Gunston Graduates and Gets a Job; New Mascot Appears at Basketball Home Opener

Posted: November 18, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

New mascot
The new mascot reflects “patriot spirit in the 21st century.”
Mason Athletics photo

By Robin Herron

The word is out: after 12 years of cheering as mascot at Mason athletic events, Gunston has graduated and moved on to a “real” job.

New mascot
The new mascot takes over Gunston’s cheerleading duties. A contest will be held to name him. Proposals can be submitted online at GoMason.com or through a text message. Text the word “mascot” followed by your name suggestion to 96943. Standard text message rates apply.
Mason Athletics photo

At the same time, a new, as-yet-unnamed mascot took over Gunston’s cheerleading duties and debuted at the Mason men’s basketball home opener on Nov. 17.

The mascot’s unveiling comes nearly two years to the day from when the university announced that a blue-ribbon panel would consider designs for a new mascot. Following the men’s basketball team’s heady run to the NCAA Final Four in 2006, the university community and fans agreed that the Gunston costume was not up to the standards of the team’s – and the university’s – national reputation.

The thorny question was: Should Gunston get a makeover and remain the mascot, or should an entirely new mascot be adopted? There were advocates for both alternatives, some noting Gunston’s fuzzy friendliness and appeal to children, and others saying the mascot should have a stronger and more dynamic appeal.

The Blue Ribbon Panel

In December 2006, Christine LaPaille, Mason vice president for university relations, announced that a blue ribbon panel had been named to assess and evaluate proposed designs for the university’s mascot.

“Our mascot needs to reflect where we are today as an institution, and that is what we are hoping to accomplish as we continue to move through this process,” LaPaille said at the time.

the new Gunston
He’s still green and he’s still fuzzy, but Gunston has a new look and a new job.

The panel, representing Mason’s students, alumni, staff and faculty, was composed of

  • Aseel Al-Mudallal, 2006 Student Government president
  • Pat Mazur, Art and Visual Technology ’06, assistant director of admissions and former mascot
  • Bob Baker, associate professor and coordinator for the sports management and marketing program
  • Adam Brick Sr., senior associate athletic director for external affairs
  • Rick Custer, director of creative services
  • Laurel Dunayer, costume shop supervisor for the College of Visual and Performing Arts
  • Brian Dunbar, BS Computer Science ’92 and alumni chapter president for the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering
  • Gene Granger, BA Government and International Politics ’04 and JD ’08
  • Tyron L. Johnson, Patriot Club advisory board member
  • Alissa Karton, assistant to the vice president for University Life
  • Ijeoma Nwatu, 2007 Student Government vice president
  • Tennille Smith Parker, BA Government and Politics ’97 and president-elect of the George Mason University Alumni Association
  • Nena Rogers, associate athletic director for life skills in Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Drew Shelnutt, 2007 Student Government president

Tennille Parker was selected as panel chair.

“I am pleased that the university included the Mason community — students, alumni, faculty, staff and athletics — in the process,” Parker says. “I truly believe this group was the best assemblage of folks who represent the various opinions regarding the Mason mascot.”

The panel was charged with reviewing designs submitted by several professional mascot designers in response to a proposal issued through Intercollegiate Athletics. One design was to be an updated look for the current Gunston character, and the second was to be an entirely new mascot reflecting “patriot spirit in the 21st century.”

“After several meetings, the panel submitted a recommendation to the university leadership in March 2008. Our recommendation was to pursue a new mascot and to consider alternatives for Gunston,” Parker explains.

New Role for Gunston

The panel decided that the Gunston character’s friendliness and approachability could be put to work. So a new role for him — community ambassador for the university — was created. In this new role, Gunston will visit school groups, attend community library programs, support sustainability activities and be available for public appearances. He will be part of the Community Relations staff within University Relations, rather than part of the Intercollegiate Athletics operation.

Gunston’s newly designed form, although crisp and modern, is still green and still fuzzy.

“Gunston gained a lot of visibility during the Final Four and afterward,” notes LaPaille. “When people see Gunston, they think ‘Mason.’ The panel did a great job in recognizing that and recognizing that while he isn’t an ideal mascot for Mason today, he can still have a role that capitalizes on that association.”

She adds, “We’re really pleased at the thoughtful effort the blue ribbon panel put into this process. I’d especially like to thank Tennille Parker for her leadership. The result was a win-win for the fan base of the Patriots and the university, which gains a community ambassador — something we really needed. We should all be proud of this outcome.”

Gunston joins UR staff
A spruced-up Gunston joins the University Relations staff.
Web Communications images

Write to at