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As Lee University began to celebrate its centennial year, the athletic department searched for ways to incorporate its history into the celebration. The idea of a centennial mascot was presented …
As Lee University began to celebrate its centennial year, the athletic department searched for ways to incorporate its history into the celebration. The idea of a centennial mascot was presented and the process began to move forward.
“A Viking was an obvious choice for this Centennial mascot since the nickname for the initial Lee College athletic basketball team was the Vikings,” explained Lee Vice President for Operations Cole Strong. The Viking nickname was in place from 1960 until it was changed to the Flames in 1982.
“We aren’t changing our nickname from the Flames,” he stressed. “We are still the Flames; but we have introduced a secondary mascot to help us celebrate the centennial year.”
“I am so excited about the centennial mascot. As we take time this year to celebrate our history, I can think of no better way to connect our athletic past with the present," noted Lee Athletic Director Larry Carpenter. " Many of our current students had no idea we were once called the Vikings, so this is a way to enlighten them of our early history.
“For the former Vikings, this allows t an opportunity to reminisce and remember their era and time at Lee. We will always be the Flames, but it is nice to connect the past, present and future with the centennial mascot.”
Designer Marbi (Mauch) DiPastena and her husband, Andrew, are Lee alums and Marbi’s company (Can Do It Solutions) took on the assignment of designing and fabricating the mascot costume.
Marbi and Andrew DiPastena have served in full-time ministry for more than 20 years in several states, including North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
“While design has not always been my primary focus, it has always been a passion,” admitted the talented designer.
Since 1997 Marbi and her design team have been creating some of the most exciting themed environments and props for organizations across the USA. The business was inspired by her favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Marbi met with Lee administration in mid-December of 2017 to discuss the new centennial mascot.
“We wanted to create a character that would uniquely combine our rich history of Lee’s athletics with current-day trends,” she said. “Since Lee’s original mascot was the Viking, it seemed only fitting to have this character make a comeback. We certainly had no intentions of losing the Flames title; therefore, we have our Viking carrying a flaming torch as well as wearing the Lee Flames logo on his chest.
“After sketching and revising our character several times, we began working on the costume. He is comprised of 11 pieces — head with air circulation fans, boots, gloves, body armor, pants, tunic and cloak. He carries a torch and shield. It took approximately 120 hours to create him.”
The young man selected to wear the costume is Yodahe Getachew, a freshman cheerleader from Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga.
“I didn’t sign up for the mascot position,” said Getachew, who has actually worked as the chicken for Chick-fil-A. “I was at Carson-Newman watching our women’s soccer team play in the NCAA D2 Sweet 16 tournament and was called on to lead our fans in the wave.”
Apparently the idea could have surfaced with Strong, who was also supporting the women’s soccer team, that Getachew might be the right person for the new mascot.
“Mr. Strong asked if I would be interested and I quickly realized this would be a great opportunity,” explained the Lee backer.
Getachew said it was a joy to see the excitement the costume has created.
“It was not only with kids and teenagers, but former Viking players and fans were requesting to have photos made with me. It was really a cool thing and I would love to see this version of the mascot continue past the centennial year. It might take our current students time to understand, but (athletic) programs all over the country are using mascots which differ from their nicknames.”
Much to the delight of the fans, the centennial mascot made its first appearance when the basketball teams hosted longtime rival Union University (Feb. 8). He continues to join the Lee cheerleaders at several sporting events.
The big moment arrived for the naming of the new mascot during the men’s action against Delta State on Tuesday evening, in the opening round of the Gulf South Conference Tournament. Three names for the mascot, Leevi, Leif and Valor, were submitted to Lee students, seeking their choice for the official name. After the votes were counted just before the men’s contest began, the official name of the centennial mascot was revealed, and "Valor the Viking" made his debut.
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