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Artist responsible for Goldy Gopher dies after long illness

Steve Wanvig gave the mascot the look it has today.

The man behind the University of Minnesota's famous mascot has passed away. 

Steve Wanvig, who designed the current iteration of Goldy Gopher back in the mid-1980s, died at the age of 70 after a long illness earlier this month, according to his obituary. 

Wanvig was a graphic artist at Jostens — the company known for its class rings and yearbooks — for over 38 years, and in that capacity was tasked with redesigning Goldy. 

His work wasn't well-received at first. According to the U of M's biography of the mascot, Wandig's first design, unveiled in 1985 (pictured below), was a little too aggressive and tough-looking for most people. 

"In response to public criticism," the U's Athletics department asked Wanvig to give it another try and tone down the gopher.

Goldy Gopher, 1985 version

First iteration of the modern Goldy.

The resulting work was a "less fierce" Goldy, and it stuck. The design is the one we all know today, and in 2013, it was immortalized as a bronze statue that now stands outside the Coffman Memorial Union building on the U of M campus.

As the U notes, Goldy officially appeared as a mascot for the first time in the 1940s. 

Wanvig, a Minneapolis native, was a U of M alum himself, having graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor's degree in fine arts, his LinkedIn says. 

He spent most of his career at Jostens, though in the mid-70s had a stint as a courtroom artist for KSTP. 

Wanvig's obituary says that he had battled cancer "off and on for 28 years." He's survived by his wife, two children and three grandchildren. 

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