A brief history of the Sphinx as recounted by Professor Emeritus, James Clifford:

"Hayden White chose the Sphinx in 1978 when he (and I) arrived to renovate Histcon. There were no permanent faculty in the program before us. Some colleagues and members of the administration were saying that to mark a new beginning we should change the program's name, that it was an embarrassment. Hayden refused, saying that the name was famous/notorious and we should make it work for us. 

Moreover, since 'history of consciousness' meant either everything or nothing, since the name was an enigma, interpreted in many ways, what better image than the Sphinx? So Hayden got an artist to design the monumental profile we still have, and it dominated all our first posters.

The Sphinx had the added advantage of being indeterminately male and female, animal and human, and simultaneously Eastern and Western. (Though after a few years there was a period--in the wake of Edward Said's book--when it was condemned as 'Orientalist.')

 That's all I remember."