The Mascot Evolution

Isabella Villegas

We all know him, we all love him: Zachie the Bear. Zachie is Ursinus’ mascot who can be spotted around campus, interacting with his beloved college community, especially during big events like Homecoming, Parents Weekend, or Alumni Weekend. But did you know that there was a real black bear on campus in the late 1930’s?

Robert “Bump” Landis, class of 1940, brought a black bear cub to Ursinus College which became our first and only living mascot. Of course, Bump named the bear Zachie, and ever since, Zachie has been a staple of the Ursinus community. Zachie attended almost all the football games and would watch from the sycamore tree that used to be in the endzone of the Patterson football field. He was known to climb the tree to get the best view, and when living on campus, Zachie had duties to fulfill as well, but unlike ours, they were not academic. In exchange for housing and care, Zachie was required to show up to basketball and baseball games to sup- port his fellow Bears. He eventually outgrew all the accommodations that Bump could provide, and had to be given away. Soon after, Zachie became a resident of the Hershey Zoo and the mascot of the Hershey Bears Ice Hockey Team. Bump was called into military service and could not see Zachie for a long period. After a long year without each other, Bump went to visit Zachie at the Hershey Zoo. The zookeeper was astonished when Bump asked to go into the cage, but let him in with hesitation. Zachie recognized his owner, and together they shared one last bear hug.

Even though Ursinus will likely never have another real bear on cam- pus, Zachie continues to play a major role at Ursinus. Even though it is just an individual in a suit, Zachie’s legacy remains alive and well. The current mascot, Aidan Nadell ‘25, wants peo- ple to know who he is so they know who to contact to arrange a ‘bear sighting’ at events. Aidan became the mascot out of serendipity: “STAT [Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow] needed a volunteer for Homecoming in 2021 and I stepped up,” he said. After putting his hat in the ring, Na- dell knew that this was something he wanted to continue doing. He believes that it is a way to spread campus joy and give back to the Ursinus commu- nity – past, present, and future. Aidan exudes pride when talking about his experience as the mascot, saying, “It feels like I am on top of the world when I am in that suit.” Even though the job is fun and fulfilling, it also hassome shortcomings. Nadell said, “I sweat between five and 7 pounds every time I am in that suit.” Even though taking the costume off can be quite troubling, it is worth the experience. His legacy continues to live on, thanks to students like Aidan, but I just do not foresee our Zachie now trying to climb a tree.