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Nittany Lion Legend

Penn State's athletic symbol, chosen by the student body in 1906, is the mountain lion which once roamed central Pennsylvania. H.D. "Joe" Mason, a member of the Class of 1907, conducted a one-man campaign to choose a school mascot after seeing the Princeton tiger on a trip with the Penn State baseball team to that New Jersey campus. A student publication sponsored the campaign to select a mascot and Penn State is believed to be the first college to adopt the lion as a mascot.

Since Penn State is located in the Nittany Valley at the foot of Mount Nittany, the lion was designated as a Nittany Lion. In regional folklore, Nittany (or Nita-Nee) was a valorous Indian princess in whose honor the Great Spirit caused Mount Nittany to be formed. A later namesake, daughter of chief O-Ko-Cho, who lived near the mouth of Penn's Creek, fell in love with Malachi Boyer, a trader. The tearful maiden and her lost lover became legend and her name was given to the stately mountain.

The Nittany Lion

Nittany Lion Shrine

Penn State's Nittany Lion shrine was dedicated on Oct. 24, 1942, during Homecoming Weekend.

Animal sculptor Heinz Warneke and stonecutter Joseph Garatti molded a 13-ton block of Indiana limestone into the most recognizable symbol of Penn State. The shrine was chosen from six models submitted by Warneke.

The shrine is a gift of the Class of 1940 and rests in a natural setting of trees near Recreation Building. The site was chosen because of its accessibility, the surrounding trees and the fact that the sculpture would not be dwarfed by nearby buildings.

Nittany Lion Shrine

Blue and White

Penn State's student-athletes are instantly identified by their blue and white uniforms - but those weren't the original school colors. A three-member committee representing the sophomore, junior and senior classes was appointed in October of 1887 to develop color options from which the student body would select the school's official colors. Dark pink and black was the unanimous choice of the student body after considering the color combinations presented by the committee.

Soon many students and the baseball team were sporting pink and black striped blazers and caps. However, problems arose when the pink faded to white after several weeks of exposure to the sun. The students then opted for blue, rather than black, and white. The official announcement of the new choice was made on March 18, 1890.

Blue and White


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