The man credited with conceiving the modern-day look of Goldy Gopher, the mascot for the University of Minnesota, has died.
Stephen Wanvig, who came up with the current version of Goldy in the mid-1980s, died at his home in Burnsville on June 6 after a long battle with cancer, according to his family. He was 70.
Wanvig left his artistic mark on his alma mater while working for Jostens, a maker of class rings, yearbooks, apparel and sports mementos.
His circa 1985 makeover of the school mascot depicted Goldy with a scowl, raised fist and clawed hind paws in full sprint.
However, according to the Minnesota Historical Society, a group dubbed Save Our Wimp soon raised its objections and campaigned for a return to a less-fierce version.
"Instead of a real he-man look, [university officials] wanted something that looks less masculine," Wanvig told the Associated Press at the time.
Wanvig removed the claws, slimmed the physique and gave Goldy a broad smile that debuted in 1986 and lives on to this day on the face of the school's official mascot, who is portrayed in costume at athletic events and other university festivities. A statue honoring Goldy stands near Coffman Memorial Union.
George Grooms, an artist working for Collegiate Manufacturing in Ames, Iowa, drew the first official Goldy Gopher mascot in the 1940s.
"I remember seeing Steve working on the Gopher mascot design ... over a long period of time," said onetime co-worker Paul Rysavy. "The evolution of the design was a fairly intensive process.""
Michael Burgess, Jostens CEO, said the company is "so grateful for the many contributions Steve made to our company and community over a 38-year career. While his home and heart was here in Minnesota, with one of his indelible legacies captured forever in Goldy, he was a world class designer, team member and family man."
Wanvig grew up in Minneapolis and was a graduate of DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota.
He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Sharon; children Sonya and Jason; and siblings Marc Wanvig and Toni Graves.
The funeral service will be limited to immediate family due to coronavirus restrictions. Memorials are suggested to the Recovery Church in St. Paul, where Wanvig was a member.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482