By Krista Murray
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa.–In Dec. 2012, a Penn State New Kensington student was chosen to be the symbol of school spirit, the Penn State Nittany Lion mascot. After a year and a half of dedication, hard work, and unwavering enthusiasm, this student behind the Lion will be graduating in May 2014 and will be retiring for a new Penn State student to don the Lion suit. Now, this student has chosen to reveal his identity to the PSNK community. So who was the Nittany Lion?
Steve Warhola is the man behind the Lion.
“I am the Penn State New Kensington Nittany Lion,” said Warhola. “I have thought about telling everyone for a while now and I don’t want to keep it a secret. I’ve worked very hard and I’m so thankful to be recognized.”
Since his freshman year, Warhola said he aspired to be the Nittany Lion. With perseverance, he said his goal was achieved when he asked to attend a basketball game as the Lion. Ever since, Warhola has strived to be the mascot that the students and faculty at PSNK deserved by attending various school-run events.
From canning for THON to the Back to School Bash at the beginning of the fall semester, Warhola said he had made a goal to appear at as many campus events as possible.
“I practically live in the suit,” said Warhola. “If there is an athletic event or admissions event–any event at campus–if they ask me to do it, I love to do it.”
Throughout each event, Warhola said he would stay in the suit, greet people, take pictures, and promote school spirit. Warhola said this task was difficult at times, but stated that he wouldn’t take away any experience he had while being the mascot.
“You know when we were kids how we would dream about being super heroes?” Warhola asked. “Like Clark Kent when he puts on his Superman uniform? Or Batman? That’s how I felt when I put on the Nittany Lion suit every time. When I am wearing the suit, there is not a day that goes by where I don’t feel like that.”
Warhola said his passion for the position has allowed him to make appearances, not only during campus events, but during class days as well. He said he has dressed up as, fittingly, a superhero for Halloween, Cupid for Valentine’s Day, and many other holidays throughout the year. Warhola said he will even dress as the Nittany Lion when there is a faculty member birthday and he presents them with a birthday cake and card from the Lion.
“I’m the Lion because I am here to serve our campus and make people happy and excited about being a part of Penn State New Kensington because it’s a great campus,” Warhola said. “If I can make someone happy, I will try.”
As a senior, Warhola said he is enthused to be graduating, but sad to see his time as mascot reach a conclusion.
“I’m just so passionate about it,” Warhola said. “I don’t want to let it go, but every good thing must come to an end sometime.”
By signing up for a time slot in the Student Life Office, returning students will have the chance to audition to be the next Nittany Lion on April 28 and May 7. When asked if Warhola had any advice for the next student, he was not short of any.
“I wish you luck and try your best,” Warhola said. “Do whatever the campus asks of you because you are here to help the campus and they appreciate it very much.”
Warhola said he hopes to either acquire a job in the field of human resources or work in his father’s scrap yard company in order to potentially take it over one day. Until then, Warhola said he is proud to share his last moments as the Nittany Lion with the PSNK community.
“I’d like to thank everyone,” Warhola said. “Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity. It will be very hard for me to give up the position because it has been my life for the past year and a half, but I’m content. I’m content with everything I have done and I feel that I have done all that I can. I hope I have left a legacy to be proud of.”