Evolution often occurs slowly over incredibly long periods of time, but Gustavus’ trademark lion seems to be exempt from this rule since throughout the past 50 years there have been numerous alterations to the Gustie Lion.
The first lion was introduced sometime in the 1960s as a result of a $100 scholarship contest sponsored by the Bookmark for the student who could provide a 100-200 word statement for a mascot that they believed would represent Gustavus most perfectly. This would result in the eventual lion. The choice tied back to Gustavus’s ancestral roots – the lion, after all, appears on Sweden’s coat of arms (along with the three crowns).
“Gus,” as the lion would be known, was created by hand and kept by the Student Government. Any willing Gustie was allowed to take and wear the costume. Unfortunately, this system made it quite easy for the costume to disappear, and it eventually was permanently lost sometime in the late 1970s. In 1982, there was debate as to whether or not the lion should be revived.
It was then that Thor the Lion came alive in 1983, bearing a new name to bring about a new face to the campus. Jay Belschner, the artist who was commissioned to draw a proposal for the new look, said that he wanted this lion to look “likeable but not cutesy—something to represent the school in a positive way, not a gaudy way.” The name itself was decided upon in a contest by the student body, and the winning choice was Thor, the warrior god of Norse mythology.
Thor didn’t last long, however, and Gus the Lion made a comeback sometime in the early 1990s, appearing much less frightening and much more friendly.This year, he underwent yet another makeover and was debuted at the Homecoming pep fest just a few weeks ago.
One thing is for certain, however, that no matter how many times Gus may change, the spirit of pride that he represents remains unchanged.