Lake Superior State University and the Unicorn Hunters

Lake Superior State University (LSSU), located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, is a small public university. In fact, with a population of just around 3,000 enrolled students, it is Michigan’s smallest public university. Yet, it makes it to the front pages of almost all major dailies the world over, thanks in large part to its highly anticipated “List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” that is published after every New Year’s Day since 1976.

The “List” is a brainchild of the late W.T. Rabe, the University’s former PR director, and his Unicorn Hunters, a former campus club, to drum up publicity for their alma matter. Aside from the “List,” the Hunters other activities that got LSSU in the national and even global news included burning a snowman on the first day of spring, World Sauntering Day, International Stone-Skipping Tournament held annually on Mackinac Island, Unicorn Questing Season and Teacher Thank You Week.

Although the Unicorn Hunters retired when Rabe did in 1987, what they started had become traditional events at LSSU. The publication of the “List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” is now on its fifth decade. Since 1971, for instance, but except for 1992 because of the noisy protests by some environmental activists, the University has also continued with the practice of welcoming the end of Winter by burning a massive, paper snowman at high noon on the first day of Spring, followed by a garden celebration where barbecued hotdogs and refreshments are served to students, faculty, guests, and the media. Typically, the master of ceremonies welcomes the crowd and gives a history of the activity. Usually, there is also some form of entertainment like poetry reading while the snowman burns and the students pass out daffodils. The yearly event is still being regularly followed by print and broadcast media reporters.

And what about “Unicorn questing”? Although the Unicorn Hunters no longer physically reside at the campus grounds, LSSU said: “A Unicorn Questing Privilege may be obtained free of charge at the University’s website,, under ‘Unicorn Hunters.’ If you do not have computer access, call or write the LSSU Public Relations Office, 650 W. Easterday Ave., Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., 49783, 906-635-2315. License must be worn over the heart, pinned with a sprig of rosemary. The Questing License has been reviewed by the Wildlife Division of the Department of Natural Resources of the State of Michigan.”

Of course, LSSU is known not only for its “List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” and it Unicorn Hunters. It was the first institution of higher learning in the United States to offer an accredited four-year fire science program, and it continues to be one of only three universities in the country to offer such a program. It is also one of only three universities in the United States to offer the robotics specialization in the professionally-accredited manufacturing engineering technology, electrical engineering, computer engineering, and mechanical engineering bachelor of science degrees and it continues to run one of the best robotics educational facilities in North America.

The University primarily offers bachelor’s and associate degrees, but also grants a master of arts in curriculum and instruction and many certificates. It also conducts joint programs with Sault College and Algoma University. LSSU’s academic programs cover courses in fisheries and wildlife management, engineering, chemistry and the environmental sciences, teacher education, nursing, geology, business management, fire science, and criminal justice, along with English and creative writing, forensic sciences, recreation management, and legal studies. It is also one of the two universities in Michigan that offers an environmental health accredited curriculum (EHAC), with the other being Central Michigan University.

LSSU’s athletic teams are officially nicknamed the “Lakers.” They compete in NCAA Division II intercollegiate sporting competitions as well as Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference and Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournaments. The University’s banner colors are Royal Blue and Gold. The LSSU mascots are Fog Horn the Sailor and Seamore the Sea Duck.

Category: Academics

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