Artist responsible for Goldy Gopher dies after long illness

Steve Wanvig gave the mascot the look it has today.
Publish date:

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. 

Next Up

Cam Talbot

Wild improve to 4-1 with victory over Dubnyk, Sharks

The 4-1 win gives the Wild four victories in five games to start the season.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 9.08.16 PM

Daughter of MN Supreme Court Justice, Allina Health CEO found dead in Iowa

The 21-year-old was found dead in the parking lot of a sorority, according to police.

Screen Shot 2020-09-04 at 8.42.40 PM

Federal charges: MN marijuana lobbyist threatened U.S. representative

"I want you to be as scared as possible," the voicemail allegedly says.

coronavirus, masks, covid-19

Wisconsin Republicans aim to end governor's mask mandate

They've introduced a resolution to remove the governor's emergency powers.

Ted Schweich

Community group hopes to install billboard to get neighbor a kidney

A group called "Team Ted" aims to raise $5,000 to find their friend a kidney donor.

Andrew Palmer

Charges: Coach raped teenage girl on Minnesota basketball team

The 33-year-old head coach has been charged in connection to the alleged crimes.

radio station, microphone

WCCO Radio's program director leaves the company

It's not clear why John Hanson and the station parted ways.

Minneapolis skyline

Minneapolis a step closer to banning facial recognition technology

There are concerns about it leading to a surveillance state, and that it could harm disadvantaged communities.

covid-19, coronavirus, PPE

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, January 22

Nearly 50,000 Minnesotans have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.


Goldy will be bobbling as he rows the boat this summer

A new bobblehead combines the Gophers' mascot with the new football coach's rallying cry.

Goldy will be bobbling as he rows the boat this summer

A new bobblehead combines the Gophers' mascot with the new football coach's rallying cry.

Twin Cities family seeking help after son dies of CO poisoning

He was a DREAMer and health care worker who had graduated college in December.

Weisman Art Museum

Weisman Art Museum makes list of 'amazing' college buildings

The Frank Gehry masterpiece sits on the U of M campus in Minneapolis.

Renowned Minnesota pottery icon Warren MacKenzie dies at 94

He passed away in his Stillwater home on New Year's Eve.

Leah Ottman, aka LOTT

Acclaimed Minneapolis violinist and singer Leah Ottman dies at 33

She also performed as LOTT, the name of her solo project.

John Ford

Viral obituary says man died after Vikes 'allowed 17 unanswered points'

The Plymouth man died after the Vikings blew another lead.