MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ - Middlesex College will soon be retiring its athletic logo depicting a stout-hearted steed in mid-rear, putting the iconic Blue Colt out to pasture after more than 50 years of service.
The school that had been known as Middlesex County College until Jan. 1 will also be abbreviating the school mascot to simply the Colts.
News of the college’s sweeping rebranding initiative hit Lorenz “Larry” Thoms right in his heart.
He was a teenager in a long pea coat and a mop of wind-tossed hair in 1967 when he sketched out the Blue Colt while taking business classes as one of the very first students enrolled at the college's main campus in Edison, which had been quickly transformed from the military's former Raritan Arsenal to a school.
So much has changed since then - Thoms has since retired after raising a family and enjoying a successful career in the pharmaceuticals field, while the school has steadily evolved and grown over the decades, building out the Edison campus and opening centers in New Brunswick and Perth Amboy.
The Blue Colt had endured through it all, appearing on baseball caps, athletic programs, team photos, basketball jerseys, athletic department letterhead and in countless other forms over the decades – until now.
“I admit: I am somewhat disappointed,” said Thoms, who grew up in Rahway and now resides in Connecticut. “I really enjoyed that connection to the school and the Blue Colt was sort of my claim to fame. I’m a traditionalist. I like history, I like tradition. I wish they would keep it, but I understand the need for change. Sometimes change can be an improvement, a new way of looking at things.”
Middlesex County College was in its infancy when it chose the distinctive Blue Colt as the school mascot. According to “Endless Possibilities, Middlesex County College 1964-2014,” College President Frank Chambers charged some students with coming up with some suggestions. One of them, Peter Parenti, championed the Colts ahead of the Raiders and others had other suggestions for a college mascot. Another one piped up and asked, “Hey, how about the Blue Colts?”
A nickname was born in that moment, but the school still needed a logo. So, Chambers held a contest, dangling a prize to the designer of the winning submission. Thoms almost didn’t enter, submitting the sketch in black ink after being coaxed into it. He can't recall who pushed him to enter, but he remembers being surprised when he won. After all, he had no formal artistic training.
“I won and they gave me something like $15,” he said, with a laugh. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s it?’ And then they asked me to draw a larger version of it in blue ink to hang in the bookstore. I remember thinking that this is taking a lot of my time. But I was honored to do so.’”
Thoms can laugh about it all these years later from his home in Goshen, Conn.
Retirement living is good for Thoms, who paints watercolor landscapes, skis, fishes, plays with his six grandkids and enjoys the fruits of more than 30 years spent working in various sales and management positions for Novartis.
He has always been proud of his Blue Colt, and has always been amused over the years when he’d catch a glimpse of a copy-cat version of it on a bumper sticker or framed on a bar wall.
And even though the logo will soon be retired – college officials say they are planning to unveil a new college logo in the spring – Thoms will maintain a strong connection to the school. All these years later, he has remained buddies with a group of guys he met there. A bunch of them ended up renting a house in New Brunswick or South Brunswick – Thoms doesn’t remember exactly where, but, boy, did they throw some memorable parties on Friday nights.
After graduation, Thoms, Tommy Brooks, Eddie Wiechowski, Paul Jaffe, Al Ragucci and a few others took off to West Virginia and enrolled in Concord College, which was willing to accept credits from the fledgling county college. He eventually struck out on his own, earning a degree from Murray State.
Not only did his time at Middlesex County College prepare him for a long, successful career, but it gave him lifelong friends.
“Paul Jaffe was the guy who mentioned to me that I should go into the pharmaceutical field,” Thoms said. “I wouldn’t be, how can I say it, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today if I didn’t follow his advice.”
But, Thoms said, the Blue Colt was all his idea.