The History of the Nittany Lion
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This article is about the Penn State mascot. For the Penn State fight song see "The Nittany Lion".
The Nittany Lion is the mascot of the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, USA and its athletic teams. It refers to the mountain lions that once roamed near the school, and to Mount Nittany, a local landmark. There is also a fight song played during sporting events on campus entitled "The Nittany Lion."
The mascot was the creation of Penn State senior H. D. "Joe" Mason in 1907. While on a 1904 trip to Princeton University, Mason had been embarrassed that Penn State did not have a mascot. Mason did not let that deter him: he fabricated the Nittany Lion on the spot and proclaimed that it would easily defeat the Princeton Bengal tiger. The Lion's primary means of attack against the Tiger would be its strong right arm, capable of slaying any foes (this is now traditionally exemplified through one-armed push-ups after the team scores a touchdown). Upon returning to campus, he set about making his invention a reality. In 1907, he wrote in the student publication The Lemon:
(These words later inspired the fight song known as "The Nittany Lion", which begins "Every college has a legend...".)
Mountain lions had roamed on nearby Mount Nittany until the 1880s. The origin of the name "Mount Nittany" is obscure, the most commonly accepted explanation being that it is derived of Native American words (loosely pronounced as "neet-a-nee") named after the cougars that roamed the mountain or "single mountain" - a protective barrier against the elements.
The name was readily accepted without a vote of the student body. In 1907, the first tangible lion symbols appeared with the placing of two alabaster African lion statues, left over from the Pennsylvania exhibit at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, atop the columns at the main campus entrance on College and Allen streets. They were affectionately dubbed by the student body as "Pa" and "Ma." In the 1920s, a pair of stuffed mountain lions was placed in the Recreation Building to watch over athletic events. One of these original lions is now located in Pattee Library on the Penn State campus. About that same time, the tradition was established of having a student dressed in furry-lion outfits appear at football games.
 The Lion Shrine
During the 1940s, seeking a place to hold pep rallies and victory celebrations, students launched a campaign for a lion shrine. As its gift to the university, the Class of 1940 voted to give the sum of $5,430 to pay for the construction of such a shrine, which was to be constructed between the Recreation Building and Beaver Stadium, with the lion framed against a natural setting of trees, grass, and shrubs. The sculptor Heinz Warnecke was retained to carve the lion at the site from a thirteen-ton block of limestone. The sculpture was formally unveiled on October 24, 1942. The shrine has come to be one of the most visited and photographed sites, not just on campus, but also in the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
 Guarding the Shrine
This is a Homecoming weekend tradition at Penn State, started in 1966 when Sue Paterno (wife of football coach Joe Paterno) and a friend covered the lion in orange latex-based paint as a way of stoking interest in that year's game against PSU rival Syracuse. While that paint washed off easily, a later dousing by actual Syracuse fans with oil-based paint proved much harder to remove, requiring sand blasting. The shrine is guarded for the duration of Homecoming weekend by Penn State's ROTC detachment, Blue Band, alumni, current students, faculty, and by the Lion Ambassadors. The latter group brings food, music, games, and (starting in 2004) an event called "Last Guard Standing", attracting students from all over campus. Originally, the guard was manned by freshmen. In another football weekend incident [date?] the Lion Shrine was vandalized when a blunt object was used to break off the statues right ear. The original sculptor remained alive at the time and, with some difficulty, was able to match the stone and repair the damaged ear. This incident led to the site being guarded during home football games.
 See also
The Nittany Lion for Poe, Stacy is currently under construction. Please come back later.