulty Shepherd University faced, before finding J.C., was the lack of Dorsett rams with a full set of horns. Breeders aim for smaller horns on their rams, which are less likely to get caught on objects around farms, according to Lawson.
“It’s hard to find a ram with great horns like these,” Lawson said. “Most people don’t like them.”
For Shepherd University 2015 alumna Cindy Brockman, the ceremony is a positive addition to the school calendar.
“I adore him,” Brockman said, as she petted J.C. “I’m so glad they’re doing this — they never did it for Zan the ram, which was the ram named after President Suzanne Shipley.”