Skip to main content
Publish date:

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. 

Next Up

D'Angelo Russell

D'Lo's late takeover helps Timberwolves win double-OT thriller

Russell caught fire to help the Timberwolves get back to .500.

Gopher Football

Gophers suffocate Badgers, reclaim Paul Bunyan's Axe

Minnesota picked up its first home win over the Badgers since 2003.

Meeker County Sheriff's Office

Boy, 6, run over after falling off trailer in Meeker Co. tree farm accident

He was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center with internal injuries.

Target store

Target unveils deals for 2-day 'Cyber Monday' event

The promotion kicks off Sunday, November 28.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.59.30 AM

Edina police warn of recent burglary trend targeting garages and vehicles

The Edina Police Department is increasing patrols in affected neighborhoods in response to the trend.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.03.06 AM

Charges: Man shot Uber Eats driver making a delivery in Cottage Grove

Otis Donnell Shipp was charged with second-degree attempted murder after turning himself in on Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.36.14 AM

Waterfront hotel in Duluth sustains damage in kitchen fire

Authorities estimate the damage at around $75,000.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.15.18 AM

Large groups of thieves target 2 Twin Cities Best Buys on Black Friday

It bears similarities to the flash-mob style thefts seen recently in California.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves' winning streak snapped at five games

The Wolves' bid for their longest winning streak since 2014 came up short.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Teen arrested over fatal shooting of 5-year-old boy in Brooklyn Park

Police say the teen was filming a social media video while handling a gun.

Related

Kyle Imdieke of Osakis, Minnesota.

Community rallies around family of MN coach who died suddenly

Kyle Imdieke was a beloved educator at Osakis High School.

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.

Evan Ng, University of Minnesota student suing the school over Title IX.

Student athlete suing U of M for cutting men's gymnastics team

The lawsuit says the decision was "sex-based discrimination."

Lt. Kent M. Vnuk

Hennepin Co. sheriff's lieutenant mourned after unexpected death

"Lt. Kent Vnuk was a colleague, leader, and most importantly a friend to so many."